Friday, January 4, 2013

Les Miserables, science, and near-death experiences.

I am open to the experiences that allow me to see life more fully

I think that most people do the very best they can given what they know and the situations they find themselves in.  Others believe that life is as the philosopher Hobbes put it, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." The way change really happens is not through just altering our behaviors but in changing the way we see the world.

Thomas Kuhn was a physicist and historian who made the argument that science does not develop in a linear path.  Progress doesn't necessarily come bit by bit but rather through periodic paradigm shifts that changes the way science is thought about.  These shifts open up possibilities of imagining the world in a completely different way.

I've often heard of near death experiences completely changing the way someone approaches life.  The event changes them profoundly and permanently.  I have been in mild to serious peril on more than one occasion but I have been fortunate to have never experienced anything quiet like almost dying.  I don't think a near death experience is required for change. When I am open to it, experiences in my life can provide opportunities for my own paradigm shifts to occur.  They may come from anywhere; a movie, conversation, trial, meditation, relationship, on a hike, at a rock concert, in a dream, but only if I am willing to accept the possibility that I have more to learn and the way I see the world may be limited.

I watched Les Miserables this afternoon and it was interesting to me seeing the very different responses taken by Jean Valjean and Javert to the experiences capable of creating a paradigm shift.

**Spoiler Alert** 
**If you haven't watched the movie or already know the story you may want to skip this paragraph**

Jean Valjean experiences multiple moments where he has decisions to make and the way he sees the world changes.  The ransom of the priest who sets him free after he steals the silver, the opportunity to let an innocent man take the blame for his crimes, the death of Frantine, his rescue and love of Cosette, to name only a few.  Each time he became a different man and seemed to grow and learn crucial lessons in the process.  Javert on the other hand was such a slave to the way he saw the world in black and white, heaven and hell, good and evil that he could not live in a world where someone like Jean Valjean existed.  He believed Jean Valjean could never change and was unwilling to accept mercy in a world that he had built around justice. 

I will walk my path with open eyes and ears for the lessons life has available to teach me.  I will recognize that opportunities exist all around me to gain understanding and shift the way I see the world.  These shifts in paradigm will open up possibilities for the change and growth that I seek. 


  1. Ah! Beyond the barricade there's a world I long to see....sometimes categorizing, labeling, collating and sorting people & events offers a sort of security or control or guarantee. Yet, it's really when we are willing to opening ourselves up to seeing the world and people as they are and the value they inherently posses that we truly learn to love.

  2. Love your comment Jackie. Thanks for sharing your insights!