Monday, September 12, 2011

La Paiva v/s Cora Pearl

I am not sure why this tidbit of information struck me as interesting to mention, it is about La Paiva challenging Cora Pearl, the other famous courtesan of the time, to a duel whereby they would stripped to the waist and they would use a whip for a weapon. Transposed today this is as bad as Haifa Wehbe and Roula Saad tearing each other’s chignons at the offices of Al Jaras (with Nidal Ahmadieh both playing referee and fanning the flames). Naturally, the duel never took place (perhaps either one was afraid to break a nail or something).

Seriously though, I was so impressed with the news I decided to toy around with the idea of making a poster for such an event – considering both inserted photos of the ladies were taken in 1960 I thought it would be an ideal year for such an event to take place (before their beauties wilted – specifically Cora Pearl’s whose fall from grace later is quite well-known).

But, maybe this whole futile duel basically got me thinking about a central issue in my life for the last year: Which fights are worth fighting? Which words are worth communicating? When is it better to keep it all in as opposed to making a clear statement? Surely, there are no easy answers for this one. Perhaps I am going through the same notion as Winston Churchill who told Joseph Stalin in Teheran in 1953: “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” Maybe through communicating the “wrong” (“irrelevant” rather) information, I am trying to “protect” (or rather “divulge”?) what I really wished to say, or alternatively perhaps it is through silence that I have been hoping for the message to come across.

Still, a year later after brooding on the questions I am none the wiser. But I have to admit that I learned that whereas the data and the question are immutable, it is through looking at them from a different perspective that one is able to assess them more clearly. It is all too similar to the problem the Otis engineers were faced with when they first installed an elevator in a skyscraper. Clients were complaining the elevator was slow.

The engineers mulled the question over and found that they were using state of the art technologies and that the elevator could not go faster, until they simply turned the question of “why is the elevator slow?” into “why does the elevator SEEM slow?”, so instead of increasing the speed, they simply put a mirror so that people could occupy themselves with something while waiting to get to their floors. The result is that people thought the elevators worked faster as a result.

So I guess instead of finding an answer to those questions, I installed a mirror to occupy myself while waiting to get to my floor, and of course, in the background, there’s always that elevator “musak” but, to quote Leonard Cohen, “the band leader says it’s Mozart/ but it sounds like bubble gum/ when you’re waiting/ waiting for the miracle to come.” Yet, I have a strong suspicion that the La Paiva v/s Cora Pearl duel might come faster than the much-awaited miracle itself.

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