I have been reading Les Miserables over the last few weeks, and it honestly has changed my entire outlook on life. Don't you just love books like that? So rare, but when you find them they are worth a million hours spent reading.
There are a group of students in the book who are dreamers. They are revolutionaries. They want to change the world. They sit around and have discussions around human rights, politics and the universe. They spend hours sitting in the streets of Paris observing the people. Observing the world. They meditate under trees and think about important issues. They think about life.
And it made me realise how shallow and unimportant so much of the world is. So much of my life. So many hours are wasted discussing clothes and television, rather than ethics and altruism. I know a lot of people think this all sounds stupid. That sitting around dreaming is a waste of time. But what were we given brains for if not to think with? Why were we born in this amazing world if not to immerse ourselves in it? Not just in the shallow aspects of human life, I mean REALLY experience the world. And really care about other people, and feel a sense of social justice, and want to fight for change. To fight for what is in important.
Victor Hugo also talks about poverty. How it makes or breaks a person. How you need to look at your life, and strip away everything insignificant until you're left with what you really need. The things that are important in life. Love, laughter and friendship.
While I am not saying (and he wasn't either) that poverty is a good thing, or that more people should be thrown into poverty; it is important to recognise in your life the things that you can live without. And the things that you need (apart from food, clothes and shelter) to live. And it made me think of all of the unnecessary things in my life. The piles of clothes, the expensive food, decorations for the apartment etc.
It made me realise what is necessary to my life. My life is not going to be any less worthwhile (it may be even more so) if I don't buy that dress, or that food, or that makeup.
But I do need Joel, my family and friends, my pets, love, fresh air, the natural beauty of the world, books, music, creative outlets, opinions and the ability to think and daydream. These are the things necessary to my life. They may be (and are most likely) different to yours. But these things are the backbone of my life.
However, while I daydream of running off to Paris, earning just enough to sustain the necessary parts of my life and spending the rest of my time immersed in the heart of the city, among people, mediating and debating about important issues... I am not going to do that. I am not that person yet. I write this, and yet and I am not about to sell the majority of my clothes, or forgo good cheese, crackers and wine. I'm not going to pull myself out of the rat race. I am going to finish my degree, and earn money, and maybe get lost somewhere along the way in this fast-paced world. And it makes me ashamed. There is one consolation though: as a teacher maybe I'll be able to instill in the students these values that I lack. Maybe I will help change the world in a small way. That would be nice.
There will be some small changes in my life though. I will take the time I haven't before to appreciate the world around me, to stop and think. About anything and everything. To go for walks, turn off the television and have conversations. To spend my money on more meaningful things rather than objects per se. On experiences. Plays, music, dancing, trips to other places, books. And on other people. To become more charitable. To do something to help others. Not just talk about it.
I want to keep caring about the world, and the people in it.
Thank you Victor Hugo for opening my eyes, even if it was only a little bit.