Gustave Flaubert’s masterpiece, Madame Bovary, like so many other great literary works, had it been written today, would still have cultural relevance. In his first novel Flaubert, through the character of a Parisian socialite, draws our attention to the decadence and moral detachment of the upper class living in 1850’s France.
His fictitious character, Madame Bovary, is the wife of a prominent physician who, in order to escape the banalities of life, leads a desolated life of adulterous affairs and is in essence a shopaholic. You have to wonder, had the miracles of modern film, recorded music, radio and television been around at that time, would she have been so unhappy.
That golfer with the animal first name must have been really, really unhappy because according to the professional journals, People Magazine and Playboy, he is a billionaire, has gorgeous homes everywhere, plays a lot of golf, has I suppose a really great stereo set up (maybe surround sound), flat screen TVs, a beautiful wife, and children. Yet all that was still not enough and his life was unfulfilled.
“Greedy bastard and immoral” his detractors say. I think he just needs some serious time out. Not the time out you get when you have to sit in the corner for awhile or do extra chores, but rather the time out Jesus and the Buddha did in order to achieve their respective enlightenments. By either, wandering in the desert or having the desert visit you in the form of illness, personal strife or loss, can some of us put our life into perspective. Others are more fortunate in that they are born with this gift. Once the veil is lifted not only is life easier but more rewarding.
Along with enlightenment comes compassion for those others who are either not so well off or do not have a GPS yet.The kind of compassion which would grant universal health care to all as well as to protect our air and water from pollution for instance.
I have done some crude calculations (I am still using a slide ruler) and I have concluded that Lefties take more than 7 days and Right Wingers take at least a cable disconnect, summons, bankruptcy or intensive one on one counseling in order to obtain enlightenment. An impediment to our “I have seen the light,” moments are the constant distractions our modern life presents us.
Films on Monday, soccer on Tuesday, Tea with girls on Wednesday, serial killers on TV on Thursday and beers with the boys on Friday does not provide much time for serious reflection on our mortality and what may possibly lurk on the other side. The existentialists and atheists would tell you not to bother as life as we know it, is meaningless.
Others would have you believe that life only gets better and, if you are a believer, you will not have to steal cable ever again, go hungry or watch reruns of Grey’s Anatomy. Happiness and contentment will be the words of the day each and every day for eternity.
Happiness was so subjective during Flaubert’s time as well as in our time. Then as is now, for those of us who are fortunate enough to be living in the western world, rampant consumerism consumes and blinds us from what Frederick Nietzsche described as the abyss. Who would want to confront the abyss when we have the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, MIchelle Malkin and South Park and CSI beamed to us daily.
We all love distractions. When those distractions become destructive we have wandered from the path.