Friday, January 27, 2006

Les Mis

My daughter gave me the CDs to Les Miserables for Christmas, and I’ve just finished listening to them. The CDs are of the entire show, not just highlights, so it was like being in the theater again.

I first saw Les Mis when it first came to Boston, oh, 15 years ago. (Good golly, was it that long ago?) My just-became-ex-husband got tickets at work and knew I wanted to go, so he invited me. By then, though, I was in the throes of a miserable dead-end relationship, and was literally aching from the knowledge that the new “love of my life” was still pining for a former girlfriend so would never love me back.

Les Mis hit me like a ton of bricks. I think I started weeping in the first ten minutes or so, when the Bishop claims he gave Valjean the candlesticks, thereby keeping him from being sent back to prison for stealing. Waterworks. Waterworks through Fantine being abused then dying, through Valjean vowing to protect her daughter Cosette, through the stirring of the students to fight back against the unjust regime.

But my real agony came from Eponine, the street girl who loves the ideal young man, Marius (who unreasonably falls in love with Cosette at first sight). Eponine absolutely captured my feelings at that time. She loved Marius from afar, never speaking, but suffering as his love for Cosette develops. In fact, she helps him win her and saves her and Valjean from ruffians.

Then Eponine fights on the barricade with the rebellion, and is the first one to die. Slowly. On stage. Singing. But she dies in Marius’s arms, and he comforts her. And I thought that was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. “And you will keep me safe… and you will keep me close… and rain…. will make the flowers grow.” I would have given anything to die in my love’s arms right then.

The show continues through further agony and loss, but Valjean, Marius and Cosette escape. The closing scene is Valjean going to his reward, guided by the spirits of Fantine and Eponine. The three of them sing what to me is the most transcendent line ever:

“To love another person is to see the face of God ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^”

(I put those ^ ^ ^ marks, because as they sing, the final note just goes up and up, toward the heavens.)

And I realized that even though the love I felt was unrequited, loving itself was enough. If there was Love, there was God, so God was with me. This calmed me.

Mary Baker Eddy writes this, which captures what I learned:

Human affection is not poured forth vainly, even though it meet no return. Love enriches the nature, enlarging, purifying, and elevating it. The wintry blasts of earth may uproot the flowers of affection, and scatter them to the winds; but this severance of fleshly ties serves to unite thought more closely to God, for Love supports the struggling heart until it ceases to sigh over the world and begins to unfold its wings for heaven.

--Science and Health

All my suffering had meaning if it led me to become closer to God. Which it did, and has.

I took the kids to see Les Mis in London when we visited a few years back, and I’m proud to say we all cried together, even my video-gaming son. My tears had the wisdom of the intervening years, however. They were no longer tears of despair, but of gratitude.

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