Common Sense Comes to Town!

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. (Descartes)

Sitting on a branch of the Tree of Life

Posted on | November 7, 2011 | No Comments

I had the chance this week-end to watch again Terrence Malick’s splendid Tree of Life. A work shunned by many because of its unconventional narrative but that still carries a powerful vision of openness which, a few days later, still moves me.

There is first an anecdotal, personal aspect to this. Through their similar features I see my own two children in the two older brothers; how then could I not be troubled by their interaction, their adventures, a discovery of confidence, of treason and of forgiveness? I will offer a reflection guided by this realization, which will probably won’t do justice to the rich metaphors and meaning of this masterpiece.

There is a stark contrast between the well-intentioned but hollow words of comfort claiming that pain (and everything else) must pass in due time, on the one hand, and the macroscopic and scientifically undeniable demonstration on the other that Earth will also come to pass as well.

Yet in between, as if to negate the unavoidable sense of fate, there is a prolonged attention to the myriad of details, to beauty, suffering, joy, mistakes and ultimately to the importance not only of everything to be found in this world, but of all the people who surround us : family, friends and acquaintances. To the universal is opposed the marvels found in the individual, the particular, the uniqueness of each gesture, each moment.

In the background and at all levels of this story reigns an omnipresent pain, the death of a son, a brother which is negated, held back, beaten back by the denial of memory. Against this pain is offered a choice, a threshold to cross: embracing one’s past and the universe that fills it, offering it a second life through oneself, and opening up to the varied emotions it brings. Rite of passage or necessary re-appropriation in order to savour fully the present and a less-than-certain future?

The metaphor brings us to question ourselves, to accept these ideas we try to negate, past memories that hinder us and that we would rather ignore and to turn instead towards an appreciation of life’s complex and sometimes chaotic beauty: just like a tree with intertwined branches.


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  • Photographie par Patrick Meunier

    Tous droits réservés, Patrick Meunier, 2010

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