Many years ago I had the opportunity to see the stage production of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. The performance had a powerful affect on me. Part of the impact was the result of the earthquake that struck off the coast of L.A. during the performance. I never tire of telling the story. The earthquake struck as Marius sang “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” The performer did not miss a note as the theater shuck around him. I’m convinced the audience at first thought it was part of the magnificent production staging. I would guess less than one percent of the audience actual left their seats even as we realized we were experiencing an earthquake. As the actor completed the song the audience erupted into a grand applause. I chose to believe Marius saved us that day, had the actor stopped singing there would have been a panic.
I was fascinated today to find Christopher Lydon’s Open Source web site focusing on Les Misérables. Lydon quoted an e-mail he received from one Steven Antinoff. In the e-mail Antinoff said:
Maybe Les Misérables might be a wonderful place to begin. It is, for me, two things. One: in a way that probably can never be surpassed, it is a 1200 page meditation the passage from Luke 9 you cite and that we both love (Chapter 9, Verse 23: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”). Two: it is a great study of the relationship between love (first embodied in the bishop, later in Jean Valjean himself) and justice (as embodied in the police inspector Javert). Though Hugo’s language is sometimes a little sappy, though he can digress for 50 pages on Parisian criminal slang or the battle of Waterloo, it is a moving story beyond belief…Steven Antinoff, in an e-mail to Chris Lydon, June 13, 2007.
Jean Valjean speaks my favorite line from the production: “to love another person, is to see the face of God.”
I’m caught by the point Antinoff makes saying, it is a great study of the relationship between love and justice. I knew immediately what he meant and my find myself wanting to read the book to experience the study. I find it too easy to miss the link between love and justice. A trip to the library or the used book store may be in order.