I try and read a lot and watch a lot and listen to a lot and what I always go back to is the question, “What is the human experience?” Two stories that I recently finished reading/watching offered their own comments on this question.
The book I read is called The Leopard, a story about a Sicilian prince living at the end of the 19th century and watching his way of life slowly slip away as Italy moved towards unification and a republican style of governance. The second story was the fourth season of Big Love, a story about a polygamist family living in Salt Lake City and about the people involved this less-than-normal existence.Both stories are worth experiencing. The Leopard, although it is set in a place and time foreign to us, is about impending loss and how we deal with the passing away of a life we once experienced with passion and vitality but now look back on with longing. The Prince is man who prides himself on his status as royalty and sees the world in stratified layers where everyone knows their place and accepts his position as one of respect and gives deference to him. As the world changes around him, he takes comfort in the fact that Sicily is slow to change, is slow to “progress” as the reformers tell him, and therefore he is able to keep his title and his villa. The story is one of humanity and our hesitancy to change and grow and instead, find a place of comfort and let our pride stop us from getting better.
In Big Love, season 4 is the story of the unraveling of characters as the tensions of living as polygamists in mainstream society become too much to bare. Change happens to a significant degree and while this may be off-putting for followers of the show, it seems to be necessary. In order for the polygamist marriage to work the three wives must submit to the authority of their husband who can, if necessary, act unilaterally in decisions about what he and his family are to do. Yet these three women are individuals in themselves and are not defined by their relationship to their husband and children and each one of them begins to explore what that means in their own way.
Although the husband Bill is a good father and generally a good man who tries to provide the best he can for his family, he begins to lose control of his own life and often compensates by over controlling his family. He has a great line near the end when he says he sees the darkness in himself, however, how he deals with this goes against what is best for his family. I won’t give away the story line and only say that the end of the season has one of the most intense scenes between Bill and his first wife Barb that sums up the strain on the family. The new intro to the show is telling. Where is used to show a family sitting around a table holding hands, it now has the characters falling through space trying to grab on to each other. (and if anyone knows when Season 5 starts, let me know)
Both stories involve change and relationships and that must be one of the golden keys to unlocking understanding of the human condition. So watch and read and talk with someone else about it. These stories are best understood when shared with others.