Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Basic Laws of Cologne - a code to live by

I spent only one sunny afternoon in Cologne, but it was enough time to learn their basic laws and decided to bring them home and adopt them as my own. 

I learned about the laws in an art shop. The windows full of prints of clowns fooling around the streets of the city caught my eye, so my friend and I went in to browse. Almost every print in the shop had a clown in it. We asked the girl behind the counter to explain it to us - was it a theme? Did the artist specialize in clowns? Did the art shop sell anything without clowns? The girl explained that the clowns represented the spirit of Cologne and how the people who live there don't take life too seriously. This a city out to have a good time. 

Then she showed us a print with the 11 basic laws of Cologne written down the centre and said the laws were like a code to live by. The print said:

The Cologne Basic Law:
  1. Things are as they are
  2. That doesn't matter
  3. Everything will take its course
  4. If it's gone, it's gone
  5. Be open minded to the new and unknown 
  6. Haven't got one, don't need one, get rid of it
  7. No two clowns are alike
  8. We have always done things this way
  9. What's the fuss about?
  10. Have another drink with us!
  11. Laugh until you break
Reading these laws was like getting punched in the chest. I had been trying to live my life by a similar set of rules that I had outlined for myself and now I was sitting in an art shop having these familiar principles translated from the local German dialect into English. Cologne had it figured out this whole time. I suddenly felt a sense of belonging so strong that it was like falling in love with a stranger you've lived beside your whole life - newly familiar. I had found a place on the other side of the world that felt the same way about life as I did and they'd written rules about it. 

I wanted to laugh until I broke, but instead I bought the print. I left the shop smiling and made a promises to myself that day that I would return to Cologne for their carnival, and then would visit New Orleans for their carnival, and Venice for theirs... because no two clowns are alike.

Friends forever, fooling about on the streets of Cologne.

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