I can't get these French films I saw the other day out of my mind, Jean de Florette / Manon of the Spring. The French for spring is source. Source is more the word, but spring is just as right and requires no explanation in English. Turns out the telling of the story used the form of Greek tragedy. The Yves Montand character set the story in motion with a whim, his tragic flaw, automatic dislike for an outsider, someone not self. This a common characteristic among country people. These were French hill people, the people of the mountains of southern France, isolated and unto themselves. What happens on the mountain stays on the mountain sort of place. They are not different from American mountain people. Suspicion of outsiders is a common characteristic in a small community. He sets out to destroy a man who had what he wanted, a spring on his land, and did destroy him all the way unto him dying. He then took what he wanted and lived happily ever after. Until one day an old woman in the village who was blind asked him about a letter he'd received when he was in the Army. He didn't remember the letter. Later, at home, he found the old letter he had never opened. Turned out the man who moved in next door, the man he tormented unto death, was his own son, and the people in the village knew it, but weren't saying. He was struggling against not-self and it turned out to be self. He realized what he'd done and shut down his life by force of will. A sentence I'll carry the rest of my life as so poignant, telling its meaning directly, "I'm so ashamed, I don't want even the trees to see me." It threw me over the edge when he said that.
The story was told so well I believed him when he said he didn't want the trees to see him. I have to give it to Marcel Pagnol, who wrote the stories, for making a true Greek tragedy among humble working people. The stories were written about the same time Arthur Miller was writing Death of a Salesman. There was talk among the intellectuals of the time searching for ways to make a true tragedy in the context of the common man instead of royalty. I felt Miller's Death of a Salesman was a bit forced, holding it to the outline of a definition of tragedy. Pagnol's tragedy seemed to unfold naturally, like the story came before the explication instead of the story being made to fit the explication. In Pagnol's story, I didn't see any of it coming. I wondered a few times why certain karmic returns had been passed over, didn't happen, when the deeds were such that indeed get some kind of return, especially the deeds done by design, with intent. The return came gradually at first, then all at once a tsunami of grief overwhelmed him such that it shut down his heart and mind, couldn't live with it. He wrote his will and told the story to the priest in confession. Sitting here staring at the end credits, I was hoping there was nothing in my past I'd set in motion without knowing it that would bring me to the same fate. I sat there thinking I don't ever want this experience. I really, really don't. The very same as I don't want the experience of the man who lived through the story, Twelve Years a Slave. There is a lot I don't want to be, like a political prisoner. Pagnol's story knocked me for a roll across the floor.
I didn't want to write about it, because I'm hesitant to recommend movies anymore. I'm also reading DCP a positive thinking, highly conscientious collection of people, and I don't know many of those kinds of people. Yes I do, I know a lot. I identify with the people of positive thinking consciousness and I identify with people who are sarcastic and have a rude sense of humor, who laugh at positive thinking. I'm pointing to these people outside myself, particular individuals a given facet of myself is drawn to. It's that odd feeling meeting somebody who is a friend of a friend of mine. This person is entirely different from me, yet meets a facet of our friend, and I meet another facet. I look around at the people I know and they each represent a facet of myself. By facet, I mean like facets on a gemstone, a ruby, for example. It is the sparkle of the different facets, each reflecting the light different from any of the others that gives a diamond its bling. The various facets of ourselves give us our living bling too. Each of our facets have someone outside ourselves it is drawn to. I heard once of a project I've never took the time to do, but have always thought I might some day. That day never came. Anyway, I think I get it. The project is to sit on the floor with a little space around. Have twelve rocks, or ten or however many, and place one on the floor with the name of someone you're close with. Put the rocks in a circle around self, each with the name of someone in your life. Then get to know those aspects of self as seen in the other who has an aspect that accords with given aspect of self. Wondering about friends drifting apart or breaking up in one way or another, does the aspect in self change first and then does not reflect that individual any more? I've noticed that when I go through a change within, some of the people around me change. Some drift away and some new ones come in. Facets change because the light changes, the light within.
I feel a little bit not right for evidently influencing my friend Lee to see it. She was so struck down by it she wrote a poem and a blog entry about the intensity of her grief. She provided me with the phrase, "tsunami of grief." Much as I don't feel comfortable that I put her through that without warning, it tells me this is the apex of art, to leave the observer with a powerful lesson learned from somebody else's story. I don't have a problem with films or novels or poetry that drag bottom in sorrow. Sorrow is one of the facets of human existence. Art is about the whole of the human experience. Chinese writing and film is loaded with really sad stories. I remember one, especially, The Blue Kite. Sorrow upon sorrow and ends in agonizing grief. There was one about the Japanese invasion of Nanking that wrings the heart to the last drop. And from the aftermath of an earthquake that takes the viewer to the extremity of grief. It ends with a woman falling to the floor, limp in her sorrow, saying, "I'm so ashamed." Evidently the Chinese love a good mournful cry. We want to feel good so bad in the West we enhance our brain chemistry with mood enhancers. Some people are asking why Americans haven't revolted yet against the corporate police state we have for government now. We're a no-problem society, stressed to the max, taking prescription pills to calm down into denial. I have a little problem of my own seeing up close what American working class people are having to do to get by, I see people of the middle class engaged in political correctness and positive thinking, I think about the black people who have it much worse than the white working class, and I can't get on board the positive thinking gospel ship. As a facet of human existence, it has its place, I am happy for it and I love it, but it is one of many facets. Art explores all the facets of human emotion. Art taught me to allow.