On this morning’s early morning jog, it struck me that the meanings and emotions that we attach to places are also a function of time: At the most basic, this would mean at what time of the day we find ourselves in particular spaces (this could be expanded to include considerations about season, year, epoch, etc…)
This ‘temporal-spatial’ dynamic reveals a lot about the places we choose to live, about ourselves, what we value, and so forth. I understood more clearly, for example, as I made my way through empty streets, that the affection, thoughts, and judgements that I associate with Paris and London are usually determined in relative terms. I form views of these cities as someone in a network of relations and relationships…as a foreign student relative to local populations, a customer relative to service providers, an anonymous body in crowds of strangers.
Now, when the spaces are emptied of the people that help me shape meaning and develop feelings for place ( in thus case because they are all asleep) what meaning does space have? What is Paris without its cast of actors strutting down its streets?
I found that Paris, before the world awakes, asserts itself as aesthetically pleasing.One can appreciate the architecture and organisation of the city with no distraction. The unhindered order and beauty of Paris before 6 a.m. evokes , for me, pleasure and delight.
Being aware of that emotional disposition inspired by 5am Paris, it is easier to know what to do when inspiration runs out for PhD studies. The positive effect of order and beauty also signal what strategies to deploy when the pleasure of doing PhD research wanes— early morning walks, yes, but also other strategies to find pleasure, to create feelings of delight that hopefully translate into emotional fuel to persist in research: in this respect, I know that i could perhaps look for music and art that communicate a similar sense of pleasure-inducing beauty and order…
Thank goodness for the pleasure of Paris’ unspoiled beauty in the early morning and its revelatory power – it also happens to give me a 237th reason to grateful for the grad student experience offered by Paris and London!