Thursday, August 13, 2015

The more it slips away

The more you try to control something, the more it slips away
   -Jorge Aguirre, personal trainer and former Marine

Marly-le-Roi is all traces and outlines now. A study in negative spaces. They say nothing here, not any more.

At the end of the path and up the hill, that flat spot is where the chateau used to be. Lavish all-night parties. Over there were the guest cottages. Ponds full of fish. A pool just for horses, where they could lean down to drink then wade right in. Over there is the sculpture garden, what's left of it. The sculptures are too white and too perfect, because, well, they're copies. The originals are in the Louvre.

There is something that draws me to ruins. Maybe it's the stories they have to tell. Maybe it's a fascination with failure, which we hardly ever talk about. Yet there it is, the physical evidence of some human ambition, no more. Hard to deny. It took planning and desire, time and work and money. And it ended up falling to pieces and revealing all its secrets. How exactly does that happen?

Marly is a good place to ask this question, because of Louis XIV. He was at its center and we know a lot about him. The king had a system for everything; nothing left to chance. Absolute power. A highly-structured religion. The manicured, scripted expressions of art, architecture, horticulture, and music at court. The hierarchy of titles in the nobility, along with wealth, appearance, reputation, gender, lineage. A system of protocol for human behavior, rigid and unforgiving.

French, a complicated language that was not widely spoken. Even in France.

Everything you saw here, every interaction you had, reminded you of the king. So much control! If you received an invitation, it meant you had an in with him. You had mastered the complicated layers of systems, as a member of the aristocracy you spoke French well, and so far anyway, you hadn't been caught conspiring against le Roi Soleil.

Today anyone passing by can just step over a threshold. No invitation, no hard work conforming or scheming, nothing like that. Anyone can have the silence and solitude and bird calls. Free, unfettered, temporary. The sky is wide open, for your thoughts to run wild.

For some reason, it gives me faith. 

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