Moments of Always Within Never

Photo provided by Joana Croft &

Photo provided by Joana Croft &

Recently, I took an eight-week class at church called The Story. It’s about recognizing “that the events of our lives – good and bad – have purpose and meaning.” It took me down paths I had buried and opened my eyes in so many way. Each chapter ends with reflection questions and as the weeks progressed the questions became harder to answer because you’re forced to dig deep and examine old wounds. I’ll try to share bits and pieces of my journey through the class and materials in the coming weeks. I’ll begin with week one, day one and the first question…

“What is the most memorable character in a book you’ve read or movie you’ve seen? What draws you to this character?”

Characters popped into my mind left and right, such as Anne Shirley, Atticus Finch, Jessilyn Lassiter, Tris Prior, and Katniss Everdeen. The list grew and grew and it took a while to connect with a character that I truly felt drawn to. What I discovered surprised me. Here is what I wrote in my workbook:

The most memorable character from a book, for me, is Paloma Joss of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

I was drawn to her because like me she kept so much hidden: intelligence, emotion, discontent.

Paloma bore the weight of so much hurt, but as her story unfolds, she discovers her jaded view of life is mostly unfounded. She grows emotionally in ways most adults never do and she’s only 12 years old.

At the beginning of the book she is planning to commit suicide on her 13th birthday. Not because she has a bad life — her family has money and they live comfortably. She has concluded that adults “are just like everyone else: nothing more than kids without a clue about what has happened to them, acting big and tough when in fact all they want is to burst into tears.” Paloma despises “the false lucidity that comes with age.”

By the end of the book she has learned a lot about life. When she and a friend hear a neighbor playing a piece of music she turns a corner in her mind. She later records this in her “profound journal”:

“Thinking back on it, this evening, with my heart and my stomach all like jelly, I have finally concluded, maybe that’s what life is all about: there’s a lot of despair, but also the odd moment of beauty, where time is no longer the same. It’s as if those strains of music created a sort of interlude in time, something suspended, an elsewhere that had come to us, an always within never. […] From now on, […] I’ll be searching for those moments of always within never. Beauty, in this world.”

Like Paloma I will search for the beauty in this world amid the chaos and hurt. I know it’s there. I’ve seen it.

So, I put the question to you, my readers. What is the most memorable character in a book you’ve read or movie you’ve seen? What draws you to this character? Please leave a comment sharing your answer.