Last night I watched Chocolat, the film of the book by Joanne Harris. I quite like JH – I’ve read several of her books. Chocolat is a nice film that looks not unlike a Stella Artois ad, and Johnny Depp’s in it, which is a good enough reason for me to watch a film!
The theme of the story is a contrast between free- and enslaved-spiritedness, and at the end there’s a magical speech by the priest who turns out to be the most sensible of the motley crew. It is:
‘I think that we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do, by what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create and who we include.’
(This was Jesus’ message, by the way.)
We live in a culture where we feel obliged to suppress our feelings, where there are rules about who we are ‘allowed’ to love. It’s a culture of intolerance where punishments are severe. And, it’s a culture that is confused about what it means to be ‘good’. To our corrupted, puritanical culture it seems to mean suppressing all desires that promise pleasure!
What the priest was saying was about – as was undersood by my mind in its current state of evolution – softening our edges, relaxing our defences so that we are open to accepting others. To do that, we must soften our attitude to ourselves so that we feel worthy of the connection.
For anyone who hasn’t watched Brene Brown’s fab TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability, here’s a link.
How do we accept ourselves when we have been trained for self-deprecation by our culture? How do we get out of the habit of contorting ourselves in order to conform to the model that we have come to believe society expects of us, which is a simulacrum of – oh, I don’t know, some artificial construct that has no counterpart in nature and therefore I can’t think of an analogy just now – and opening up to communion with others, which we cannot do if we feel shame about what we have to offer our fellow human, which is, in essence: our humanity. And that is: mammalian (or reptilian, depending how far back you want to go) (or molecular, or atomic, if you want to go further) in nature.
From the moment we’re born we’re controlled and manipulated by others by their use of fear and shame so we fit their idea of who they want us to be. We’re conditioned to believe that fear and shame are things we should feel as a proof of our ‘goodness’, as proof that we have understood the concept of how ‘bad’ we are!
We do it to others in our turn, as well. Realising that makes you realise how daft it is to feel victimized.
The agent of manipulation is, of course, the ego. Our egos are terrified, shame-addled, cowardly control freaks. And what adults do to children, during what they believe is ‘nurture’, is pass on their psychosis. They don’t realise this, of course, because they are ignorant of their corruption: they believe they are doing ‘right’ and being ‘good’.
If we are to have any hope of peace of mind we must dispense with the attitude of shame we have acquired about ourselves as a result of being immersed in a puritanical, draconian, hysterical culture. We weren’t born with it. It’s a blight on our psyches. An affliction. A disease. An obstacle to joie de vivre.
Fear and shame… they do love each other’s company, don’t they? And they form a big crowd. The world’s full of their couplings and their offspring (misery). The world is overpopulated with them, in fact.
The message of Joanne’s priest is to lighten up about all that shit. How many are listening? Too few, I do believe. Too few to make a difference.
Having said that, a terrifying ingredient is needed: courage in the midst of fear. Our fearlessness about being alive is drummed out of us as a toddler. To most, it is lost to them.
Someone (don’t know who just now) said: ‘You were born free and you will die free, but will you live free?’
Well… will you?