Thursday, September 23, 2010

thoughts about life

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.


swkotor said...

This was a really inspired blog post.
I think we need to always find a balance in our lives between living selflessly and living naturally.
In a simpler time, Victor Hugo's ideas may have led to making things better but i think that you are on a path in this era to be able to make a difference for alot of people in your own way.

kara lynn said...

mmm yes yes. this book is my love. and what you say is so true and right. to talk about possibilities and realities and what is in the gut instead of superficial.

The Many Colours of Happiness said...

How is it that you can word everything I want to say so much better than I can Kara? :p Thank you for your comment!
And I agree with what you said too Joelie, but I don't see how I can make any difference in the world if I am not even close to understanding it. I think that was Hugo's message (or one of many!)

swkotor said...

I don't think anyone can understand the world, i don't think life is about understanding the world.

Sometimes making a difference is an instinctual action rather then a calculated one.

You certainly make a positive difference to me and you don't understand me (im pretty sure i still confuse you alot) :p

The Many Colours of Happiness said...

I would love to believe that making a difference is an instinctual action, but I don't think it is. The people who have made a difference tend to be those who have studied the world, studied people, and studied society as a whole.
I do not mean be completely rational about the way you view the world. More a combination of the mind and the heart. To see inequality (for example) and then to feel that it is wrong. Then to think about the ways in which the world can be changed to minimize this.
To often major changes to society have been based on instinct, or for monetary reasons, rather than for social good.

The redhead said...

Les Miserable. Oh how I love thee. Even though I read the unabridged version and it took me over two years to have enough time to read it all...I still love thee.

Great post.

Sara Louise said...

The beautiful thing is that the book made you think and had a positive effect. It has changed you even, if only a little bit.
I love your honesty.

Brandi said...

I don't think anything you said sounds stupid. It's all quite true. I realized in the last year how much time I lose to television shows; I've decided to change that. I haven't thrown out my tv or anything but I've severely cut back. And I'm trying to find more time to volunteer. It's a bit hard with a full load of classes, but it's worth it. I'm actually really quite curious to read this book now. I saw the show on Broadway years ago, but that was all singing and special effects and stuff and I worry I never really got the story.
As for dreaming, dreams create the world we live in. They're vital.

Anna said...

When I was 15-years-old, I opened the cover of this book while stretched out on the bench of a museum. A man, unacquainted with me, walked passed and informed me of what a wonderful book I was reading--then he added, "...if you even finish it." I was so offended he had the nerve to presume I would never finish the, what, 1200+ pages. Yet, sure enough, I never finished. I never even really got to the good stuff. I've thought about going back and trying again, and one time I did--only getting to about the same place before, in the early 300s, I think. I've even thought about getting the abridged version to increase my chances of finishing, but never felt I could do that either.

After this, maybe, just maybe, I can have the courage and drive to believe I can ever finish it.

wilybrunette said...

i love how in the bible it says "blessed are those who are poor in spirit" and it's this idea about poverty--that we must all experience happiness as if we have nothing, no money--that everything is a blessing--most importantly the love of our family

MAUD said...

i have never read les misérables, but i have always wanted to!