The Lives of Others

So, I said that reading signs was one of the things I enjoyed doing in Greece. The one posted here is a perfect example. It reads:

“‘Oi Zôes tôn allôn”

‘Oi = article masculine plural = “the”

Zôes = “lives” (like in “zoology”)

tôn allôn = genitive plural = “of others” (like in “allopathy”)

I get that, and being able to get that gives me the kind of thrill a child feels when she is learning how to read.Now, I saw this movie a few weeks ago, and have been meaning to write about it for a while, and never getting to do it. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen. The character development is fantastic, and it just left me with the type of liberating feeling that I got from Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables”, or Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”.

In particular, it made me think of the distinction between justice and mercy; about self-righteousness; about observing — and judging — others as if one were invisible, or above and beyond reproach.

I have no acting experience, but I do wonder whether good critics are also good actors. It seems that in life the most perceptive critics are too busy being perceptive to do any acting of their own (and as an academic, I must say I do more than my share of this). So they (we?) kind of live through the lives of others, like the guy in the movie.

But at some point, if one is fortunate, one just gets tired of reporting on how sour the grapes are over the fence where the grass definitely looks greener (though we would never admit it). So we just jump over the fence and realize that the grass is only greener because the people take the trouble to garden, and the grapes are not sour at all.

And then all of a sudden we’re too busy with our own gardening and our own grapes to be too picky about the lives of others. At most, we’re just happy they’re there to receive and enjoy all those flowers and grapes that we wouldn’t want to go rotten after all the work and care we put into them.


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