I love Manhattan, and I love Paris. Both are, of course, legendary in their magnetic power to inspire, to gather together great artists and thinkers. The two cities represent, each in its own way, a glittering vision of what a city can be.

Yet as a New Yorker walking around in Paris I am reminded of the immense differences. Manhattan is magnificent, but Paris is beautiful. Beautiful in a way that is hard to truly grasp unless you’ve been there. There is a gracefulness and elegance that pervades everything, from the architecture to the lifestyle to the conversational politesse.

Aesthetics matter to Parisiens in a profound and fundamental way that might not quite make sense to New Yorkers — and perhaps to Americans in general. And to be fair, Manhattan possesses compelling qualities that Paris does not. Our city has a drive, a sense of focus, a churning momentum and intensity of action, that one does not see in Paris.

It’s as though each city represents a different fundamental principle of human value, the way the gods of the ancient Greeks each represented a fundamental principle of human value.

Perhaps it makes sense to see great cities as a pantheon of gods, as constituting a kind of collective urban mythology. After all, why does anyone move to a place like Manhattan or Paris, if not to worship at its feet?

One Response to “Pantheon”

  1. mari says:

    If only there is a way to live in two places at the same time: teleporting please! 🙂 I so agree with you on the two cities 🙂

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