There are not many movies that pull me back to the cinema for a second viewing. Mostly, I am content to wait for the release of the DVD. But, I must say, after seeing "The Greatest Showman" twice at the cinema, I could easily go a third, perhaps even a fourth. Now, I realise that musicals are not everyone's cup of tea and I may be just a little obsessed, however, there is something about this story and its accompanying songs that has me hooked.
I was listening to the soundtrack, for the umpteenth time, in the car today and it dawned on me. Almost every song recognises the paradox in life. "I am brave, I am bruised" are held together in the same breath, while the song "Tightrope" acknowledges that the path ahead may be right or wrong, an adventure or a fall. The great love scene during "Rewrite the Stars" doesn't just say "All I want is to fly with you" but also, "All I want is to fall with you". The struggles are held closely with the joys, the tears with the laughter. Perhaps more explicitly in the story, the poor and the rich, the acceptable and shunned, the black and the white struggle to exist together.
This reminded me of a discussion I was part of recently, reflecting on the life of the mystic. We spoke about how in a world of duality, the mystic manages to live within the paradox and find a third way. Is there nothing we need more in our world right now? Liberal vs conservative, east vs west, male vs female, good vs evil, right vs wrong; we manage to split into factions over almost any issue. The mystic seems to find a way to hold both in tension while moving through and amongst in a third way. It is certainly not a popular way that gains you any friends.
In fear of appearing to read too much into "The Greatest Showman" and naively accept the portrayal by Hugh Jackman, I wonder if the character of P. T. Barnum (in the movie) was a "third way" man. He bridged the worlds of the acceptable and those hidden away. He moved between the worlds of the rich and the poor. He empowered people who had no voice and encouraged relations with people from different cultures and backgrounds. No, he was not perfect, but had a vision of how life could be and invited others to join him. In doing so, people found their true self and were liberated from whatever held them back. Sound familiar?
And so I wonder if my own fascination, and perhaps that of many others across the world also, with "The Greatest Showman" comes from our deep need. That is, the need to be valued as we are, not as the world would have us. And the need for some sense of peace and hope in a world that would have us all believe in "us and them". Maybe we all have a deep hope that a Hugh Jackman might strut into our lives and help us come alive or a Zac Efron might step into our circus and help us rewrite the stars.