What is the purpose of dreams? Do we have a guardian angel?
(If you find out "Mômmanh", "existence", "need of existence", please go to chapiter 2 to learn more...)
But I have not yet introduced my guardian angel. It is no use envying me, because, you have one as well. Mine is called Dionysus.
When I am awake, my Mômmanh is very busy controlling what am I going to do; at the same time, she must supervise the surroundings. She gets important information that she has no time to deal with: so, she stocks it up. At night, when I sleep, she “goes over” them and she integrates into my existence what she judges useful, the most frequent true dreams. The result is sent to my conscience which accepts only a part, the unacceptable is suppressed.
It is often when I awake that Dionysus talks to me, but he can do it even later. That was the case on that day. He called me with insistence like an irritating alarm clock.
“- So? You see well that one must not disturb me now! But what do you want from me, at the end? - You are going to do a great stupidity. Besides, you have already started it. It is not the moment to speak to them about the girl who slept at your house. Certainly no! ... - Ah! And why then? - Because you are not married, hare-brained fellow! - That is a good one, I like that! - Are you mucking about with me? - Oh sorry what an imbecile I am! - Oh! You see: vanity makes you lose your head. - Yes, you have the right to show off. Without you, I will be in a mess. It is even possible that I would have lost my Jeanne. But no: by putting all those problems on my back I could see well if she was keen on me. - In order to know it, you definitely don't need to set her to trial... Life will continue to take care of her freely. In any case, one must not provoke a lynching by prolonging that impracticable situation. - Still once more, you are right. Thanks for having warned me. I will get even with you. - I ask myself well how! While waiting you would do better to start the lessons: your students are beginning to fidget.”
Dionysos, then, had just reminded me that, according to circumstances, Landory was sometimes an oasis of human warmth where one had better take up his strength, sometimes a hunting place for man.
By facing the brave Landoriens, Jeanne had placed us in a dangerous situation. And I, who should have known it, had committed us headlong in that trap which not going to take long to close. Does love render one stupid ?
How an isolated village is a closed field of existence, an existential prison
At that time, the country communes were still quite often bubbles where the existences of their inhabitants were shut up. The long epoch during which each village was an existential space completely closed, was not too far. The majority of the people, having nothing but their feet to move about, never went beyond the nearby villages. Apart from the dreams, the part of the existence linked to others could fulfil themselves only there, naked under the look of the villagers who knew each other and who saw everything. Therefore, it was dangerous to infringe the rules of the lives of the little existential local bubble.
The modern means of communication, the car especially, and the increase of free time makes it possible now to escape from that trap. But in those times, these two liberators produced very limited effects.
At the village of Landory, the unexpected arrival of Jeanne did not fail to set in motion the process of recognition of a foreign body, or the more so, since that body not only was young and beautiful, but seemed closely linked to that of a teacher, an important member of the tribe of the village.
Did I make believe that I was probably making love to my fiancée? At that time, the people of the countryside considered that that was not decent at all. On the contrary, it was allowed to go to a prostitute, on condition that one was discreet; in return for that reservation, it was also considered as a test of virility, therefore honourable. And this is how the villagers reconciled the puritan and the old religious convictions with the excessively pressing needs of sexual nature.
Furthermore, according to their definition, she who accepted to give herself before marriage was a whore. And if, unfortunately, a child was born then that poor child, would be a scum of the human community, a wretched “son of a bitch”. Besides, the people who grew up in the Islamic tradition still have, quite often, the same convictions, because their religious culture of the past has remained more enduring than ours: their moral rules entrenched have not yet undergone the powerful erosion which modern freedom provokes.
By passing the night at my house, Jeanne had put us in danger. Because what was not decent for a simple villager became intolerable when it was a “school teacher”, who had to show a good example to the children. Brought up in a city where one can do pretty much all that he wants, putting aside walking naked in the road, Jeanne could not guess the dangers of the situation. I should have warned her the day before her arrival, and we should have looked together for another shelter for her for the night.
I believed that Jeanne was going to criticise me quite justifiably. Not only did she not do anything, but she did not believe that the danger was real. How was I to convince her, that “stubborn” one ?
And we stayed for some time to ignore each other in the worst manner as if we had been strangers, or else, we “sulked”. It is a familiar duel and yet quite strange when one inflicts mutually the suffering of being cut back with love, while hoping that the other is going to give in and comes to ask for pardon on his knees.
Several and several times, we have played another game just as wicked :
Now, the gossipers were on the verge of beating their brand tom-tom of the village.
“Do you know the news, Mrs. Tabirou?
In what is the isolated village alienating itself? In what is the city a liberator?
In what does the closed village favour the sclerosis and the city the progress?
The tom-tom of the village plays the same role as the national media: it dissects and spreads the news. Then, to incorporate that manna to the collective existence, one waits for the opinion of the wise men of the country known by the inhabitants. These teachers bring a judgement which conforms to that expected by the existential appetites born, brought up, and educated in that place, the “myself” of the village. It is over: no more people can shy away from the standard news unless they face some pressures which can go as far as the unbearable.
Because, in order to assure the collective part of the existence, the one which is linked to the others, requires some common rules. Those which are imperative under the penalty of serious sanctions regard the dominant ideology. The others, linked to the activities, to traditions, to the fashion,... constitute the local culture: here they love the fife and the bouillabaisse; elsewhere it is the accordion and the sausage pancake.
Therefore, in the village of the past where one found himself closed through the lack of transport, it was impossible to escape the eyes of the others, especially to those of the gossipers. In the cities, on the contrary, those of today like those of other times, one would have had to be mad to try to get to know each of the thousands and thousands of inhabitants. Outside his district, each one escapes the look of the others, and consequently, to their existential pressure. In return for some precautions, one can do what he likes.
So the city renders one free. This freedom has two faces: if it favours a crime, it allows also creativity to realise itself. It is a result of progress.
Like this, the process towards infamy had already started. If Jeanne spent one more night at my house, the whole village would have started to reject us. My beloved one did not take long to understand some allusions so much so that she believed to have misunderstood them: “Look here! The whore has not woken up early this morning. The lady! One cannot work by day and by night.” Soon, my students would cease to look at me in the face; whispering behind my back, always louder, they would stop to greet me, in the village streets, before starting to hurl insults or apple cores across my way, both of them anonymous. Anonymous even the stones which would break our window panes and certain letters which the postman would put, mockingly.
The day would come when one had to leave, hunted by that big family which I loved. I surely wanted to go away, but not in that manner. I wanted the village to accompany us with its wishes that we could come back one day, loaded with the indispensable novelties which we were going to fetch.
It was Mr. Morvan who showed us how to make up for our false step.
Mr. Morvan, the old watchmaker of Landory treated me like the son whom he had lost. The latter, after succeeding brilliantly in his studies, did not want to extend the reprieve which would have allowed him to wait for the end of the War in Algiers. He had left risking his life, like his comrades: he had come back in a coffin.
I do not know where Mr. Morvan had learnt that wisdom not to take anything for granted, not even his life, neither that of his son or of his beloved one. It is what allowed him to continue to live in spite of everything, and to employ to the best the extra years which a robust health had given him. To make his sorrow flow back, instead of invoking death, he chose to fight her by giving strength to the living ones, by means of wise advice and the help he gave them. So if I was proud to receive the support that he would have given to his son, at the same time, I feared the responsibility that there was to carry the intentions of such a wonderful soul. And, do you know it? Not to deceive Mr. Morvan: that duty that nothing ever imposed on me, which I still feel always.
It was a Wednesday. Now, at that time, the students were on holidays on Thursday, from where the expression which made millions dream between themselves: “A four Thursday week”. Since I had a holiday on the following day, I would have had ample time to prepare my lessons: I could then go back to my house early. As soon as, the class was over, my students were freed, scattered happily like loose horses in a meadow on a spring day, I went to join my beautiful one.
Hardly had I closed the door of my house that Mr. Morvan asked to come in. I knew that he had watched out for my return and I also guessed the aim of his visit. I was happy to have his help: we two, we would have to convince Jeanne.
The “stubborn one” willingly accepted, and even with gratitude, the advice of Mr. Morvan: she had perceived right away the painful wisdom of the old man.
To the leaders of the landorianne opinion, we would introduce her for what she was: my fiancée. “- She has spent a night at my house, without fear! - Let us see! It was a case which couldn't be helped.” Coming from Paris, she could not know that the country peasants still enforced some rather strict rules; as far as I am concerned I had learned them during my infancy, all the years spent in the city had nearly made me forget them; and then, our meeting had taken place quite late, on the threshold of my house, after a long working day for me and a tiring trip for Jeanne who, moreover, was convalescing. In those conditions, we decided to wait, till the following day to dispose of all the time which a good moving into a hotel required: this choice seemed reasonable to them, even more because they themselves were horrified of sudden actions.
“- It may be, but during that unfortunate night that we had spent the two of us under the same roof, and without fear!... Hasn't my fiancée's virtue suffered? - Oh! Come on! It is necessary that the Landoriens have confidence in their school teachers! Without which, where will they go? So, one should have accused the Reverend Parish Priest of sleeping with his maid?... Oh!...”
The cart being nearly out of the ditch where we had emptied it, the three of us went to book a room at the Hôtel des Voyageurs where we had dinner.
Madame Pigeon, the owner, was a superior woman with an opulent built, which did not prevent her from being lively and firmly planted on her solid legs. Her look was benevolent. She acted equally as the village newspaper and this out of pure generosity: the news which she spread in abundance were entirely free and, above all, they were never inspired by malice.
Naturally, we made use of that good press to diffuse the image which the villagers had to have of those through whom the scandal could arrive: a quite pleasant and promising engaged couple very much attached to Landory. An expert, Madame Pigeon did her utmost to discover our secrets. Monsieur Morvan took the floor every time that we risked committing a blunder. Who was the manipulator? Who was the manipulated? Little does it matter, since the ones like the others, we had only good intentions.
So, like a skilful head of state diffuses on television the image that the people are going to have of him, we let the Landoriens know what they had to think. Madame Pigeon approved that we had not gone on the eve to settle Jeanne in her hotel: at such a late hour, she could not have received my fiancée properly, even more because she was busy with the preparations of a wedding.
Jeanne was not only a Parisian, she was a school psychologist.
“- Ah well? And what does a school psychologist do? Does she cure the mad ones?
And while continuing like this, we spread a story, in order to account, quite closely to the truth. After her operation, my fiancée had come to me for two weeks of convalescence. Without which the date was stopped, we had to marry in a very near future. Jeanne would spend her nights at the hotel. She would dedicate her days looking after my home, to do the shopping, to prepare our dinner: in brief, take care of me. The following day, a holiday, we would go together to the city where she would buy some books.
Afterwards, her activities would lead her naturally to meet again plenty of Landoriens: she would take up conversation with them all, even those whose head seemed turned away. Thanks to her talents of a psychologist, she would be so subtle as to shock nobody, whether it was by word or behaviour badly matched with the sweet countryside. Like this, everybody will say that the school teacher had a good chance of marrying such a good girl, “and a pretty one as well!”.
Dinner was excellent: a wedding banquet had taken place in the big hall and the guests of the hotel benefited from it. Alas! Jeanne had to follow her slimming diet, if she did not want to find a kilo of fat which she had tried so hard to eliminate. But, could she upset our generous hostess?
“- A diet? To make yourself ill? Oh! Believe me: if there had been many good things in my plate when I was young, I would have treated myself heartily.
Mrs. Pigeon had found herself a vocation of a foster mother: it was like this that she gave her contribution to the blooming of humanity. The plump flesh and the red dye which her rich and mouth-watering food gave were according to her, sign of good health.
At our times, such a mistress would affectionately be called Eugénie, or “La Génie”. But, as a humble servant doing all sorts of jobs, she had worked hard to become a lady. Calling her “Madame”, was simply a question of rendering homage to her courage, her intelligence and her big hearth. It was therefore, with respect and affection: “Madame Pigeon”.
She took Jeanne under her wings and decided to mother her till her departure, so that she would go back to Paris in good shape. Unfortunately, she could not obtain the full success which her efforts deserved, because Jeanne dined, or rather fasted, nearly every evening at my house, in my company.
Those who offered the wedding party, the parents of the bride and the bridegroom invited us to have a “toast” with them and to dance.
It was the blacksmith who was giving in marriage his daughter Yvonne to the young boy Marcel, his chief-worker. He almost did not have any more horses to shoe since the new ones, vulgarly called tractors, were mounted on tyres. So, Marcel assured the re -conversion of the forge into a mechanical agricultural workshop. Marcel and Yvonne got married for life. But yes, it's true! Authorised by the law, forbidden by the Church, divorce was still in every way a taboo in the hearts. If one had chosen wrongly his partner, it could happen, in the worst of cases that love changed into hatred. All during the lifetime, the hearth was a place of suffering, even for the children and madness would prowl around in the blasted house.
It is because the wedding was a big feast shaded in red. The guests were the parents, the friends who, later on, would remind the married couple: “I was at your wedding. Oh! Good blood! It was a beautiful wedding! And perhaps that would be enough to make them leave the sorrowful path of hatred in order to take up again their painful path of love.”
Jeanne did not need me to explain that to her. In the middle of the general happiness, she knew how to encourage the young married couple to love each other well. We danced, we sang, we were wild till the late hours of the night, until the moment when my convalescing fiancée said:
“- Oh ! I am exhausted. I am going to sleep.
Jeanne was appreciated by the Landoriens. It is not surprising because she struggled hard to give them the image they made of an ideal fiancée for their young school teacher. She excels in that art.
She had to play then the role of a complex character, a sweet Parisian in love with an enlightened peasant ready for all the efforts to be worthy of him. According to me she pushed the traits a bit too far, by going as far as the uncertain limit where her interlocutor risked telling her: “Are you kidding?... Do you want to take the piss out of me, or what? Do I look so stupid?” she didn't play the following scene in the honour of the vainest of peasant teachers of Landory! That took place in the presence of a cow of which one will never know whether she was coughing or she was choking with laughter.
Jeanne dared ask how the precious animal managed to make out the commands which were given to her: milk, butter, cheese, fresh cream,... and that, while breastfeeding her calf. The cock (or rather the dupe) of the village was over joyous and he answered her.
“- A good well-trained cow does that easily. There where it hurts her most, is there to produce ice-cream in full summer.
So, Jeanne was adopted by the peasants of Landory. Many expressed their sincere regrets when she had to reach Paris. Shamelessly, she promised to come back in a matter of time and forever. She was soon, announcing, that we were getting married at Landory, would have a big wedding and we would settle there for good. Why did she do promises to them which we did not want to keep? She knew well, however, that I was toying with the idea of leaving to teach in Black Africa which, at that time, was an easy dream to realise. I was hoping to start my career abroad after the next return to school. That misunderstanding was the cause of a little cloud which came back from time to time to spur on our love.
You have seen her, to please our fellow friends; Jeanne does not hesitate to be funny and to invent pleasant stories. She excels in that game, but at the same time she contrasts strongly my obsessive desire of knowledge. You imagine how much that can irritate me. I am still happy that I am not quick tempered.
Therefore, I shared with her a part of my annoyance.
“- Let us see, my dear, don't you see that we do this for laughing?
What is humour? What is the purpose of humour?
In fact, Mômmanh gave us the game and humour to relieve our existential anxiety, principally when she becomes uselessly unbearable.
When, through thought, through action, one does his best to reach an objective, if the result is in spite of everything all a flop while the existential consequences are not serious, one says to himself: “What was the point.”, and we start laughing.
For example, the clown adjusts his costume, checks his knotted butterfly and introduces himself, all smiling, a magnificent bouquet in his hands; he says: “Happy birthday, my dear-dear, happy... birth... day!” And he receives a household bucket of water on his face. We have had the illusion, a moment, that it is useless to worry a lot in order to succeed his existence since, in every way the result risks escaping us. But it is not necessary that the consequences of the failure be tragic. In the example of the clown, the disappointment of the lovers are minor, even so because it is not I who has to put up with them.
Since it is not necessary that that means: “In all manners, there is nothing to do about it.” It will be desperate instead of being hilarious. Suppose that our clown, failing in an acrobatic number, instead of remaining hanging to the trapezium by the bottom of the trousers, misses truly his chance and crushes on the ring. The comedy which failed has changed to tragedy.
Anxiety encourages us to look for the best ways to reach our objectives. But there is a moment when that search must stop because it will give nothing else. At that stage, we have to accept the risk of failure. It is to help us get over that step that Mômmanh has given us humour. The failure of a well prepared action without seriousness tells me: “It is better not to demand to master the situation, since there is often the risk of failure.”
So, thanks to a little bit of humour, I do not demand to succeed, I do not demand anything else, which does not mean at all that I renounce: on the contrary, freed from the anxiety, my will is only stronger about it. I accept, laughingly, the risk of failure, and here I am relaxed, prepared for another efficient action.
And in what concerns me, the demon who lives in me had taken away the gift of Mômmanh that safeguard: I had lost the sense of humour. Faced with any stress, my reply was: “I demand! I demand! I demand to master the situation.” Well, I did not manage to “loosen up”.
I remembered how good it was to laugh, but that pleasure had been denied to me. The possibility of laughing existed still, but contrasted by the barrier which held it back. When a hilarious situation triggered off in spite of the entire reflex which should have been a relief, I certainly laughed... And I suffered: I had tears in my eyes, acute pains burst my sides, I was suffocating, and I was feeling on the verge of a blackout. The only laughter which I knew from now on, that laughter which forced my staunch resistance was a suffering.
Humour is in intimate contact with the struggle for existence. It has to show the failure of the attempts of existence, without necessarily discouraging the actors, by destroying the true or the good. He has to cut to the bone of the existence without hurting it, like a gardener prunes the rose bush. The comic does not have the right to show himself stupid: he must, on the contrary, be a particularly subtle guide. This is why humour is doubtlessly the most difficult of the arts. The clown-acrobat is a good representative of it. He must realise some acrobatic numbers which go from one fiasco to the other, but he must not hurt himself in the slightest way: it is necessary that he is the best of acrobats.
Therefore, it is good that he knows how to provoke laughter. Like this, to whoever seems so, the English humour will contribute to eliminate the panic and to prepare their victory, when the Germans were drinking to the health of their human brothers of the bombs. Once more it is necessary that it is truly humour.
To testify that deceased apprentice.
The workers of a garage pretended to amuse themselves by sending compressed air, which served ordinarily, to inflate the tyres, in the arse hole of an apprentice. They expected to transform him in a Bibendum, that fat simple good natured bloke made up of tyres which is the emblem of the Michelin firm. Since the patient hardly had any sense of humour, he shouted cries of terror. The other apprentice had the sense of humour. “Look, fellows! I am Bibendum.” laughing like a mad person, he lent his own buttocks for the hilarious experience. “- Ah well? You would tell me. - He died of laughter.”
What does a game serve for?
The game, which is a blank exercise, had the following in common with humour: it is “to laugh”. Both of them, by eliminating the obligation of success, release us from the fear which inhibits us when the stress is too heavy. Besides its function as a relaxant, the game can be used to practice the existence by simulation. The children dedicate a lot of the time to it when they play firemen, Superman, mother and father...
Let us come back to Jeanne, the annoying one. In order not to lose the delights of the peace recently rediscovered, I wanted to admit that the lies which she related to the Lando riens were innocent jokes, “to laugh”. Afterwards, I was obliged to see that it was neither a question of games nor a question of humour. I appreciated the comedy which she played to please our fellow f riends for such a long time that it could pass for an amusing game. But it happened quite often that she exceeded the limits and that her lies were loaded with unfortunate risks.
In order to please our fellow f riends, a lot and quickly, she had taken the habit of misleading them. Since she had practiced that art for such a long time, she succeeded in it quite well. She was capable of passing for a musician, a chess player, a philosopher, a horticulture expert... She let the people believe that they interested her immensely which generally pleased them a great deal; besides, she would have the pleasure to receive them frequently. “Yes, yes, yes! You must visit us.” How many invitations did she distribute without any follow-up! She gave our fellow f riends whatever could please them and led them to say: “Oh my my! What a wonderful girl!” That stratagem cost us, besides some invitations which Jeanne accepted willingly and which she forgot to return. But, besides the fact that it was dishonest, it compelled us to change often the relations, depriving ourselves also of true f riends.
I wished that in the others' hearts, our existence was true. Those false purchases done in a fraudulent manner repelled me. Luckily, afterwards, Jeanne granted me a minimum of concessions in that domain.
Later on, I tried to understand that behaviour. I discovered that Jeanne had developed an excessive attachment to the “appearance” which overwhelmed the “being”. With those results, I was hardly more advanced. Why? Why was my beloved acting like this?
She did not know anything about it herself. It was a made-up vice hidden in the subconscious. We had to advance as far as the irreparable so that we could accede to the secret drawer of her soul and evacuate the stench.
During those happy days at Landory, except for the misunderstanding that I am going to evoke, there were no quarrels between Jeanne and myself. Those two weeks passed like an enchantment.
During the day, while I was in class, she looked after the house, she washed our linen, and she prepared the evening meal. We would go together to do the shopping. Sometimes, I found that she had done much more than her share of work, even so because she was convalescing, don't forget that. Like this, one evening, I observed that she had polished all my boots, cleaned my car from top to bottom, and even polished the car body, cleaned all the window panes of the house... She seemed quite tired, her hands were reddish, her hair in disorder and her make-up in a mess like the very old paint of certain kitchens. Therefore where had her beauty gone?
“- You must not work so hard, my dear, look in what state you are. It is enough that you do your part.
It seems, now, that those two weeks passed quickly. It is because there were not any outstanding events, before the big final decision. There were some rainy days during which I made the sun go down in the hearth under the form of happy blazing fire of beech. The sky granted us some baroque operas of autumn. Since it did not rain much, we could sometimes explore the wooded hedges and the hollow tracks in search of mushrooms or chestnuts. The Lake of the Roche Dure was inhabited by moving reflections, reddish and bluish, wavy under the stormy strokes of the comb: it seemed to contain, quite some curious stories which one had to refrain from hearing before the winter fossilised itself completely in a shroud of ice.
In the evening, we read a little and we talked: we had so many projects! Virtual projects, because we continued to “act as if it were yes”: as if our deep disagreements had not been placed temporarily in parenthesis.
Like a butterfly after the metamorphosis, a third Jeanne was revealing itself.
The first, that of love at first sight in the mountain: she had captured me by making me believe that I was her god, and then she controlled my state of dependence by throwing me over the Olympus. The second had hardly anything in common with the first except for the name and the identity card: she had shown herself so odious that I did not suffer much to leave her. Finally, there was the third Jeanne who seemed to do with me the apprenticeship of life in common.
Was one of the three the true one? Not sure: a fourth could come out from the box of mischief.
There is near Landory, a modest and very old chapel where, it seems, that the pilgrims of the Middle Ages stopped to pray. Its granite stones having acquired a sheen throughout the years, welcomed throughout the long time the moss and the lichens. An enclosure of grass surrounds it, itself being belted by beech trees and oaks. One can see there an old one still green, a hawthorn so old that it has the same height as a tree: one could say that she saw the last Roman soldiers of our region. Below, in the meadows, the little streamlet murmurs and it hollows out here its bed for thousands and thousands of years, creating obstinately its green ribbon of nature in the armoricaine rocks.
It's there where Jeanne led me the day of her departure. When I knew why, I found out that her choice was good: in that place, Mômmanh has seen passing such a big number of human beings and of events that it was a place inhabited by wisdom, a good place for important decisions.
She had adorned herself with an exquisite simplicity which highlighted the expressions of her face. At that time, there I read the one who had released the love at first sight: the air of being at times surprises, amused, and ravished by enjoying life wholeheartedly. I was a captive. I then sat next to her. Her expression changed as she had done so often, to such a point that I had the impression that I had somebody else by my side. So, with excessive seriousness, which changed her beauty, she announced: “Georges, I feel well with you. Moreover, listen to me well, because I felt bad till I arrived there: let us cease to act “as if yes”, let us get married.”
Carried away by I don't know which stupid joy, I decided to marry Jeanne as soon as possible and to sow in her tummy my contribution to the little man who Mômmanh would have entrusted us with soon. The life which beforehand had appeared of a terrifying complexity, froth with hunting traps had become quite simple.
How the subconscious which sometimes governs us is not always bad.
What sort of faith encouraged me to charge along in the fog? You have not forgotten Dionysus, my very precious guardian angel, but who, all the same, is mistaken sometimes: ah well, it is perhaps him who led me in that road without return.
What an adventure!
Afterwards, everything proceeded quickly. In the heart of winter, we were married.
After we did what was necessary to do for that, our Mômmanh placed in my Loved One's tummy the unknown which would become our first child.
It wasn't a matter to boast about, because it was truly very easy, even for Jeanne who had to carry it. But, during two or three decades, helping that child to become a man of his times, that is to say, a man of the future, behold that it could be sometimes heavy to carry.
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