Sunday, February 24, 2013

Salt Scrub

In addition to not being super crafty, I'm also in love with coconut oil.  So, when I found a gallon of it for less than $9.00 in an Amish general store a week ago, I jumped on it.

This is in addition, mind you, to the two jars of virgin coconut oil I have sitting on my pantry shelf already, each of which is 14 oz and cost over $10.00, sort of.  That's what it typically runs, but the grocery store was running a sale 6 months ago for $7.99 each, and I grabbed two.  They rang up at the original price, and because of the error, the grocery store gave them to me at no charge (I love this store's right price policy!).

Anyway, I use the expensive stuff for cooking and baking because it's awesome.  But what to do with a gallon of coconut oil?

I decided to make my own body scrub.  It went something like this:

3 cups of salt
1 1/2 cups coconut oil
1 peppermint tea bag
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
30 drops lavender essential oil
3 tablespoons lavender flowers

Place salt in a medium mixing bowl.

Place 2 inches of water in the bottom of a double boiler and bring to a simmer.

Place the coconut oil in the top of the double boiler along with the rosemary and tea bag.  Set atop the simmering water.

Melt the coconut oil, stirring occasionally.  When about 1/2 of the oil is melted, remove the tea bag and discard.  In fact you may want to remove it sooner.  I left mine in too long, and peppermint is the predominant fragrance.  Which isn't bad.  It just isn't what I was going for.

Continue to stir the coconut oil and rosemary until the oil is completely melted.  Turn off the heat and allow it hang out for awhile.  I didn't time it.  I was too busy eating Nut Thins and goat cheese.

When the goat cheese was gone, I put the Nut Thins away.

Remove the top of the double boiler from over the water.  Stir in the lavender essential oil.

Remove the rosemary and strip the leaves from the stems.  Discard stems and throw the leaves in your salt.

Mix the melted oil, lavender flowers, and oil together.  Stir to thoroughly combine.

Once combined, store it in something....  I used 2 1-qt mason jars, because I like to can tomatoes and thus have a bunch on hand.  No idea how this is actually going to turn out, but I'm kind of excited to find out!

Soap-ish?

I am not crafty.

I do, however, have (a) crafty friend(s).  In particular, my friend PSS, likes to crapt.  No, that is not a spelling error.  It is apparently a common form of crafting using refuse.  Recycling and craft all in one.

This intrigues me.

So, I decided to give it a shot.  Not that I have any skills, but I do have a bit of free time on Sunday afternoons.

Several months ago, I sent a bar of soap to a friend.  I do not like bar soap overmuch, but there was a reason for this particular bar.  Unfortunately, a single bar of soap could not be found, and I purchased a 4 pack.  Thus, I had three leftover bars.

To be perfectly honest, Ivory soap smells terrible to me.  Ugh!  Total crap.  3 bars of it.  And it's been hanging out for a year.

I also have some rosemary water hanging around because I managed to kill a rosemary plant (I'm not good with plants), and I used the dead refuse to create a hair tonic.

So, here goes:

3 bars of Ivory soap (crap!)
12 oz rosemary water
3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tsp Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap
100 drops lavender essential oil
3 tablespoons lavender flowers
3 tablespoons dried rosemary

Line 4 mini loaf pans with parchment paper.

Using a cheese grater or microplane, grate the bars of soap.  Three bars of soap turns into a TON of soap shavings, FYI.

Place 2 inches of water in the bottom of your double boiler and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and put the top bowl over the water.

Place your soap shavings in the top of a double boiler.  Add the rosemary water and coconut oil.

Stir, keeping the water in the bottom of the double boiler at a simmer, until the soap is completely melted.

Stir in the lavender flowers and dried rosemary.  Ladle into prepared pans.  Allow to harden.

I have no idea how this is going to turn out, but I made an effort.  And I'll probably update and add pictures if it ends up being okay.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Celebrating Self-Pity Saturday!

I came to a rather profound conclusion a couple of weeks ago.  My life has no meaning.

For all of my theology and talk of God's love, the fact is, I'm a big fat faker.

I walk down the street and fully expect people who look at me to know:  I may be able to articulate the theological view that God is love, and we are created in God's image, and we are made for love, but deep down inside, I actually believe that I am one of God's few mistakes; I am one of those God probably wishes she could claim a do-over on.

I have come to the seemingly valid conclusion, based on observable evidence, mind you (I honestly believe my conclusions would hold up under scientific scrutiny--replicable results and all that), that I have nothing of real value to offer the world, let alone any person in this world.  My life has no meaning.

I suck.  I have about as much value, maybe less, than the likes of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy.  I mean, Ted Bundy at least provided a fascinating case study.  John Wayne Gacy not only provided a fascinating case study, but made it so easy to mock Republican candidate Michele Bachmann for her inability to keep her facts straight.

I am not infamous.  I'm just unimportant.  Worse than that, really, I am simply in-valid.  I have nothing to offer that anyone wants.  I am irrelevant.

And it's not as though this is something I can change.  One cannot simply make something out of nothing.

So, I take up space.  And precious resources like oxygen every time I breathe and non-renewable fossil fuels when I drive to work each day.  I waste people's time with my need to clarify things so I know I'm doing it right.  I waste people's Saturdays when they come to my blog and read about my descent into the mire and muck of self-pity.  Those who read this will surely agree and grow bitter and resentful that I took their precious time.

Big fat faker.  Irrelevant.  In-valid.  No one wants anything I have, so it must be the case that I have nothing of value to offer.  Worthless.

One day, my cats really will eat my undiscovered corpse, and then, at least, I will have served a purpose:  keeping them alive, and making the clean up job so much easier.  I anticipate, of course, that they will begin with my eyes.  Any chance I can just fast-forward through the intervening 60 years?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Because a Job is Just a Job

Today, I hate my job.  If any one of my bosses had been at his or her respective desk this morning, I would have taken the rest of the day off.  I would also have seriously considered not coming back.  Instead, I grabbed a friend, went to the product room, and I cried in my frustration.

The decisions my bosses' bosses' bosses (apparent) made in the last 36 hours are completely inappropriate.  The way those decisions have been communicated are beyond inappropriate in so many ways, but really let's just start with the basic fact that said communication has lacked any level of professionalism or even basic fucking decency.

So, I was seriously ready to go home for the day.  And I was seriously thinking about not going back.  Ever.

However, as I do not have a second job to fall back on, and as I really like the work I'm doing [even if I do no appreciate the way I have been and currently am being treated by my bosses' bosses' bosses (apparent)] I figured I'd make the best of it.

Things only got worse this afternoon.

So, I made a decision.

First, I cried.  I cried a LOT.  And while my bosses were kind enough to tell me not to take these things personally, I really didn't need to hear that.  I just needed them to let me sit and cry it out.  (CIO ain't just for babies).  Frankly, all I needed was the same thing I got earlier in the day in the product room--a safe person to make it a safe space, so I could distance myself from it.  Being told to distance myself from it, however, only made it worse, because now I'm being told my boss that I'm good enough when all I needed was time to sort through my frustration and calm down.  Now, I feel I am in a position of having to defend why I'm upset instead of simply being given the time to stop being upset.

Then, I made a decision.

I like my job, sure.  But I wasn't designed, created, and placed on this earth for the purpose of technical writing.  I was made for something more.  I have a calling and a purpose, and worthy though my job is, much as I love it, it really is just a job that allows me to do what I have been called to do.  It is a job that allows me to fulfill my purpose in other areas of my life.  It is a job that provides me with the means by which I am able to bless, encourage, and love other people using the skills, talents, and abilities created in me by God.

So, tomorrow, I'm taking my Master's diploma to work, and I'm propping it on my desk.  Not out of pride or haughtiness.  But as a reminder that, when I think about quitting my job because my bosses' bosses' bosses (apparent) create environments that are oppressive and humiliating and frustrating and impossible to flourish under, I was created for something more, and keeping my job allows me to do that more and it serves as a constant reminder of why that more is necessary in our world.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cultivating Love

"There is really only one thing of importance in my life - cultivating the capacity to love."  --Anonymous

The most loving thing we can for others is to be our authentic self.

Our authentic self is not the self the world tells us we are.

It is not the self our parents tell us we are.

It is not the self our siblings tell us we are.


It is the not the self our media, culture, and society tell us we are.

It is the not the self the government tells us we are.

Our authentic self is not even the self we most often tell ourselves we are.

Our authentic self is the self that God tells us we are in declaring that we are created in God's image.

Our authentic self, then, is not:
  • broken
  • destructive
  • less than
  • inadequate
  • limited
  • profane
  • ugly
  • bad
  • steeped in sin
All of these are lies designed to keep you from the seeing the truth of who you really are.  Because if you saw yourself clearly, you would know that none of the above is true; that nothing done to you or by you has the ability to change your authentic self.

If every time you looked in a mirror (physical or emotional or spiritual or psychological) your true self was reflected back to you, you would know that you are:
  • created whole
  • possessed of great creative potential
  • more than your circumstances
  • more than your choices
  • more than adequate
  • limitless in your capacity to love
  • holy
  • beautiful
  • good
  • and that the distorted image you carry has been redeemed, transformed and sanctified
If you were to see yourself clearly, and if you were to show this authentic self to the world, then you will have committed an act of unbounded love.  In cultivating your own ability to be your authentic self, you are cultivating your own capacity to love better.

In cultivating your own capacity to love better, by being your authentic self, you are cultivating in others their ability to be authentically themselves, thereby cultivating a greater capacity to love better in them.

And the cycle continues.

Marianne Williamson understood this, as she wrote what is perhaps her most quoted and most misattributed truth:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Tooth Decay? Never!

In addition to my rather neurotic fear of being blinded by the cats, I have a neurotic fear of tooth decay.  This fear, is probably slightly more realistic.  Or, it would be if I didn't respond to it with such verve.

I brush my teeth more intently than the vast majority of people.  I know this because when I went to the dentist for my six month cleaning back in July 2012, the dental hygienist remarked that statistics indicate the average person brushes their teeth for only 42 seconds.  I tend to brush anywhere from 5 minutes (if I'm in a hurry) to 8-10 (if I've got the time and I'm not overly tired), sometimes 3 or more times a day.

I also floss more than the average person.  I do not have any statistical data to back this up, but I'm reasonably confident in my assessment.  When I returned in January for my next six month cleaning, as the hygienist handed me a toothbrush and floss, I asked for extra floss.  She said it was the first time in her 13 year career that anyone had ever asked for more floss.  And she gave me a second trial roll.

Confusion swept through me in that moment.  "How can people not take free floss when it's offered," I wondered.  Especially when it goes so quickly....  I was grateful for that second trial-sized container as my desk roll (a full roll purchased about 4 months previously) was almost gone.  Those two trial-sized rolls from dentist lasted me less than 4 weeks.

It's okay.  I had a back up roll in my purse.  Another on my bedside table.  But these were nearing their end as well.  So, I headed to the pharmacy section of my local store and picked up four more rolls.  Now, I have a currently-in-use one and a full one in my purse, a full one in my overnight gag, a currently-in-use one in my desk at work, the currently-in-use one on my nightstand table, and a full one in storage in a drawer of my nightstand table.

I really love flossing my teeth.  I think I floss my teeth anywhere from 2 (if I'm feeling less neurotic and haven't eaten anything stringy) to 8 (or more) times a day.  I like to floss before I eat.  I also have to floss everyday after lunch at work, as apples are very fibrous and tend to get stuck between my teeth.

The same happens with just about anything else.  Barbeque pulled pork is delicious, but it requires immediate post-consumption flossing.  The same is true of oranges (the segment skin gets stuck) and just about any other fruit.  Or meat.  Or vegetable.  For the record, broccoli is a huge stuck-between-your-teeth offender.  And I eat a lot of broccoli.  And asparagus.  I eat a ton of brussel sprouts, too, when I can find them fresh and affordable, but they don't stick in my teeth so much.

If I've eaten popcorn, I'll floss my teeth as soon as I'm done.  And again half an hour later.  And again an hour after that, convinced that I have a hull stuck in my gums somewhere that I'm just not feeling, finding, and getting rid of.  I just know that it's stuck up there, under the gum line of one of my top back molars, and it's going to get infected, and my gums will swell, and then my teeth will rot and fall out.

It does not seem to matter that I have, to date, never lost a tooth.  It does not seem to help that although I have lost popcorn hulls in my gums and have spent so much time and effort digging at my gums with floss and finger nails and anything else I've made myself bleed just to get rid of it, I've never had my gums swell up to the point of infection, pus, and rotting teeth.

What does happen, though, is that I'll feel the slight gap between tooth 12 and tooth 13, and the floss slides so easily between them that I am convinced that I have gum erosion and any day now I'll feel my teeth begin to loosen, and wobble, and then they'll just fall out.

Rationally, I know that these two teeth are simply spaced more generously than any of my other teeth.  I have a small mouth and my teeth don't fit so handily (nor does my gigantic tongue, but that's another issue entirely) and every other pairing requires a good deal of effort to get the floss between them because they're just spaced that tightly, and that 12 and 13 don't touch is the reason the floss slides in so easily.  I know this.  But when I'm stressed out, I can't help myself.  I just worry about gum disease, and tooth decay, and the misery of losing my teeth prematurely.

My dentist and the hygienist both say that my teeth are in great shape, that it's obvious I floss regularly, that one cannot over-brush so long as one uses a soft bristled tooth brush, that one cannot floss too much or too often (though apparently one can floss to vigorously) and that if I'm not seeing blood during my dental routine, my teeth and gums are healthy.  "So, keep it up!" they declare.

Which I would do regardless, if only to keep the fear of tooth loss at bay.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Feast for the Animals

I just want to know that when I die someone will be there to find my body before the dogs and cats start feasting.

I worry that my cats will eat my undiscovered body.  To be disposed of with so little dignity.  *sigh*  I suppose, however, it is a very environmentally friendly was to go, so perhaps it wouldn't be so awful after all.

As I understand it, they go for the soft tissue first.  This, to me, means the eyes.   The thought is terrifying.  Not necessarily because I find the loss of my eyeballs particularly undignified, but rather, because, after waking up repeatedly in the past few months to cats licking and biting my elbow, my feet, my hands, I fear these horrible beasts will not wait until I expire.

As this point, I fear they will go for my eyes directly, as I slumber, using their razor sharp claws to slice off my eye lids before devouring the tender globes within.

To be perfectly clear, I anticipate that I would, in fact, awaken at first swipe.  However, if they strike in tandem, in my sleepy stupor, I just may not survive with my sight intact.

This is what really terrifies me - the notion of being blinded.  I won't even go swimming with my contacts in for fear I'll lose one in the pool/lake/ocean and be visually impaired until I arrive at home where more lenses await me.

This is neither here nor there.  I fear I am growing old.  And I am growing old very much alone.  Certainly I have friends and loved ones.  But how often, honestly, do I see them?  Hell, forget see.  How often do I even get to talk to them?

If I died on a Sunday night, it might be 2, even 3, weeks before my church called after me.  And would anyone think to come looking or call the police to perform a welfare check?  My boss would likely fire me as a "No call, no show."  But again, I doubt he'd be bothered to call or send in a search party.

Would anyone think to inform my best friend?  And what of my seminary friends?  Would they inquire if they hadn't heard from me in a month?  A season?  A year?  Might my picked-clean-by-fine-feline-teeth skeleton remain in my bed, on the couch, in the shower (though in that case, I imagine the cats would not eat me - cats and water and all), at the desk collecting dust and cobwebs until the walls fell down around me?

Perhaps I am getting neurotic in my old age.  Or maybe I simply have a very clear vision of my future.  Regardless, I just want to know that when I die someone will be there to find my body before the dogs and cats start feasting.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Transfigured into the Likeness of Christ

At the end of December, my mother and I went to see Les Miserables, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway.  I really, really, really liked this movie.  Most people I know who have seen also really liked it.  There are some who dissent.  For those of you unfamiliar with either the play or the movie adaptations, it is loosely based on Victor Hugo’s novel.

Set against the backdrop of post-Revolution France, it is the story of a man, Jean Valjean, who spends 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread in order to feed his dying nephew.  Upon his release, he encounters a priest who shows him mercy and the love of God.  Valjean is a man whose life is at its lowest point when he has a mountain top experience in which he meets God, his life utterly transformed.

In today’s gospel lesson, Jesus goes up a mountain to pray.  He takes with him Peter, James, and John.  On that mountain, Jesus’s appearance is changed.   We are not told what his face looks like before, or after, this time on the mountain; but we are told that his clothes become dazzling white.

While on the mountain, Jesus meets two other men who have also gone to mountains in order to meet with God:  Moses and Elijah.  Generally speaking these two men represent the two facets of the Jewish faith:  The Law and the Prophets.

The Law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai.  The first time, God created the tablets.  After Moses broke the tablets in a fit of rage, he went back up the mountain where Moses met again with God and etched new tablets himself.   These were the Ten Commandments, God’s covenant with the Israelites.

When Moses came down the mountain with these tablets of the covenant, the skin of his face is shining.  But this terrified Moses’s brother Aaron and the other Israelites.  So, Moses hid his face.  He put on a veil and he hid his face.

This happened repeatedly.  Moses would go before the Lord, take the veil off of his face, speak with God, return to the people, his face shining, and Moses would put the veil back on, hiding his face again until he returned once more to speak with God.

The story of Elijah, who represents the prophets, is that after speaking zealously for the Lord, angering those in power.  Every other prophet has been killed.  Seeking to save his life, Elijah ran away to the wilderness.  From there, he is called by God to a mountain.  God promises that the presence of the Lord will pass before Elijah.  A great windstorm, earthquake and fire pass by.  But God was in none of these.  Instead, God was in the silence, as a still small voice, that followed.

So here we are today, on a mountain, with Jesus and his trusty sidekicks, Peter, James and John.  This takes place eight days after Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah, and Jesus responds by predicting his own death.

These four men ascend the mountain, Jesus is transfigured, and Moses and Elijah just pop in for a chat.  They begin to talk, Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, of Jesus’s impending crucifixion: the departure which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. 

Now, Peter, James, and John were really tired, but they stayed awake and witnessed this sight.  And Peter’s response was, “Hey, maybe could pitch a tent for each of you!”  This, to me, is hilarious.  I sometimes wonder if Peter really was a bumbling idiot or if the writers of the gospels just needed a bit more comedy in their work.

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the book Fahrenheit 451, but it’s a story about a future America in which books have been outlawed.  In order to protect literature, a conclave is formed of individuals who each memorize a book.  They become, in essence, these living texts, and each person teaches their book to a new arrival such that none of the stories are ever lost.

This gathering of on the mountain is similar.  If people are books, Jesus is meeting with the Old Testament.  And Peter wants to build himself a portable library.  God, however, has other ideas.  A cloud encompasses them.  Terrified, they hear a voice that says, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”  The cloud disappears, taking Moses and Elijah with it.  And the four men go down the mountain.

The story continues in the weeks to come during the season of Lent.  It is a story of the unveiling of God’s goodness.  Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that “To this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds.”  Paul is referring to Jews in the first century who have rejected Jesus.  Those who reject Jesus cannot see the glory of God.

Indeed, Paul states, Jesus himself is the glory of God.  Those who hold to the Law continue to be veiled from God’s presence, for it is only Christ who sets aside the veil and reveals the glory of God to all people, and in knowing God’s glory through Christ, there is no fear.

Through Christ, you see, we have access to God.  The veil is removed, and we see and are seen by the divine.  No more hiding behind a veil; truly and deeply known; what Christ gives us in the reconciling work of his death is true intimacy between us and God and between each other.

We are, Paul writes, “with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”  We are not merely permitted to see God in Jesus, we ourselves are being transfigured with him, into the very image of God, and we can see it in ourselves; we can see it in each other.

When Moses met God on a mountain top, his face shined.  When Jesus met with God on that mountain top, his face and clothing shined.  Frankly, I think Paul is right.  In many respects this phenomenon holds true today.  When people encounter God and come to know the depth of the love of God, they are transfigured.  They look different.  They have a tendency to shine.

In Les Miserables, after meeting the priest, Valjean assumes a new identity—he looks different, he is transfigured—and he devotes the remainder of his life to doing good works.  This many Christians I know, who love the movie, claim is the gospel message.  However, Valjean also remains on the run from his past and an overly zealous lawman, Javert, who wants to bring Valjean to justice for breaking parole.  Valjean spends the remainder of his life running from the law and hiding his past from those he loves.  Though he dies in their presence, he dies without ever truly being known by them.

Les Miserables is one of the saddest movies I’ve ever seen.  While it is a story of the transformative, redemptive, and reconciling power of the love of God accomplished through the death of Christ juxtaposed against the hard power of the law, it seems to miss the point entirely.

Too many people hold to the law.  Too many people climb a mountain, spend a bit of time with Jesus, and the Moses, and Elijah; and when the moment is over, and they are left only in the presence of Christ, they continue to hold to the Law.  They judge their past according to the laws of Moses ; they forget that they have been redeemed and transformed by Jesus.

They live their lives in fear, running from their past, and hiding it from those who would seek to know them; as though their story only began at the moment they met Jesus and they must hide what came before.  Too many people hide the shameful things, and continue to be haunted by them.

This is not the gospel message.  The gospel message is one of freedom.  The gospel message is one of reconciliation.  The gospel message is one of removing the veil, and sharing our stories with each other, that we might know and be known by one another.  In hearing their stories, we enter into their life and share our own stories and lives with them.  It is in the shared experience and in the knowing of others that we come to love them.  And this is that is at the heart of the gospel message:  that love is everlasting.

Here in the Midwest, we do not have mountains we can ascend.  We do not get to climb a hill and pray in the bodily presence of Jesus.  We must settle for the fact that we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ.  And in that transformation, when we meet our brother and sisters, they are reflection of his glory as well.  We have the opportunity to see the reflection of Jesus in them.    And remember the truth that once was spoken:  To love another person is to see the face of God.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Broken Tea Cups

Broken Tea Cups

One broken tea cup, tiny cracks
     too fine for the eye to see.
     I pour into you all my best.
     Each time you end up burning me.

Broken tea cup, fractured deep,
     you hold so much but always seep.
     Wholeness is the illusion you cast,
     but you're not what you pretend to be.

Broken tea cup, such fine cracks, never to be repaired,
     one cannot correct what remains unseen.
     Tea you shall continue to spill,
     your purpose always unfulfilled.

But this other:
Broken tea cup, many shards,
     well beyond repair,
     who left you in such mean estate?
     Who showed so little care?

Broken tea cup, there you sit,
     in pieces, sharp and broken.
     Can it be you have a purpose;
     one, to date, as yet unspoken?

Broken tea cup, please join me
     in creating something new!
     A mosaic of new life,
     transformed, redeemed in Truth.

Broken tea cup?  You are not!
     It was never your true design.
     Now you're something different--lovely, wonderful and whole:
     something I want to claim as mine.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

One Desperately Depressing Movie

I saw Les Miserables again this weekend.  I saw it over Christmas when it was first released.  Try though I did, I couldn't keep myself from crying toward the end.  The whole movie was just desperately depressing.

Certainly Fantine's character is tragic.  While Anne Hathaway's rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" is powerful, her story isn't the one that leaves me most sad.

While many will vilify Javert for the role he plays in his ever persistent hunt for Jean Valjean, I feel incredibly sorry for him.  He is a man who has spent his entire very carefully constructing an understanding of who he is.  Javert clings to his identity with a desperation born of shame at his roots.  In the end, when he commits a single act (an act of mercy no less) that is contrary to his understanding of his identity, he is unable to reconcile the two.

Javert finds himself incapable of change.  He is unwilling to accept that his actions were, in a moment, at odds with the identity he had so carefully crafted.  Without any hope of holding these two things in tension, Javert commits suicide.  How horribly sad that he should spend the whole of his life convinced he is pursuing good, only to do one truly good thing, and to be unable to reconcile an act of mercy with his understanding of what it means to be and do good.

And Jean Valjean himself, saved by an act of mercy, a priest who could have charged him with theft and returned him to prison, instead claims Valjean for God.  This priest invites Valjean into the sanctifying love of God, and calls upon him to become an honest man who serves God.

Valjean dedicates himself to doing good.  He treats people with kindness and respect.  Thinking of others before himself, he saves a man's life, though doing so may well condemn him.  He raises an orphaned child as his own.

But Valjean is constantly aware of his precarious position.  He is constantly aware that he is a single step ahead of Javert.  And while there is much singing, this is no silly dance as found in Aladdin.  Valjean hides his past from those in his employ, as he must.  He hides his past from those in society, as he must.

But until his dying day, Valjean hides his past from everyone, including his own (adopted) child.  He runs from the shame of what he once was.  He fears that should Cosette ever find out that he was once branded a thief she herself would be ashamed.

A man who dedicated his life to the service of others, who learned to love by taking into his care a vulnerable child with no one else to love her, is unknown by all who enter his life.

Pegged a criminal by Javert, his redemption is unseen.

Beloved by Cosette, he hides his past from her, and his redemption remains unseen.

Valjean dies without ever knowing the intimacy of being known completely by another person, and being found worthy, and being deeply loved.

This, to me, is the saddest part of the whole movie.  He dies in the presence of his daughter and new son-in-law, escorted to heaven in the gracious presence of Fantine.  But in so many ways, he seems so alone and unknown in his death.  I cannot think of anything more tragic.

Though I truly enjoyed the movie, it is not one I will choose to watch very often.