Well, since it's the movie event of the year, I took myself out to see the screen adaptation of the musical. (Yes, I went by myself. I was channelling my film student days. All film students are used to seeing movies on their own. It's not just a social event, it's an experience of art. For all the chatters that were at tonight's screening, I was really wishing for a small section for those of us who came alone and just wanted to experience the movie.)
But this is not meant to be a review of the film. What I was contemplating throughout the movie was the journey of the protagonist, Jean Valjean. I think, of all the adaptations I've seen, this film was most successful at presenting the journey of a soul, from lost to grace. Victor Hugo is a masterful author, and I might even say that this film presents this specific idea in a much clearer way. (The book is a large tome of commentary on the social, political, and cultural setting of the day. While the ideas are interesting, I think the theme of one man's spiritual journey is much more relative to us today.)
What my mind wandered to in watching this film, was thinking about a time and place when belief in God was such the norm that one's spiritual journey was much less about determining the existence of God as it was about trying to live the Christian life. I'm curious to know if, assuming the existence of God, a follower would be more committed if they had never questioned that God might not exist and spent their life trying to follow Him, or if a follower is better off to spend years (many years, for some) battling within to determine if they believe in God at all, and then come out stronger on the other end for having to fight such a fight within oneself.
For many people throughout the ages, God simply was. Spirituality was simpler. But is simpler better? (Better being defined by the final outcome, being dedicated to a faith in God.) Is it necessary to wrestle with the idea of God's existence? Does the plethora of information available at the click of a mouse or touch of a keypad actually improve us, or confuse us? I imagine one could spend one's entire life reading and learning about all the different faiths, beliefs, and religions out there. Is it a good idea to stop at one when you haven't explored them all, given that it is impossible to explore them all in the short lifespan we have been given? It might be said that the time before the "enlightenment" were times of darkness, times of blind obedience, times when they just didn't know any better. Finding myself concrete in my own faith, I yearn for a parallel existence where I didn't waste 32 years wrestling, rebelling, sinking in a mire of conflicting information. There is something pleasing about the idea of being raised in a time and place where all those around me take the existence of God as fact.
I know this idea will rustle the feathers of modern thought. I know it sounds naive, that I've drunk of the "opium of the masses," that I sound uneducated to wish away the infinite access to knowledge. I'm not pinning myself into one corner of thought here. I simply put the idea forward for consideration, to spur thought, to record the ramblings in my mind. Of course there is no parallel existence, and I cannot change the fact that we live in a time when everyone is shouting their own beliefs from the rooftops and all can hear much, much more than they were raised on. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing. But thoughts can change habits, which lead to behaviours, which develop character. And even such a "useless" thought as this is settling into a corner in my mind, creaking back and forth on an old rocking chair, and becoming part of the furniture of who I am. And while I may identify myself by a certain faith, religion, or set of beliefs, I don't think anyone can truly find themselves defined exactly and solely by a large group, for we are our own person and bring our own set of experiences to the table. My wrestle with God, or rather my growth toward God, is completely different and unique to the next persons. While we all are marching onward, upward, toward the same destination, there are an infinite number of paths circling around that central point, but all leading up to the same apex of the same mountain.