Friday 14 September 2012

Ever After: The Pursuit of Passion

Since it came out, one of my favourite movies has been Ever After.  I'm sure most people have seen it, and it is old news now, but I sit here watching it again, and as always it captivates me, insides me, and leaves me thinking.

For any who are not familiar with the film, it is a retelling of Cinderella staring Drew Barrymore set in France in the time of Leonardo da Vinci.  Henry (Dougray Scott), the prince of France is engaged to marry the princess of Spain in an arranged marriage.  He feels trapped by this marriage and by the responsibilities of his birth and his future home.  Danielle (Drew Barrymore) is the Cinderella figure.  Her father was a merchant who married a baroness and died jet after, leaving his manor, and Danielle, to his new wife, who had two daughter.  The Baroness raises Danielle as a servant.  She has several encounters with the prince, who believes her to a Comtesse, because of the name she gives.  It's a beautiful love story and I'm a hopeless romantic, so I of course loved it.

But it's not the love story I want to talk about, but Passion.  There is a lesson to be learner from the film for all of us, as most of us live our lives as the prince had previous to meeting Danielle.  This is summarized in Henry's speech to Danielle in the library of the Franciscans:
"In all my years of study, not one tutor has ever demonstrated the passion you have shown me in the last two days.  You have more conviction in one memory than I have in my entire being."
And also in his discussion with Da Vinci at the beginning of the movie:
Henry:  "I know.  I lied.  I thought I'd see the world before I gave up my life for God and country."
Da Vinci:  "Why on earth did you stop?"
Henry:  "I suppose I lack conviction.  You seem to have it in spades.  Besides, you said it was a matter of life and death."
Da Vinci:  "A woman always is, Sire."  (unrolling the Mona Lisa)
Henry:  "She laughs at me, sir, as if she knows something I do not."
Da Vinci:  "The lady had many secrets.  I merely painted one of them."
Prince Henry had grown up having everything.  The best tutors, access to libraries most couldn't dream of, he had never gone hungry, never had to do hard labour, never known loss, never suffered the way "lesser" people did.  He had never lacked anything.  Except Passion.

Danielle, on the other hand, though living a sheltered early life, experiences loss when her father dies.  From then on, though she always has enough to eat, she is treated like a servant and spends her life working and labouring.  She spent the rest of her life after his death without certainty, with no position, no access to any of the advantages the prince had.  But what she did have was Passion.  She was naive and idealistic to a point that she was bound to be disappointed by life, but she had a Passion that was a raging fire inside her.

Danielle's Passion and Henry's Apathy are shown in their confrontation the second time they met.  Danielle dressed up as a courtier and went with 20 pieces of gold to redeem one of the servants.  The Baroness had given him to the Crown for a debt of 20 pieces of gold.  She tried to make the driver of the cart hauling the poor debtors to the coast to serve in the new world to release him, and he was getting angry with her because she was delaying him.  The prince arrives and steps it.
Cargo Master: Get out of my way!
Prince Henry: You dare raise your voice to a lady, sir?
Cargo Master: Your Highness. Forgive me, Sire. I meant no disrespect. It's just er... I’m following orders. It's my job to take these thieves to the coast.
Danielle: A servant is not a thief, your Highness; and those who are cannot help themselves.
Prince Henry: Really? Well, then. By all means. Enlighten us.
Danielle: If you suffer your people to be ill-educated and their manners corrupted from infancy then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them what else is to be concluded, Sire but that you first make thieves and then punish them?
Prince Henry: Well, there you have it. Release him.
Cargo Master: But, Sire...
Prince Henry: I said release him!
Cargo Master: Yes, Sire.
Maurice: I thought I was looking at your mother.
Danielle: Meet me at the bridge. Prepare the horses! We will leave at once! Thank you, Your Highness.
Prince Henry: Have we met?
Danielle: I do not believe so, Your Highness.
Prince Henry: I could have sworn I knew every courtier in the province.
Danielle: Well... I'm visiting a cousin.
Prince Henry: Who?
Danielle: My cousin.
Prince Henry: Yes, you said that. Which one?
Danielle: The only one I have, Sire.
Prince Henry: Are you coy on purpose or do you honestly refuse to tell me your name?
Danielle: No! And yes.
Prince Henry: Then, pray, tell me your cousin's name so I might call upon her to learn who you are. Anyone who can quote Thomas Moore is well worth the effort.
Danielle: The Prince has read Utopia?
Prince Henry: I found it sentimental and dull. I confess, the plight of the everyday rustic bores me.
Danielle: I gather you do not converse with many peasants.
Prince Henry: (chuckles) Certainly not, no! Naturally.
Danielle: Excuse me, Sire, but there is nothing natural about it. A country's character is defined by its everyday rustics, as you call them. They are the legs you stand on. That position demands respect, not...
Prince Henry: Am I to understand that you find me arrogant?
Danielle: Well, you gave one man back his life but did you even glance at the others?
Prince Henry: Please, I beg of you a name. Any name.
Danielle: I fear that the only name to leave you with is Comtesse Nicole de Lancret.
Prince Henry: There now. That wasn't so hard.
It's clash of cultures and classes, but ultimately, it shows her Passion and his inability to understand that Passion.  It was foreign to him, beyond his understanding, like explaining flying to a deep sea fish, or the sea to a high mountain bird.  But that incomprehensible, that bafflement, is what fascinates Henry about Danielle.

He runs across her again at the river when he was accompanying Da Vinci to test a new invention and she was there swimming.
Prince Henry: You're angry with me.
Danielle: No.
Prince Henry: Admit it.
Danielle: Well, yes, if you must know.
Prince Henry: Why?
Danielle: Because you are trying to bait me with your snobbery. Prince Henry: I'm afraid, mademoiselle, you are a walking contradiction and I find that rather fascinating.
Danielle: Me?
Prince Henry: Yes, you. You spout the ideals of a Utopian society, yet you live the life of a courtier.
Danielle: You own all the land there is, yet you take no pride in working it. Is that not also a contradiction?
Prince Henry: First I'm arrogant, and now I have no pride. However do I manage that?
Danielle: You have everything and still the world holds no joy. Yet you make fun of those who would see it for its possibilities.
Prince Henry: How do you do it?
Danielle: What?
Prince Henry: Live each day with this kind of passion? Don't you find it exhausting?
Danielle: Only when I'm around you. Why do you like to irritate me so?
Prince Henry: Why do you rise to the occasion?
He sees the Passion in her and wants that.  He sees dynamic life in her, where his is static.  He seeks her out again the next day and takes her to the Franciscan library.  This is where the first quote I gave occurred.  By this point, his consternation has faded and awe has replaced it.  It is no long her foreignness where he focuses, but his lack of Passion and conviction.  This side was obvious to the audience in the previous encounters, but he noticed the Passion in her more than the lack in himself.  As he becomes familiar and comfortable in hers, it no longer eclipses the lack in him, and he desires what she has, where previously he desired the presence of hers.  Passion is contagious.  He is catching it, and it is beginning to light a fire in him.

The next morning, he storms into his parents' bedroom, the fire of Passion now fully upon him:
King Francis: Off... with his head.
Queen Marie: Francis, wake up. Our son has something to tell us.
Prince Henry: Mother, Father. I want to build a university with the largest library in Europe, where people of any station can study.
King Francis: All right, who are you and what have you done with our son?
Prince Henry: Oh. And I want to invite the Gypsies to the ball.
Henry has now found a purpose, as he tells Danielle when he meets her at the ruins later that day:
Prince Henry: Hello.
Danielle: Hello.
Prince Henry: Are you well?
Danielle: I fear that I am not myself today.
Prince Henry: I feel as if my skin is the only thing keeping me from going everywhere at once. There is something I must tell you.
Danielle: And I you.
Prince Henry: Oh, here. Your book, you left it in the carriage yesterday. Danielle: Your Highness...
Prince Henry: Henry.
Danielle: I cannot stay long, but I had to see you. There is much to say.
Prince Henry: Come. I want to show you something. I used to play here as a boy. It was my father's most cherished retreat before the war.
Danielle: It's beautiful.
Prince Henry: I've measured my life by these trees starting here all the way up there. And still they grow. So much life to live but I no longer imagine it alone.
Danielle: You're not making this easy.
Prince Henry: I have not slept for fear I would wake to find all this a dream. Oh, last night, I had a revelation. I used to think, if I cared at all, I would have to care about everything and I'd go stark raving mad. But now I've found my purpose. It's a project actually inspired by you. I feel the most wonderful freedom. It wasn't me. Nicole. You are unlike any courtier I have ever met. Tomorrow, at the masque I shall make it known to the world.
Danielle: Why did you have to be so wonderful?
Prince Henry: Now, then. What was it you wanted to tell me?
Danielle: Simply that last night was the happiest night of my life. Ow! I must go.
Prince Henry: Nicole! No.
This whole transformation reminds me of the song Standing Outside the Fire by Garth Brooks, which I've quotes before on earlier posts:
We call them cool
Those hearts that have no scars to show
The ones that never do let go
And risk the tables being turned

We call them fools
Who have to dance within the flame
Who chance the sorrow and the shame
That always comes with getting burned

But you've got to be tough when consumed by desire
'Cause it's not enough just to stand outside the fire

We call them strong
Those who can face this world alone
Who seem to get by on their own
Those who will never take the fall

We call them weak
Who are unable to resist
The slightest chance love might exist
And for that forsake it all

They're so hell-bent on giving, walking a wire
Convinced it's not living if you stand outside the fire

Standing outside the fire
Standing outside the fire
Life is not tried, it is merely survived
If you're standing outside the fire

There's this love that is burning
Deep in my soul
Constantly yearning to get out of control
Wanting to fly higher and higher
I can't abide
Standing outside the fire

Standing outside the fire
Standing outside the fire
Life is not tried, it is merely survived
If you're standing outside the fire

Standing outside the fire
Standing outside the fire
Life is not tried, it is merely survived
If you're standing outside the fire 
Without that Passion Danielle had that Henry caught, we truly are merely surviving.  Without it Fate overcomes us, directs us, controls us.  We go through life on auto pilot, taking the default choice, having no control of our life, and often not even realizing it.  But Passion changes that.  It gives us purpose.  It releases our True Will, our Destiny.  It allows us to step out of the ordinary, out of Fate and her bonds, into the extraordinary, into Destiny and her freedom.  It allows us to burn hot like starfire, not die out like a dying coal.  As Neil Yong sang, later quoted in Highlander, and in Kurt Cobain's suicide note, "It's better to burn out than to fade away."  As Meatloaf sings in Jim Steinman's Everything Loader than Everything Else:
I know that I will never be politically correct
And I don't give a damn about my lack of etiquette
As far as I'm concerned, the world could still be flat
And if the thrill is gone, then it's time to take it back
If the thrill is gone, then it's time to take it back
Passion is that thrill in life, the spark, the fire.  We were made to burn hot like the stars we come from, not smolder and smoke and go out.  T. Thorn Coyle says in Evolutionary Witchcraft that Victor Anderson talked about four types of fire.  These were: coal, flame, arc, and star.  Think about these a moment.

A coal, and ember, holds heat for a long time, if other heat is present.  It doesn't burn like the others, but it cooks evenly and can be used to light other fires.  It is the fire that is used to forge iron.  This is the level most people's Passion burns at, the Aleph 1 of Passion, Infinite Passion if we only knew it.

Next we find the flame.  When fuel is added to a coal, you get flame.  Flame burns hotter, but less even than a coal.  It creates some change, turning the fuel (assuming a wood fuel) into more coals.  This is where Henry was after contact with Danielle.  She began to light something in him, fanning coal to flame.  This is the Aleph 2 of Passion, infinity raised to the power of infinity.  These are the people we find who are driven, who we can taste the Passion in, but who haven't fully stepped into Destiny, and those who have burned at arc or star fire and are now walking in Destiny, but have calmed from the initial high to a more sustainable point.

Arc fire is short lived but instantly changes.  It is more powerful than a flame, but then is gone.  It is lightning from heaven.  It is an arc welder instantly joining two pieces of metal.  This is the Aleph 3 of Passion, infinity raised to infinity to infinity.  This is a sip from Odin's Mead of Poetry, a sip from Ceridwen's Cauldron of Inspiration.  It changes you in an instant.  It is Epiphany or Revelation.  It is the Tongues of Fire of Pentecost, it is Buddhist Enlightenment.  You will never be the same.  But it isn't the greatest Passion, the greatest fire.

Star Fire is the fire of the gods, ecstasy, frenzy, berserk.  This is the Feast of Dionysus, the Berserking of Odin, the panic of Pan.  Wild uncontrolled Passion.  Fire so hot is consumes us.  This is Aleph 4 of Passion, infinity to the infinity to the infinity to the infinity.  This is Passion at its most extreme, at its hottest.

Coal fire is heated to flame fire.  Flame fire is heated to arc fire.  Arc fire is heated to star fire.  Star fire recharges arc fire.  Arc fire recharges flame fire.  Flame fire recharges coal fire.  Star fire is the mountain top.  It is important, it is needed, but we can't live there.  As the Meat Puppets sing:
Coming down from the mountain
I have seen the high and mighty
I will go again someday
But for now I'm coming down
Coming down from the mountain
I have seen the lofty glory
I will go again someday
But for now I'm coming down
Looking back at Ever After, we see that Danielle is Henry's Muse.  She is the inspiration that leads him to his life work, to the building of a library where anyone can go and study.  Her Passion, which fanned his coals to flame, is arc fire, changing him forever.

In Classic Greek myth and belief, there are nine Muses, the Mousai.  These are daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, of the Divine and Memory.  For it is when Muninn, Memory, the past, connects with the Divine that inspiration comes.  Inspiration builds on the past, but transforms it in the Star Forge of the Divine.  The Muses are Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Euterpe (flutes and lyrical poetry), Thalia (comedy and pastorial poetry), Melpomene (Tragedy), Terpsichore (dance), Erato (love poetry), Polyhymnia (sacred poetry), and Urania (astronomy).  They're leader was Apollo.  They are goddesses of knowledge, and remember all things that have passed before, a legacy from their mother.  They can be seen as chroniclers or historians of all time.  They are the past, pointing to the future.  They are the Threads of Fate.  They are also goddesses of wells, the deep flowing water below the earth that we can drink from.  This water is Odin's Mead of Poetry, and the content of Ceridwen's Cauldron of Inspiration.  It is the Well of Mimir, the Rolling Cauldron, and the Well of Urd.  It is significant the Brigid is both a goddess of wells and a goddess of fire.  The Muses pull forth Memory and use it as fuel to light the fire of Passion.

It is only through Passion that Change can come, the true power of witchcraft.  It is only through Passion that we can overcome Fate and find the true Graal.  It is only through Passion that we can learn to bind and loose the Threads of Fate.  It is only through Passion that we kind find our Destiny and True Will.  It is only through Passion that we can change the world.  Passion is the Catalyst, the Changer of Fate, and it is the Nexus, the Bringer of Destiny.

The movie Ever After ends with a line that sums this all up nicely.  "My great-great-grandmother's portrait hung in the university up until the Revolution. By then, the truth of their romance had been reduced to a simple fairy tale. And, while Cinderella and her prince did live happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they lived."

~Muninn's Kiss

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