Truly profound essay written in 1952

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

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This is one of the most polarizing and hauntingly beautiful films I have ever seen. A movie so emotionally packed that audiences promptly fall into one of two camps: the hopeless romantics, absolutely smitten or the average consumer, completely repulsed.

After the death of his father, Stefan returns to Paris, distraught and manic, locking himself within his mother’s apartment but not before falling hopelessly in love with the neighbor, Stephanie, equally manic, vastly apathetic. A hilariously emotional romp ensues as our lead, Stefan, finds himself struggling to distinguish dreams from reality. Meanwhile the audience is privy to Stefan’s dreams, as director, Michel Gondry distinguishes fantasy from reality through a series of fantastical stop-motion segments –utilizing claymation, cardboard cutouts, and an arsenal of craft supplies.

I can’t think of a more genuinely haunting display of one man’s falling into love and, unrequited as it is, slipping into insanity. Like peeking through the blinds of a most private scene we’re at once enthralled and heartbroken. For at the heart of Gondry’s project is the question, What is reality? And furthermore, What am I doing here? It’s a clash of the self. A feud between id, ego, and the superego.

Gondry represents that ethereal space just one-step ahead such auteurs as Wes Anderson. Yet, a relatable charm permeates his body of work –out to support the underdog, regardless of the outcome, which, as we see with Stefan –we find ourselves at once swollen with empathy yet also remorseful as our heroes explore the outer limits of sanity.

If you’re one of the lucky few to sit through the entirety of the film, it must be encouraged to consider your emotions immediately after for this is a film meant to inspire in-depth introspection, leaving the audience with one burning question, Is this reality? Don’t be so sure!