My mother’s Irish-Belgian relatives lived on Rue Sans Souci before the war -- the Second World War, that is.
That is where her aunt and her two cousins, whom she knew well, hid Scottish soldiers hiding from the Nazis, allowing them to recuperate and later escape. For that, her cousin Florrie died in Bergen-Belsen and her cousin Leopold died right after the war, weakened from his imprisonment.
That branch of the family died out but there is a monument to the Belgian Résistance in the same Ixelles section where my mother’s family lived. Florrie’s name is on the monument to resisters who helped keep Brussels an international city of culture and labor and hope.
Brussels was the first European city my wife and I visited – the Grand-Place, the great art museum, Europe, like going home, for the first time. I flew into Brussels again in 2004, for the start of the Tour de France in Liège, and bought David Walsh’s book, in French, about the doping methods of Lance Armstrong (which Lance denied, of course.)
Brussels is the code name for the European Union, where many languages are spoken, where laws and systems are regulated. I once met a farmer in southwest France who spat out the word Brussels because of the agricultural absurdities imposed by bureaucrats in that distant city. Belgium’s monarchy committed colonialist sins and abuses once upon a time -- and Jacques Brel razzed the ways of his home town -- but in this age, even with talk of separatism, Brussels is at least a symbol of order.
Refugees from failed societies have found their way to some of the great cities in the world where I have been lucky enough to visit, even live – New York, Boston, Madrid, London, Paris, Istanbul. Now Brussels has joined that list.
"Among the things that have long fascinated people about Jesus and explain his enduring appeal is his method of dialogue and teaching. "He asked a lot of questions and told a lot of stories in the form of parables. In fact, parables form about a third of Jesus’ recorded teachings. The Gospels were written decades after he died, so his questions and parables clearly left a deep impression on those who bore testimony to him....
"Some of Jesus’ questions were rhetorical; others were meant to challenge or even provoke. In some cases, Jesus used questions to parry attacks by religious authorities who set traps for him. In others, he used questions to enter more fully into the lives of others and to help people look at the state of their hearts. He asked people about their fears and their faith. Jesus used questions to free a woman caught in adultery from condemnation and to inquire whether people considered him to be the Messiah. He probed deeply into questions not many had asked before him, like “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
---(Peter Wehner, long-time White House consultant and writer, in the NYT last week about Jesus Christ’s method of teaching by asking questions.)
"Would that I could mention all the illuminating details in this biography, for example, why Wells praised Black Americans so highly, saying, 'I took a mighty liking to these gentle, human, dark-skinned people,' and 'Whatever America has to show in heroic living today, I doubt if she can show anything finer than the quality of the resolve, the steadfast efforts hundreds of black and colored men are making today to live blamelessly, honorably and patiently, getting by themselves what scraps of refinement, beauty and learning they may, keeping their hold on a civilization they are grudged and denied.''
-- "How H.G. Wells Predicted the 20th Century," Charles Johnson, NYT Book Review, Nov. 19, 2021. ***".
...the monsters arrive."
"They come in a deafening, surging swarm, blasting from lawn to lawn and filling the air with the stench of gasoline and death. I would call them mechanical locusts, descending upon every patch of gold in the neighborhood the way the grasshoppers of old would arrive, in numbers so great they darkened the sky, to lay bare a cornfield in minutes. But that comparison is unfair to locusts.
"Grasshoppers belong here. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers are invaders, the most maddening of all the maddening, environment-destroying tools of the American lawn-care industry."
---The great Margaret Renkl, from Nashville, one of my favorite NYT bylines, Oct. 26, 2021.
(She describes our Long Island enclave to every decibel, every stink.)