I often have existential crises. Mostly they involve wondering, “What’s it all about Alfie? Does anything matter? Aren’t we human beings just filling our time doing things without meaning, like watching “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” or taking sides in the Bears-Packers game or, dare I say it, blogging about food? I mean, shouldn’t I be saving dolphins? Or working to stop human trafficking? These are important issues. But imparting to the world yet another recipe or caring if my lettuce photograph perfectly captures the subtlety of every green curl or water droplet? I’m not sure I can get behind that.”
It’s at such times I consider moving to France. At least there it’s okay to have existential crises. Hell, there philosophers are TV stars whose shows air in prime time!
But since circumstances preclude me from packing my bags and heading tout de suite to gay Paree, I make do with second best: I drink tea from a white porcelain bowl and eat a pain au chocolat, a chocolate croissant, to briefly relieve my agita.
Sitting at my kitchen table, legs curled beneath me on a wooden chair, I stare out the window at a grey January morning. I take bites from the croissant. I cup the bowl of tea in my hands and feel the warmth through the porcelain. Gingerly I dunk pieces of croissant into the tea to melt the chocolate ever so slightly, and I imagine I’m in Paris, back at Elsa’s apartment in Belleville, where I couchsurfed in September and spoke French for hours and hadn’t a care in the world.
And then I think, maybe this is the answer to existential crises: Taking joy in small pleasures. Relishing time alone to reflect. Creating relationships and with them lasting memories. Appreciating the handiwork of something well made — a croissant or a cup of tea or even a phrase that moves another human being to contemplate their own existence.
And maybe, if I calm my mind, I can allow the desire for pleasure and the need to stop the world’s pain to peacefully co-exist…at least until tomorrow’s breakfast.
With special thanks to Marquet Patisserie located at 221 Court Street in Brooklyn for the pain au chocolat!