Last Wednesday, my class and I went to the Panthéon to see some paintings and some even more important crypts. Prior to going, I truly knew nothing about this place. Honesty I thought it was going to be a tritubte to the greek gods, but oh was I wrong! Upon looking it up in the wiki, I learned that Rousseau and Voltaire were buried here, but I was surprised to see all the beautiful art and a few memorials to some notable people.
When we got there, I saw the beautiful architecture and had to take photos. Paris has once again left me awestruck by the beauty of the design. Who knew that pillars could be beautiful?! One thing that left me in shock was seeing a memorial to Aimé Césiare and Toussaint Louverture. It was so surreal seeing a memorial to THE Toussaint Louverture, especially given that he was so anti-French state/colonial rule and led the Haitian Revolution against the French, the only successful enslaved person-led revolt in history. Seeing this memorial to him was powerful sight to see. I will say, however, that seeing Césiare’s memorial had more of a bodily-shock response from me. His memorial physically gave me chills.For those of you who do not know, Aimé Césiare was one of these most influential thinkers and contributors to black studies for his work with the Negritude movement and his Discourse on Colonialism and decolonization. Seeing his memorial, took me back to the time that I took Critical Black Studies in the Fall of 2021. Taking that class was so transformative for me. It was such a paradigm shift for so much for the better. It made me question many aspects of society that I ignored or that I didn’t know that I was ignorant. So, seeing Césiare’s memorial was a cue that triggered my chills which made me think about the science of happy memories.
This then prompted me to explore more into how fond memories arise and to look deeper into this concept. One thing that I found in a Sheldon et al. (2020) paper was that memories are better remembered if that emotion is high in arousal and or high in valence. Also, cues that are high in valence (i.e. for me seeing Aimé Césiare’s name/memorial) are better driven by emotional cues (Sheldon et al., 2020). I didnt know (or at least consciously think) that there was a such a strong connection between emotion and memories. I guess that explains why we better remember traumatic memories more than we do the happy ones. Given the valence and arousal of those bad memories it makes sense we would rememebr those memories more vividly.
But altogether, I had such a great time learning about who was buried inside the Panthéon and seeing the intricate architechure. When I get back to the states I am surely going to miss the rich history of Paris and all of its beauty. But I rest assured that I can always come back for the small cost of an arm and a leg!
Sheldon, S., Williams, K., Harrington, S., & Otto, A. R. (2020). Emotional cue effects on accessing and elaborating upon autobiographical memories. Cognition, 198, 104217. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104217