Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Le Monde 100: Le Grand Meaulnes (The Lost Estate)

What's wrong with Romanticism?

I failed a certain test of childhood that was presented to me when i was around eight years old. My father worked for a few months on the sprawling estate of Godfrey Rockerfeller. It was a place right out of a Merchant-Ivory film with endless gazebos, stables, and fox hunts. The older couple who were the caretakers were quite taken with me and gave me all sorts of trinkets from the vast stores of left-over throwaway items, buried in the corridors of the basement of the manor. An ornamental jar of vintage marbles makes a particularly vivid memory In my brain.

As I was poring over these colorful orbs with my father, he saw what was perhaps an obsession forming in my eyes about the estate and the mansion, both of which seemed endless. He said to me "The couple who live here like you so much that they asked me if they could adopt you from me." To this day, I don't know if this was true or not.

"They did?", I replied.

"Oh yes. They want you to come live here on the estate. Do you want to do that? Do you want to leave Mom and me and come live with them?"

"Oh yes!" This was without hesitation.

Don't get me wrong. I loved my parents but, at the time, the pull of the estate seemed like the right decision. The look on my father's face taught me a big lesson in maturity and I instantly regretted it. I think that was probably an uncomfortable ride home.

When the Enlightenment sprouted up in the world with its enormous klieg lights shining on reality, it resulted in a certain bleakness that developed in society. The mysteries of life that gave it a certain spirit and soul were disappearing and taking a sense of the divine away from man.

This phenomenon happens to everyone on a smaller scale as they grow older and become more realistic about their ideals. This results in higher intelligence and better decision-making. But, the trade-off for matured wisdom is often a muted passion or, at the very least, an internal fire that is less visceral.

An older man I knew who had just had his first child told me once that the purpose of existence was to have a childhood. No matter how long you live, you can never go back to the state of wonder you have when you first start to coalesce into a conscious being.

This place in ones life is turned into an amazing chateau in Le Grand Meaulnes, where Meaulnes a young boy witnesses a magical fete and encounters a mysterious girl before returning to his real life at school.

He obsesses about returning to the chateau and meeting her again but he has lost the way back to the estate and bemoans his regular life afterward.

Fortunately, he finds the virtues of adulthood and the beauty that can exist outside of perpetual awe. But, it's odd to think of the diminishing returns that come from dreams as they draw closer to reality.

I guess whats wrong with Romanticism is that some people never escape from the bubble that it puts them in. Ideals should be expected to bloom and then fade into reality. Accepting the beauty of both is the way to happiness.