Thursday, May 10, 2007

Another not so good day...

But let's not talk about that.
I'll just get on with this peg figure model of my boss and look for the hat pins I used to have...
(*hums tunelessly...)

I've just finished reading Madame Bovary by Flaubert. My father, when I spoke to him about this, muttered about how long ago he had read it (in the original French, of course) but was far more impressed by a book called Flaubert's parrot, which he promised to look out for me...
I digress.
Some of the characters amused- the emotionless chemist, secular and scientific to the nth degree, superior to the hapless Bovary, finally awarded the Legion of Honour (as Flaubert was himself.)
The lovers, a succession of men who were bewitched by Madame Bovary initially, but grew tired of her emotional excesses and moved on to other things...
And Madame Bovary herself. For me, the most striking moments in the book were almost the last, as dying at her own hand from the arsenic she crammed in her mouth, she receives the last rites from the Cure of the villager who as he did:
"..dipped his right thumb in the oil and began to give extreme unction. First, upon the eyes, that had so coveted all worldly pomp; then upon the nostrils, that had been greedy of the warm breeze and amorous odours; then upon the mouth that had uttered lies, that had been curled with pride and cried out in lewdness; then upon the hands, that had delighted in sensual touches; and finally upon the soles of the feet, so swift of yore, when she was running to satisfy her desires, and that would now walk no more."

Such earthly pleasures, so intently searched for by Madame Bovary, but no ultimate satisfaction, for in the end, deceit and lies and the superficial nature of what she found overtook her and led her to her death. And not only her, her husband, who finds how false a woman she was, but still continues to love, cannot live with the grief that surrounds him. And their little daughter, Berthe, placed in the hands of an aunt, to work her life out in a cotton mill lives a million miles away from the life that her mother once sought to lead.

Will I, as Madame Bovary did, at my last, turn back in despair to a faith that I once had? Seek anointing, blessing, to turn back to the God I do not now see?

I do not know. But I somehow doubt it.

The book has other messages for me too, that I am pondering and playing with in my mind, about earthly pleasures and the reality of life. How many people do I see whose unhappiness centres on their desires, unrealistic or not, going unfulfilled? How often is my unhappiness caused by the same? Yet the answer does not lie in merely striving at all costs to satisfy, but maybe in addressing and exploring the roots of the desires and channelling them consciously in other ways.
For who wishes to travel the path of the lady who died to the song of a blind man?
" "The wind it blew so hard one day
Her little petticoat flew away!"
She was no more...."

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