|Scene from "Phantom of the Opera"|
And so here I am, two months later, another Paris trip behind me. This time I went with my niece Sarah, who is visiting from America. She's still here, and we're really busy a lot of the time, but I think I have time to capture my thoughts about her and her visit now and then.
Sarah had never been outside of the United States until this point, and she was really excited to come.
One of the things I love about Sarah is her complete naturalness, openness and honesty. She is as beautiful and fresh as a spring day, and she is in the spring of her life. But she's also like a spring thunderstorm.
I went to a Rapha (see link) personal development workshop in England recently and learned that, at least from the perspective of the trainer, each generation has more personal baggage than the previous generation. Our modern life is so difficult, so viciously competitve and merciless, and the values so blurred, each generation finds coping with life more difficult than the previous one, and has more to overcome. Sarah would be the first to admit that she has a lot to overcome. She sees her past as dark. She is a lively person with a volatile personality. She has already experienced trauma in her life. She is drawn, I think, to dark things at least as much as to lightness. But then, so was I when I was nineteen. I remember that my favorite piece of literature was Notes from Underground, a dark piece about an outsider, written by Dostoyevsky. After reading this, I made a conscious decision to be the outsider I already found myself to be. Sarah's hero is Erik, the anti-hero in "Phantom of the Opera". He is an outsider, choosing to live in the cavern underneath the Paris Opera. Erik is in love with Christine, whom he has trained to be the beautiful singer she is. He remains invisible, and is thought to be the ghost who haunts the theater. But he appears before Christine and is very much alive. Sarah, I think, sees herself as a sort of Christine, drawn to the beauty of Erik's darkness and suffering. Christine is also in love with Raoul, a wealthy, handsome, successful Viscount, a symbol of light and unpoiled innocence. Who but an unspoiled, innocent person who had never seen the dark side of life would not be more attracted to the mysterious Erik? It makes perfect sense. And yet, my heart cringes at the thought of choosing life partners who would lead us down to live in the caverns of life.
|Part of the grand stairway|
|Grand Foyer of the Garnier Opera|
|Box five is second from the right. The box on the right is the imperial box.|
|Café de la Paix|
|Sarah drinking absinthe at the Café de la Paix|
That evening we watched "Phantom of the Opera" in our tiny but chic hotel room, on my laptop. I downloaded it before we left for Paris. It must have been at least the twentieth time Sarah had watched it, but only my second.
Since returning to Cologne, I've been helping Sarah with her music. I've taught her to read music so that she can play the notes on the piano and sing them. This should help her to sing the notes more accurately. I've been helping her with breath support and projection. I, who have sung solos only a few times in my life. I, who also had the dream of being a musical performer. I am, but only in a gospel choir. I don't dream about singing solo anymore. I am content to help Sarah achieve her dreams. The music she is practicing so diligently is really complicated, with incredibly difficult intervals. She brought the music with her - Christine's songs from "Phantom of the Opera".
My dream for Sarah - and still for myself - is that she - and I, who also am not finished with my life, can use the darkness in our souls to explore and understand the depths. That is so that she and I can climb out ouf them. I hope that she will continue to join forces with God, working with God's help, finding herself, as I do for myself, less an less a captive of the darkness. I hope that she can accept the darkness when it comes, but that she will dwell in the light, one day helping others to find a way through their own darkness, as she lives in the light that's there for all of us. I hope to see us both laughing, joyful because we are overcomers.