What is LEO?
LEO is a name I have chosen to encompass more than myself, the writer who was given a different name at birth. LEO is neither someone I am trying to become, nor another distinct individual. LEO is my attempt to address all of humankind from an identity that is not reduced to when and where I was born, nor to nationality or creed, nor to a profession or occupation, nor even to race or gender.
Here is how it started. Leo is the name I chose for my second son born in 2002. My first son's name, Guillaume, was chosen by his mother (both of us consented to each other's choices). The virtue of Leo as a first name was that it could be easily spelled and pronounced in different languages, particularly English and French. LEO also has considerable potential as an acronym. The most important one I had identified at the time was Love Each Other. More would emerge over time, such as Leap Every Obstacle, Light Englobes Obscurity, Love Eludes Order. It is a trigram containing the seed of multitudes of mottos and koans. Instead of a name with a set meaning, it allows its bearer to invent meaning.
This year 2020 marks the release of LVX by LEO as well as Leo's official entry into adulthood. What meaning will he invent for his name?
Meanwhile, Love Each Other took on new form in my life. LVX by LEO was born out of my relationship with Marielle. Still deeply marked by her two-year journey across the oceans in a jonque, she aspired to a life of radical simplicity, whereas my eyes were rather set on exquisiteness. The two could easily be seen as incompatible, but I preferred to see two complementary truths and set out to imagine an art de vivre that could bring them together. Why not live with much less, yet make that less so much more? There were already ideas in vogue, such as minimalism, but they seemed to suffer a serious lack of beauty.
The concept of a new luxe emerged in my conversations with Marielle, and as the ideas took form I decided I wanted to express them both as myself and herself. LEO thus became a trinity formed by a man and a woman and the relationship between them. That makes three.
It is an experiment in thinking and feeling together, not an emotional fusion or dependency. It is a deliberate attempt to communicate as one voice, informed fully by male and female knowing.
LEO is a desire to expand individual expression beyond the dualities that so constrain us, such as male/female, East/West, spiritual/scientific, ecology/economy, etc.
It is also an experiment in writing, in which one"does" while the other receives. The yin role of receiving is little understood and valued in our male-dominant society.
The existential suffering we experience is rooted in our belief that we are separate from others. The renovation of our world must be founded on a sense of connectedness. Whatever we do to others, we really also do to ourselves. A starting point for this sense of union is the couple, though it is not the only. From our experience in uniting as two, we can begin to understand what it is like to feel unity for all that exists.
LEO draws its inspiration from ancient and modern sources throughout the world.
In its most practical aspects, it is epicurian à la française, yet Scandinavian in simplicity. There are notable signs of Japanese zen and zests of Vietnamese soups, all with a decidedly American belief in possibility.
It will come as no surprise that these are the places where the authors have lingered.
The philosophical underpinnings reach into ancient wisdom literature as well as the renewal of these original insights
in the light of modern scientific inquiry, notably quantum physics and epigenetics.
who is leo ?
There doesn’t really seem to be a way to get around this, because our mind has no category for an “entity” with a unique identity. LEO is two persons that make a third.
Carsten was born to a Danish father and an American mother. He grew up in Austin, in the clutches of an ultra-conservative Judeo-Christian sect, and in the shadow of the great American dream : pursuing happiness with a turbo-powered combustion engine, and defending this right with a rifle. Frought with melancholy and guilt because of his inability to find happiness in this best of all upbringings, Carsten fled to France at the age of 20. In love, he would settle there four years later, pursue an MBA and write a thesis entitled "A Strategic Fit for Tomorrow's Eco-Efficient Service Economy". Before vanishing into oblivion, this great academic undertaking would end up in the bibliography of a more influential work called "Natural Capitalism". Unable at the time to forge a career in sustainable development as he had hoped, he would instead work in management consulting and training, leading him up to his final corporate position with the world's premier luxury group. This is where he experienced the ultimate luxuries and the ways of those who live in that world. This too would soon pass, and he set off as a mid-life entrepreneur, investing all he had previously saved in a grandiose business idea called Paris-Sharing, better known today as Airbnb (the success of which was far more grandiose!). The short-term apartment rental activity was soon outlawed by the city of Paris, and then the 2020 Covid19 crisis finished off whatever was left of that business. Adaptability being the most important characteristic for survival, Carsten is now pursuing other entrepreneurial ambitions as described on his website carstensprotte.com.
Among the great loves in his life, the longest and most continuous is his violin and love for music.
His greatest achievement in life, for which no medal will be conferred, is simply that of waking up. No medal will ever compare to the satisfaction of transforming a life of quiet desperation to one of expanded awareness.
Marielle was born to a French father and Vietnamese mother. She grew up in the light of Provence, but unlike Carsten's pacific upbringing, hers was fraught with nightmares. Very early on, she had to learn on her own to swim in a stormy sea. She studied art history and oriental languages in Paris, then left on a scholarship to finish her studies in Siagon. Just prior to completing her doctoral work, she had her bag stolen and with it every trace of her work. Penniless in Vietnam, she would return to France sailing the high seas on a hand-crafted junk, built by locals on a shoe-string budget . The voyage connecting four continents would last two years,. Back in France, along with raising a son as a single mother, she would publish several books and develop her own activity as a life coach and therapist. Having extensively studied the work of Jung, Marielle uses dreams as a primary matter for helping people follow their own internal guidance.
In 2017, Carsten and Marielle traveled together to Japan. One evening in Kyoto, at a neighborhood restaurant their host had personally reserved for them, they savored the finest sushi, prepared before their eyes. It was everything they had hoped for...until the chef offered them a special surprise desert: two strawberries on a small dish. For those who know Japan, such fruits are rare and highly valued.
From the contemplation of this radical simplicity would emerge a new aesthetic called LVX, starting with this poem:
When your life is stripped of all trimmings,
You may encounter your essential being,
And in that moment find bliss in two ripe berries,
Splendid simplicity without sugar and cream.
In 2019, Carsten and Marielle purchased an apartment in the east side of Paris that they renovated as prototype for
This is LEO's wish for you as you embark on your discovery of LVX.
May a spark light up your soul.
May your heart glow, incandescent.
May your mind, enlightened,
know its own golden path
lit up by your own eyes.
And along your journey alone,
may you radiate to all around you
in thoughts, words, and deeds.
The light of the world begins
with the flame in your own heart.
Embrace the dawn of your new life,
and know that all has conspired
towards this singular moment,
bathed in light.