Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Are You Miserable?

150 years ago life was much different.  Almost everything we take for granted didn’t even exist for the general population back then.  This includes the basics; clean water, readily available food, a system of healthcare, basic human rights, or even basic sanitary safeguards.  Living, for many, was a relatively short, hopeless, miserable subsistence.  And yet, for some, as dingy, desperate and depressing as it was, life still held meaning, even significance.  Somehow, people found redemption and purpose in the rubble of human existence.  Sometimes, despite, or perhaps because of, the devaluation of human life, people do the unimaginable and put others first.

Les Miserables, the miserable ones, is an archetypal story packed with the power and purpose of love and selfless devotion to others.  Although every subplot is full of loss, pain, sadness and injustice, those starless black nights do not prevail.  It is the costly blood-red sunrise of grace, forgiveness, hope and courage that wins out.  In the epic novel, as in life, only through sacrifice can the evil of self-interest be defeated.  Watching the 2012 movie rendition seemed like a fitting way to spend New Year’s Eve, although, even with his extraordinary acting talent, I did have trouble accepting Russell Crowe singing his lines. 
The book was written some 40 years after the events, giving some historical perspective to the author who lived in Paris through the explosive days of the 1820s and 1830s.  They must’ve been soul-searching times for Victor Hugo, challenging his worldview on topics from politics to the plight of the poor, religion to legalism, the coexistence of depravity and goodness in the heart of humanity.  One feels the inward battle being fought daily behind the barricades thrown up in the alleys and avenues of life.  All the while we echo the words of Fantine, mourning the loss of what could have been.  “I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I'm living!”  Little wonder the book was written in 365 chapters, a type of devotional, giving us one reading for each day of the year.

Mine were not the only tears shed in that dark theater on the last day, the last hours of 2012.  We all knew the story, but in some way, small or large, we were part of that narrative, we played the role of almost every character.  We have been unjustly accused, angry and the victim of abuse.  We may have been thieves or thugs at times delivering retribution and rebuke.  And on occasion we may have played the selfless Samaritan, extending goodness and grace.  Regardless, we understood the author’s words; 
We are all prone to succumb to self-pity when called upon by life’s circumstances to suffer.  And like ex-con 24601, Jean Valjean, we have a decision to make when faced with adversity, unfair, undeserved and unanticipated though it may be.  We all must answer the question “Whom Am I?”  We must choose.  Will we be a number existing on paper or a person living with purpose?

“Life, misfortunes, isolation, abandonment, poverty, are battlefields that have their heroes; obscure heroes, sometimes greater than the illustrious heroes.”   Victor Hugo, Les Miserables


  1. Bob: I think its very good analogy with Les Miserables. "I laid hold" and translated into portuguese and posted on our blog: http://maldeparkinson.blogspot.com.br/
    Thank's and HOPE from Brasil!
    [ ]'S

  2. I love the way the song of disappointment in political revolution is reprised at the end as a song of hopeful resurrection! sue and i visited hugo's home in Paris in April of 2012. I have read the book and loved the show for years. we saw the film with friends on new years eve. the way my brother is facing his own battle with parkinsons plus is obscure but heroic as well. thanks for reminding me of hugho's phrase as another way to consider john's plight.

  3. Hi Bob: We love your message and your attitude, so we nominated you for an award. You can learn more here: http://easiersaidblog.com/2013/01/22/the-versatile-blogger-award/

  4. Stormy;

    I owe you an Explanation. I have investigated the Versatile Blogger Award and, although I appreciate your nomination, find that I cannot accept its terms. In effect, it works like a chain letter (you are probably old enough to remember those guilt producing letters saying that wealth and happiness would follow you if you just send it on to 10 or 20 people who in turn would do the same). It starts out as a nice idea but ultimately becomes meaningless as the chain letter expands to encompass a broader and broader blogger existence.

    While I do appreciate your thoughtfulness, and don't wish to be the one to break the chain (although risking eternal separation from many I have done so on other occasions), I must decline the nomination.

    One very delightful advantage that has arisen as a result of your nomination is the fact that I have become acquainted with your blog. It is indeed a treat to read.