I’ve just finished Le Miserable. It’s not just a book I finished. It was a journey, with Jean Valjean. With Cosette. With Marius. I’m not embarrassed to admit that the last few pages tears were streaming down my face. Why, you might ask? It’s just a story, and not even a true one.
I’ll tell you why. Because in the end, these two young people are faced with a grave neglect they had both made. For Cosette, the neglect was simple and less profound. She had forgotten the one who saved her. Oh, she still loved him (Jean Valjean). But she no longer spent time with him. He still represented in some distant memory the father who had protected and cared for her, had taken her out of a desperate situation and given her a new life. But her devotion to him had faded into the distant memory as well. I cried for Cosette because even though she rushed to his side in the very end, she missed out on the sweet fellowship that could have been when he was close.
For Marius, the situation is complicated. He distrusted this man, because he was ignorant of the salvation that had taken place on his behalf personally from the man, Jean Valjean. He misjudged Cosette’s father figure, refusing to ever touch the wealth that was his to have since Marius had married the young lady. He coldly turned away any friendship with the man who had given all to make that marriage possible. And in doing so, he added to the sin of neglect done by the daughter in discouraging their relationship from continuing. But all this, when it came to light and the truth was known to Marius, hit him in desperation to right his many wrongs. I cried for Marius because it was too late to know the man who had done all this for him, whom he dismissed in ignorance.
But there’s a parallel reason I cried: because these two mistakes are made by people every day with the One who has saved them, offered to remove them from the path they are on, and who turn away the riches He has to offer out of ignorance of who He is. These same two kinds of people – those who know who that Savior is, but have lost touch with Him, and those who live in their ignorance that they have even been saved if they would choose to know it – are all over. Are you one? Your savior’s name isn’t Jean Valjean. It’s Jesus. And He’s not a fictitious man: He is God.
As I am nearing the end of the book (and it has taken me more than the summer to do so, reading kind of slowly, but enjoying every part) I have to share another tidbit with you. I’m hoping to whet your appetite to engage in this powerful tale. Who is Jean Valjean? I’ll say it in Victor Hugo’s own words:
At that moment Jean Valjean entered the redoubt [barrier], nobody noticed him, all eyes being fixed upon the five chosen ones [to leave the certain death] and upon the four uniforms. Jan Valjean himself, saw and understood, and silently, he stripped off his coat [of the National Guard], and threw it upon the pile with the others.
The commotion was indescribable.
Who is this man?” Asked Bosseut.
“He is,” answered Combeferre, “a man who saves others.”
photo taken by my friend at stuttgart zoo
I’m reading Les Miserables. It’s taken me all summer; but as I near the end, there is a paragraph in the book, in IV of Book Tenth, “June 5th, 1832” that may seem completely insignificant. And yet it holds the significance of the writing of the entire novel:
“….One observer, a dreamer, the author of this book, who had gone to get a near view of the volcano, found himself caught in the arcade between the two fires. He had nothing but the projection of the pilasters which separate the shops to protect him from the balls; he was nearly half an hour in this delicate situation.”
Why could Victor Hugo write such an epic novel with such insight to the Parisian culture of the time? Because he was there. He felt, saw, heard, smelled, and took part in the events – and so is able to write about them so descriptively and powerfully. This story is one of those that will remain a classic throughout time in a way that is celebrated again and again – either through a play, new film, or required school reading.
I think of someone else who ‘was there’ at important events. A man whose name was John wrote about being in the middle of it all:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled….” Continue reading
“a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.”
When I google search ‘perspective’ I get so many different perspectives on this (sorry, couldn’t resist) – from how it relates to math, statistics, photography, life, drawing, and a myriad of other topics where perspectives can apply. But in general, what is in a person’s perspective? Is our perspective important – and understanding that we look at things with certain angles significant?
photos: 1, cog trail Colorado; 2, top of sandia mtn NM; 3, eiffel tower, 4, my dog back in NM
I think so. If it wasn’t true, so many smart people would not have said so many things about Perspective. Here’s just a sampling: Continue reading