Always within never

May 6, 2010 suesbent
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Twelve year old Paloma Josse is planning suicide. She lives in an apartment building with her wealthy family in Paris. She is an intelligent girl who finds no sense in living. Her family bore her.

Madame Renee Michel is the reclusive concierge of the apartment building. She finds refuge in her role and her unattractive body; a disguise that hides her own intelligence and inner beauty.

“The elegance of the hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery challenges us to remember to always look beyond external facades. How can we possibly assume to know the real person that resides within each genetically inherited shell?

This book is about “lookism”. As a society we have risen above racism and sexism. But there is a current trend of “lookism”. It is so superficial and stupid. Why judge a person based on how they look? When, after all, none of us are responsible for our looks. Cosmetic surgery is a real blight on our society I think. Don’t women realize that when they “enhance” their lips with botulism injections they actually look like freaks? Naturally plump lips look great, as do naturally thin lips; it depends on the individual. And any cosmetic surgery does not change the soul inside.

This book is also about friendship and companionship, cats, family, life, death, philosophy and contemplation, moments, assumptions, society, and beauty.

Paloma is on a quest to find beauty. Not the superficial kind associated with exteriors and false ego, but the deep and meaningful moments of real beauty.

“There was a little sound, a soft sort of quivering in the air that went “shhhh” very very very quietly: a tiny rosebud on a little broken stem that dropped onto the counter. The moment it touched the surface it went “puff” of the ultrasonic variety, for the ears of mice alone, or for human ears when everything is very very very silent. I stopped there with my spoon in the air, totally transfixed. It was magnificent. But what was it that was so magnificent? It was just a little rosebud at the end of a broken stem, dropping onto the counter. And so?” 

The final scene envelopes me and I find myself standing outside the apartment building beside Paloma and Kakuro “listening to the music drifting down from above”. Someone is playing the music of Satie on the piano; and knowing this music I hear it too. Paloma realizes that real beauty has the quality of “always within never” and vows to go on searching for these elusive moments. As I do in this blog.


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