Inspired: To Moscow, With Love

08Oct10

I was expecting Moscow to be a drab, gray relic of Soviet days past.  In many ways, it inevitably is.  But underneath all of that gray is a pulsating city that pushes its way through its own drab exterior, exploding in jagged rooftops, 4-inch stiletto heels, tinted Mercedes and displays of power the likes of which I have never before encountered.  The honesty of Moscow is jarring at first, but on second glance, that same honesty is breathtaking.  Moscow isn’t restrained by a “civilized” packaging.  Moscow is a city lying open, raw, exposing its humanity for all to feel.  And because of that, Moscow is the most exhilarating place I have ever visited.

Manifestations of wealth and power, however, are mere symptoms of that which lends Moscow its intrigue.  To an outsider like myself, with few ties to the country and only a cursory understanding of its people and history, Moscow is a theater of human survival in the modern world.  The failed Soviet experiment creates an ominous backdrop for the story of a country and its people struggling to navigate the pitfalls of capitalism.  Money.  Sex.  Power.  The basest of human desires play out right on the surface, without excuse.  As I sat up at night, gazing out at the city through the walls of our glass-encased hotel room, Moscow infected me with its vitality, which is nothing less than palpable.

What I love most about Moscow is that it is unapologetic.  I recently finished reading Bel Ami, the fictional tale of Georges Duroy, an aspiring young journalist in late 19th century Paris.  In a quest for power and driven by greed, Duroy infiltrates a club of Parisian media elite using little more than sex and manipulation.  The interrelationship between money, sex and power, so well portrayed in Bel Ami, is a theme that transcends time.  In the socio-political context, money and sex are the accouterments of power; they are the means, the motivations, the symptoms, the prize.  The difference between Moscow and Duroy’s Paris – or, for that matter, between Moscow and many of today’s major cities – is that Moscow doesn’t concern itself with niceties, nor does it distract its visitors with illusions of magnanimity.  Betrayed by its history, Moscow is honest.  It wants power, and all of the sex and money that go along with it.  You can scoff, wince or cower at its brashness, but Moscow will tell it to you like it is.  A feeling of exhilaration is a natural result of the sheer proximity to those barely checked, barely restrained, base desires.

I liken a few days in Moscow to a ride in a Formula 1 race car.  While invigorating for the first few laps, it soon becomes evident that my weakened constitution and underdeveloped instincts could not sustain me as a race car driver.  Moscow would eat me alive and that captivates me.  Like a child awed by an older sibling, I want its strength for my own.  All I can take from Moscow, however, is a lesson.  For me, that lesson is that the option of passivity is as much a luxury as it is an opiate.  Sometimes, you must take from life what you want from it.  Maybe I won’t manipulate, or steal, or otherwise engage in morally questionable behavior, such as cheating pensioners for their shares in undervalued, state-run enterprises; but I won’t wait for life to hand me my fate on a platter, either.  As has been my custom of late, the theme returns to “carpe diem”.  Moscow, you inspire me.

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4 Responses to “Inspired: To Moscow, With Love”

  1. 1 vicky

    happy to know that you enjoyed your stay. 🙂

  2. 2 MK

    Well written. Inspirational.

  3. I really loved the way this was written. 🙂

  4. You go girl!


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