Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Les Mis: Coeur plein d'amour

It is among the aisles of life-engraved papers can literature bring her arms to condemn you, comfort you, cultivate your spirit, and bring you back to life. Lest we all forget of our morals and values without art, especially one such as the French historical novel, Les Miserables, by poet and novelist, Victor Hugo. I watched my greatest hopes come to life (for five or six times now) in the film version directed by Tom Hooper, in which, God had blessed me with the bewilderment of such beauty.

When we were children we were taught right from wrong - I had books on manners and good values arranged on a bookshelf of what I considered at the time as the ideal human syllabus. They told me stories of how Jack maybe stole a toy from his friend and had to embarrassingly apologize after, and later they would become the best of friends because of the great honesty and trust they fostered. I was pinned on obeying please and thank you and being honest, being earnest, and just being kind. But as fragile and tangible we are as egocentric and socially dependent human beings, society has failed to remind us (as much as we decline to prompt ourselves) to practice the childlike purity we once had. However, as simple it is to offer please and thank you, as we grow older we will realize that they are beyond the generic rules of being polite. Les Miserables taught me that these manners and good values are bloomed from love (and compassion) - the ultimate abundance of it, from the core of the heart. Even more so, the film taught me that the miserables love the most.

It is only with defeat can we rise and learn from our failures, and it is only with pain can we heal ourselves as well as matriculate a charitable kind of care for the handicap of others. Les Miserables is set beginning in 1815 and concluding 17 years later with the June Rebellion, a ripple from the French Revolution, which was portrayed in the film as a time of strife, famine and disease. And during such time can we only see devastation in every corner of Paris in contrary to the dutiful men on parole and higher richmen of power. However, there are people who strive for better life, and at the very heart of that is Jean Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman), one I like to consider most miserable, hence most loving, whom, went through 20 winters in the sludge of slavery as a price to pay for stealing a loaf of bread, and was never given absolute freedom due to the danger that clings onto his existence like a scar after being released. Despair lurked in his shadows but only until he arrived at a Convent where a priest graced him with a kind of generosity he did not recognize. In total perplex and awakening of such a man who shines with Divine light, he claims his escapade through acts of love, mercy and righteousness in the name of God.

"to love another person is to see the face of God"

To mistaken love only as something intimately shared between two people, and by measuring the ounces of such a love with silver spoons, expensive fantasies, or in Shakespearean song or poetry, can we lose touch of the true meaning of love. Love the way you want, but from personal preference, I think we can share love as vast and deep as possible, with anyone at all; lovers and strangers alike. The way I want to love is to love selflessly - although some may be undeserving of affection, we all just need to be understood;  I like to believe that everyone deserves love one way or another. I want to have a humanitarian heart as loving as Jean Valjean, who places the needs of others way ahead of his own, who rather be dead than to watch another person suffer. I do believe that love is the act of giving and sharing, of feeling constant compassion and tolerance for each other. And these kind of people can be found in prophecies and spiritual accounts, just as possible to find within the most humble homes. Jean Valjean changed his path in the name of God, by possessing the attributes of an ideal human being with higher, more selfless intention, much like Jesus Christ, his most noble image of a loving man.

Selfless love is in line with altruism, and it exists in the heart of many religions and moral texts, as well in the palms of those merciful and compassionate. It is an idea coined by Auguste Comte, the founder of the Positivism movement, phrased in his ethical doctrine as to live for others, a quaint description of the moral obligation to help, serve, or benefit others at the entailed expense of self interest. You would expect Nietzsche to go against this movement, but with all due respect, I think he died a miserable death. Although it may be that Nietzsche had strong ideologies that concern the self, I believe that life is more fulfilling when we help build the lives of others. 

We can relate to someone's sufferings because, in a sence, we are them. We are human beings- incapable of control and foretelling what's ahead of us, we get confused and we become unwise; we are tangible, fragile, sinners. Maybe with empathy can we understand that everyone, bad or good, rich or poor, has had moments of misery, and therefore, deserve second chances at life. To understand another is to mirror ourselves, to reflect on what we deserve as what they could be longing for. Although it may seem as an all-too optimistic will to live, to touch the lives of others, and to teach them love, is like giving gold for charity. In contrary to egoistic interests that would only benefit the self, being utterly generous might be in spite of self sacrifice, but consequently we gain a lot more than we deserve, and ultimately live a more noble death. 

In Les Mis, the line, to love another person is to see the face of God is the very last line at the epilogue, entrusted by Hugo to highlight the core message of Valjean's divinely blessed sincerity and the whole purpose of the story altogether. Although the story is in fact overtly religious (with biblical references), there is no doubt that the lessons we can learn from verse after verse is anything new. Religion in general, does teach us to be forgiving, sincere and forevermore loving not for materialistic gain, rather, for the ethical reason of being humane. Just as we were taught in nursery rhymes and and as I was from my great collection of Being Good childhood books, I think Les Mis profoundly revised the same old teachings in familiar voices, just from an approach that reminds us of how much we have forgotten about purity. We do, after all, only understand the things we learned in our childhood as we grow older. 

Life, as we know it, is not always blessed with rays of sunshine. But as we consequently grow we learn to adapt to the harsh conditions of modern relationships, of great triumph in just any path we choose to follow. Everyone has had their fair share of misery; all happiness is alike, but each pain is painful in its own way; hence must we only share our compassion towards each other, no matter our differences and morale ingenuity. The true measure of wealth is by how much we give, thus, may we grow love with the ashes of our misery. 

Neila.
7th June 2017

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