… As Above So Below: when the tour guide’s friend acknowledges his child.
In As Above, the main characters are seeking secret treasure in the catacombs underneath Paris. They ask a couple of locals to help them navigate the parts of the tunnels where tourists aren’t supposed to go. After the group leaves the main tunnels, they quickly become lost, cut off, and terrified. They begin to see things – images and even corporeal items – from their pasts, and to hear voices from beyond the grave.
By the end, the few survivors are injured, apparently trapped, and surrounded by creatures that crept out of the darkness. There’s little hope … until the main character figures out the secret to escape: confront whatever shames them.
The local man who had brought them into the catacombs asks no questions and wastes no time. He admits to having a child that he knows is his but has never claimed. He offers no apology and no excuse.
And he is allowed to escape.
We walk through our lives complaining about the things that have hurt us, but we often turn a blind eye to the things we have done, to the hurts we have caused. We pretend to ourselves that we don’t know why we feel bad or why we never seem to be able to look on the bright side. We pretend that we’ve left the past behind us, and that we have no sins to report – certainly not enough sins to warrant the things we have suffered at the hands of others or at the hands of fate.
But we’re only pretending.
We always know what we’ve done. And as long as we don’t acknowledge it, it will stay with us, haunting us, attacking us again and again, driving us deeper into the pit we’ve dug for ourselves. We’re never really unaware of our crimes, and convincing others we’re innocent never really convinces us.
Of course, some of the characters hadn’t even really done anything wrong; they just thought they had. They had been children, witness to a tragedy that they only imagined was their fault. But the effect was the same – a cesspool of shame and guilt that swirled just below the surface of everything they thought and everything they were.
Once the shame is acknowledged, however, it trickles away like water out of a tub. Once the crimes – real or imagined – are faced and dealt with, the guilt evaporates, leaving a clean slate and a fresh new heart. There’s no need for apology – why would there be shame if there was no regret? – and there’s no need for excuses – everyone in the tunnels had something that tormented them, some transgression that darkened their spirits. Everyone hurts and is hurt, because everyone is a human being.
And the ones who accept that and are willing to deal with the consequences … they go free.