This past Friday, I went down to London again to see Les Miz at the Queen’s Theatre. I enjoyed the 2012 film adaptation, but this was my first time actually seeing it onstage. Even as one who didn’t really have any of the songs down by heart prior (except for a few lines from “I Dreamed a Dream” and the song of the angry French revolutionaries), it was a phenomenal experience, and of course – as a frequenter of theater productions – it’s always an out-of-body experience for me to watch a compelling story come to life on the stage.
As you probably already are aware, the musical is derived from the Bible-sized novel of the same name by Victor Hugo. I’ve never read anything by Hugo (though [the abridged version of] Les Miz is on my book list), but what not everyone may know is that he is also the author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame – among several other works. Needless to say, Hugo is well versed in the art of appealing to the heart within humanity by writing tragedy. Disney’s take on Hunchback is – shall we say – much different than the original. I believe that in both Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the famous lyric “To love another person is to see the face of God” is applicable.
Hugo is also credited for the following quote: “The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, in spite of ourselves.”
Lately, I’ve been told how “lucky” I am to be doing what I am. I would first just like to point out that I had to bust my bum to get here, so please don’t discredit the work involved in getting to where I’m now able to enjoy the rewards. Secondly, I don’t post photos and blogs to brag about anything I’ve done. I do it mostly to let my friends and family know where I am and how I’m doing, and perhaps more importantly, to instill the idea in whoever comes across my digital footprint that there exists a world beyond the ordinary that needs to be seen.
But I digress.
As of late, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of my main outlets for joy is being given the opportunity to do something. So while I’m consistently reminded that I’m “lucky” for doing x, y or z, I must remind you that while all these activities bring me pleasure, perhaps – going back to the words of Hugo – it would mean nothing without the caring and support of those who make me feel loved “in spite of myself.” There are a few close and perhaps sometimes unlucky ones in my life who have seen me at my worst – and yet they choose to stay. How can anything compete with the feeling of being loved, regardless? I only hope that I have been able to return the favor to those in my life, because is not affirmation from our fellow humans what we ultimately strive for?
This affirmation – not synonymous with “approval” – is what Hugo speaks of. To freely be the recipient of acceptance and affirmation, without even necessarily having done anything to “earn” it – is “to see the face of God.” Exercising the giving (and hopefully, receiving) of this affirmation should be man’s first happiness; everything else comes in second.
I mean, there’s a reason why a whole musical dedicated to this idea, right?