The Human Condition and Les Miserables

I went with a friend last night to see Les Miserables the movie.

It was riveting!

The entire movie was very theatrical from the constant singing to the way the sets were arranged, but what made this movie stand out from a regular play were the camera angles and close up shots focusing right on the character’s faces as the height of their emotions were portrayed. It was breathtaking. Seeing the literal pain etched into Fantine’s face as she sings about her agony and then trying to remind myself over and over that that wasn’t really the embodiment of the character Fantine, but an actress (Anne Hathaway) playing her character. It was hard to convince myself at times. She was so believable. So 100% immersed in the character. If she doesn’t win an award it will be an outrage. It wasn’t just Anne Hathaway/Fantine either…. the actors who played Marius, Javert, and Jean Valjean were equally mesmerizing. I seriously felt emotional as the beautifully penned words of Victor Hugo came to life in those 3 hours.

This isn’t meant, however, to be a movie review.

This book, the play, the movie – it all speaks to a place deep inside each of us. It calls us with a whisper and a cry and reminds us of something we all share and yet try so desperately to hide: our raw emotion. The human condition.

We all feel things – some more deeply than others, but the feelings are there nonetheless. They’re real and vivid and sometimes so thick and heavy that they become tangible. Not all of us have lived through the agony Fantine experienced – some of us have. Not all of us have lost family/friends to death like Marius – some of us have. Not all of us have known the outright injustice of life and its cruelties like Jean Valjean – some of us have.

So why do we try so hard to pretend like we are so strong, so impenetrable, and so emotionless?
Why do we express a fraction of the love or affection we feel for someone, and then make a joke or laugh nervously afterward? Why do we pretend like words or the absence of communication doesn’t hurt us deeply? Why do we act like other people’s responses to us don’t matter even slightly?

Maybe I am just overly idealistic, but how would our relationships be if we allowed ourselves the freedom to express our hearts, and allow others the grace afforded to express their hearts? Even if that emotion is raw, or strong, or scary… it is still being felt and, therefore, is still valid and worth acknowledging.

I will be the first to confess… I have cared about people deeply and been afraid to express the depth of my care for fear of “scaring someone off” or expressing my care prematurely. I have been blown off, ignored, taken for granted, etc and I have been afraid to tell someone when they’ve hurt me, for fear that I will be seen as a high maintenance friend and then discarded. I have been perpetually trapped between how I feel and the fear of those feelings not being understood or received well.

Our society/culture prolongs this dance we play with each other, but wouldn’t it be refreshing if we could just talk openly about how we feel about each other? If we could simply have a conversation about a hurt, have our feelings acknowledged, and then move on better and closer to those people instead of distanced by our wounds? If we could just look at someone we care about and say “I love you” or some other sentiment and not be worried about any negative repercussions to such positive and life-giving words?

One of the last lines to one of the last songs in Les Mis says, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
God is love itself.
God is not holding back His love. He is not holding back Himself.
When we allow ourselves to open up our hearts despite our fears and trepidation to really and truly love someone and express that love to them, we will find God in those beautiful moments. God in the flesh in this world is us choosing to love each other deeply and unreservedly and it is just about the only way to make this fallen world a little more beautiful…