What drives a person to fight for a cause that does not impact them directly? What drives a person to take up cudgels in defence of an unknown? What drives a person to die even for the sake of other people?
These are the questions that watching Les Miserables have stirred in me. In particular is the scene in which Marius is challenged about his involvement in the rebellion in Paris, a cause that did not directly affect him as he came from a class in society that was not suffering, which was in fact quite comfortable. Marius chose to fight alongside other young men who were seeking to change the society in which they lived, in the time in which they lived. Not only did Marius choose a fight that was not necessarily his but he fell in love with Cosette, a young woman of questionable background, who was being raised and protected by a former felon on the run from the law, Jean Valjean.
The scene which most stirred me, which reduced me to wracking sobs, was when Marius chose to come back to the rebels, to stand with them in their cause. He chose not to seek after Cosette when she was spirited away by her father, choosing rather to leave off personal happiness and security and fight. The fight was in the short term fruitless and in the end the hero gets the girl. However, Marius did not know the outcome when he made the choice. He just made the choice.
What stirred in me were two things. One is the idea of being involved in something much bigger than myself. The second is of making a lasting impact for good on my own world. Both of these ideas are not new to me as one of my life goals has long been to impact the lives of others. I am also a big picture person, looking for what is going on not just in front of my nose but underneath the surface of life, seeking out the bigger things, the deeper things, which come my way.
Not long after I became involved with The Salvation Army I felt a pull to be part of something bigger than the smallish world of the country town in which I lived. I’ve also had opportunities to take up the cause of people that are unknown to me, to fight for the marginalised, and I felt that particularly in supporting the asylum seekers on Nauru. I have, like Marius, taken up causes that are not my own, that I could quite rightly leave to someone else or ignore altogether.
Marius’ capacity as a human being was enlarged both by his involvement with the rebellion and also with his relationship with Cosette and Jean Valjean. My capacity as a human being is enlarged as I seek out the bigger deeper things in my world and by being involved in them influence and impact my world for good.