Twenty Years After

A few weeks ago, desperate for something unrelated to studying for certifications to read before bed, I picked up my old copy of The Three Musketeers. I had loved it when I was a teenager and read it countless times. It was wonderful to read it again from the perspective of an older human. It also helped to turn my brain off before bed. After finishing it, I went immediately on to Twenty Years After.

It’s always good to have a pleasure book in rotation. In my opinion.

It’s always good to have a pleasure book in rotation. In my opinion.

For those unaware, The Three Musketeers is the first in a five book series. Twenty Years After is the second, which takes place when the main characters are all in their forties. This has been even more fascinating to me, as now I’m very close in age to the characters and I had only read this book once, maybe twice, when I was younger. (It wasn’t as easy to find pre-Amazon.) The characters had vaguely kept in touch over the years, but had dispersed across France. The novel starts with D’Artagnan, the only one who remains a Musketeer at this point) going off to find his friends for another mission.

If you haven’t read the book, spoilers abound in the next few paragraphs.

France is on the brink of a civil war at the time of the novel with the country very divided. D’Artagnan finds his friends one by one, and although they all rejoice at these visits, only Porthos is of D’Artagnan’s political affiliation. Aramis and Athos (whom D’Artagnan was closest to) are firmly on the opposing side. They part ways, being careful not to make the others aware of exactly how entrenched they are in these divergent politics. With the result that they end up in actual combat against each other during a campaign.

Once they realize who they’re fighting, they refuse to kill each other and make arrangements to meet up later. The meeting is tense, their feelings going to the meeting are tense. They debate about going armed and then debate themselves about mistrusting their friends. There are times at which they even wonder if they should rendezvous or if it could be a trap. In the end, they all meet. They yell at each other. Swords come out, then swords are put away. They still love each other. They decide to meet once a month for dinner. Throughout the rest of the book (I’m nearly finished) they manage to protect each other, argue with each other’s sentiments occasionally, explain themselves to each other and remain friends.

The book is 176,000 words, so this is a very brief summary of just one aspect, but it’s an aspect that I find important currently.

Politics has completely divided this country and many of us can’t even see how divided it is. Our social media feeds are filled with people of the same opinion of ourselves, or, if we have a friend that’s a sensitive outlier, often they cautiously avoid posting anything having to do with politics in their feed. We unfriend anyone who has differing opinions and our circles grow more divided.

I would like to throw in a disclaimer here that I am not advocating staying in a relationship with someone who is abusive about their beliefs or intolerant and will not listen.

What I am saying is that if you love someone, and they mean a lot to you, do your best to talk to them. There may be some uncomfortable moments and you may need to back off and circle back later, but don’t disown them. We need to find more common ground somehow. If there is someone out there that you love, who has a vastly different opinion than you, ask them why, then really listen. Have your own facts ready so that you can have an intelligent conversation. Don’t go out with the intention to change them. But maybe with the intention to understand their point of view and to (calmly) explain your own. If you love someone and want them in your life, listen to what they have to say, hopefully they will listen to you and, even if no one’s minds change, there will be some understanding there. We need more understanding of each other rather than vilification.

If you do all the listening and they won’t let you speak, I absolve you. This must be two sided. But we need to have conversations with people we love more often. Faceless conversations and arguments on social media and angry diatribes amongst like minded friends aren’t moving anyone forward.

We begin losing friends after the age of 25 regardless of extenuating circumstances. There’s no reason to cut ourselves off further.

Meredith LyonsComment