People who succeed in life do not go around settling scores. They do not even keep score.They “run up the score” by doing good to others, even when others do not deserve it. They give them better than they are given. And as a result, they often bring the other person up to their level instead of being brought down to the level of the other. It is the law of love, changing things for the better. -Dr. Henry Cloud
This telling statement by Dr. Henry Cloud pretty much sums up the entire theme of Les Miserables from the main character Jean Valjean’s perspective. He spoke it. He lived it. And throughout the book/theater production, readers/theater goers watch this powerful truth getting played out over and over again.
In some, his unconditional love melts people’s hearts and resistance. In others, it only hardens their resolve to go to the grave numbered among the unrepentant and unregenerate.
If you have never read Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, I recommend getting busy now and you’ll have plenty of lead time to complete this hefty little novel before the holidays arrive and this epic story hits the big screen later this year.
I honestly don’t believe you can fully appreciate this story until you’ve read the book and seen it performed live. But now, we actually have a chance to view it on the big screen come Christmas.
I can’t wait.
Yesterday was the second time I’d seen the trailer for Les Miz with Anne Hathaway singing Fantine’s haunting song, I Dreamed a Dream. Watch it here.
I had two reactions.
First, I didn’t know Hathaway could sing (her kicking ability is quite impressive though…)
Second, after the last film attempt which failed to capture the emotions of these characters and the volatile space of history they eeked out an existence in, I wasn’t interested in viewing another film…give me the theater version every time where you can feel the energy from the actors radiate through the crowd.
But this trailer changed my mind.
So much so, that when I got back home last night I dug out our old copy of Les Miz and started thumbing through it again and here’s what I came across…the linchpin of the entire book occurs right at the very beginning.
Valjean, newly released from prison, steals silver from the kindly bishop who took him in. He is caught with the goods, brought back to the bishop, who instead of condemning him, charges Valjean with these words.
Jean Valjean, my brother; you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God!
Stunned, Valjean leaves but thus begins his inner transformation into the man who will eventually give all to save others. Reflecting back to the bishop’s challenge to make a 180 turn (inside/out) as a free man, Valjean recalls how differently the bishop saw him, the man, than did others who only saw his tainted past.
That men saw his mask, but the bishop saw his face. That men saw his life, but the bishop saw his conscience.
If I had to sum up what I love most about Hugo’s work is that as I read/watch the story unfold…I realize I could be any one of these characters if circumstances were different.
The simple truth is this; there are very few steps in anyone’s life between what we view as “guilty” or “innocent“…precious few indeed.
Hugo’s work helps me remember this truth.
As an aside, you’ll know where to find me on Christmas Day.