It’s ancient of course, but I just watched ‘The Life of Others’ – the film about life under the Stasi in East Germany. It’s fairly unprepossessing stuff: the surveillance of a East German author and his actor girlfriend. But what an intelligent film. There was such sympathy for all the characters: for the hardline stasi officer who puts his life at risk; for the actress who becomes an informer; even for the officer’s superior. The one character that actually comes out of it badly is the rather self-centred writer in the centre of the whole web. He’s charming and complex. In many ways he’s the hero. But at the end he merely dedicates his book to the stasi officer that saved his life. It’s that sort of haughty arrogance of the artist, that somehow writing is enough. How about a paycheck? or an appartment? Or even a word of thanks face-to-face? There’s a heartbreaking scene where the ex-Stasi man whose career was wiped out for what he did to save the writer, is seen delivering free papers in the post-Unification Germany. He still has nothing. The writer – who presumably has continued living his comfortable aritistic life – drives past him, thinks to speak to him, but drives on. Instead he writes a novel and 2 years later dedicates it anonymously to the ex-officer. It’s a brilliant, complex and human film. And it reminds me of the central tenet of meditation practice: accept and pay attention to everything because everything is valid. Even the bad, the corrupt, the vile. They all exist and have to be given room. Push then to one side and they become vicious. They eat away at you and corrode. Bring them into the light and they show their 3D colours and human constellation. And from that light place you can move on and become more human not less.
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