Sunday, September 2, 2012

Le Misanthrope

Many moons ago I took an upper level French course focused entirely on the playwright, Moliere. The class was no walk in the park. The language is different from what is spoken in France today. I read several of his works and hand to perform an excerpt from one of Moliere´s plays before the class. Moliere´s final impression on me was that he was truly a funny guy.

The Cemetery

A few years later I went to Paris and eventually stayed there about a year. My hotel was in the 20th arrondisement, between Bastille and the famous cemetery.  I decided to visit Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.  Père-Lachaise  is the largest cemetary in Paris. Moliere is buried at Pere Lachasie, right next to Jean de la Fontaine and a five minute walk from the tomb of Jim Morrison. 

I went there a little later than I hoped because I had to meet with some lawyers in Paris. I quietly stood before Moliere´s tomb, thinking about all the amazing plays that I had to read all in the original French text, I realized that it was getting late.

Imagine walking through an enormous, old French cemetery. There were small winding paths, dead flowers, somber angels, and dark crypts. Imagine entire families buried together in small shrines. The sun had set. Growing more apprehensive I scrambled to find my way back to the main gate. When I finally found the gate I was relieved. How silly of me. It is not like I believe in ghosts. My rational brain tells me that these are just dead bodies below the ground. I guess that primitive part of the human brain is embedded in our DNA.

But that is not what this essay is about. We are here to discuss Moliere´s play - Le Misanthrope.
Tombs of Moliere and Fontaine
Hating Human Kind

As When Moliere wrote Le Misanthrope, he had to be careful because two previous works, Tartuffe and Don Juan were banned by the French Government. Le Misanthrope brilliantly satirizes the manners of French aristocratic society. It also points out, is a serious tone, the flaws that all human beings poseess. Alceste is the protragonist, and also the misantrhrope.

Mis - dislike, not, negative
Anthrope - humanity

Misanthropes are also called, those who hate humanity.  I have to question, do these people really hate every element in humanty? Do they hate humanity in its entirely? Popular YouTube personality Gary Mosher (aka Inmendham) is a misanthrope in the truest sense. The evidence: He chooses to live alone, no wife, no children, and seemingly no friends in the real world. From all of his videos I have never heard him say that he had friends, or maybe had a beer with the guys at the local pub. Do not misunderstand, I have listened to many of Gary´s debates, although I always want to stand at least thirty feet away from him, I have to agree with most of his opinions. Gary is his own best friend.

 I have never heard him once speak about the love he receives from others, or the love he gives to others. He is too cynical to accept or give love to another human being. Any love that he has, he keeps locked away in the safest of places. Gary loves the stars, but cannot love another human. When I think of Gary, in one sense I feel sad that a brilliant man never made more of his life. One cannot really propel themselves in this world when they hate everything about the people who inhabit it.

If everyone were clothed with integrity,
If every heart were just, frank, kindly,
The other virtues would be well-nigh useless,
Since their chief purpose is to make us bear with patience
The injustice of our fellows
Le Misanthrope - Moliere

While picking blackberries for my blackberry cordial, I thought a lot about a quote from Le Misanthrope. The quote reads, ¨To esteem everything, is to esteem nothing.¨ When a food critique loves ever restaurant he visits, every dish he is served, then what is the point of being a food critique? Esteeming everything, from every shirt, movie, or show really means nothing. It is just as meaningless to dislike everything as to esteem everything.

Many people call me a judgmental person. This happens especially when I voice my opinion that I hate tattoos, and I think they are the most disgusting thing a person can do to themselves. If I am asked how I feel about tattoos, I am going to say what I think. If I am not asked, I am going to keep my mouth shut. I think there is a reason prison thugs are clad in tattoos - to me they are cheap and trashy. There is a reason we call it a TRAMP stamp and not a PRINCESS stamp. The whole idea of being judgmental has gotten me to think - when we esteem something, are we being judgmental? YES, we are. When we dislike something, are we being judgmental - yes. Judgmental is only considered a bad thing when the judgement formed is a negative one.

But, the fact is, people do bad things all the time. We form judgement of them all the time. The job of a Judge and a Jury is to make a judgement. Do we stop and say, ¨ twelve people on a jury are just a bunch of judgmental twats?¨Of course not, that is their job. The more I thought about it, the more wisdom I saw in the quote, ¨to esteem everything is to esteem nothing.´ It is far better to be authentic than to walk on eggshells your whole life.

Socrates defined misanthropy in the following terms. Misanthropy develops when without art, one puts complete trust in another thinking that person absolutely true, then later discovers him to be bad and unreliable.¨When this happens repeatedly, the man end up hating everybody. I have to wonder here if the Socrates are making a distinction between the real misanthrope and the cynic? I am a cynic, but at the same time, I love people.

We should be concerned when we can only praise the dead, and cannot see virtue in the living.

Betrayed and wronged in everything,
I’ll flee this bitter world where vice is king,
And seek some spot unpeopled and apart
Where I’ll be free to have an honest heart.