Javert is compared to a wolf, an animal relentlessly pursuing its goal to rid the world of rebellion. Hugo compares all human life to animal life. And so he has touch on one of the threads in my own meditation.
Living like an animal is to live unconsciously, to be driven by what is already inside. When I live unconsciously, I let my childish demands reign without questioning their reasonableness in light of a higher purpose. When I live unconsciously, I let my standard arguments drive me to look for lower goals. When I live unconsciously, I over-estimate my own freedom, independence, and impartiality. When I live unconsciously, I under-estimate the degree to which I am biased in my perspective.
At first thought, Javert’s problem appears to be that he is extreme in his beliefs – without moderation, but this common idea about moderation misses the point. Moderation still is concerned with quantity of temporal action/activity all in the realm of animalistic earthly existence. Whereas spiritual living is occupied with deeper streams of eternal purpose.
For instance, if I find myself misunderstood in a conversation, and I am invested in the relationship with the interlocutor, I might have three reactions:
1. I might selfishly demand to be understood, raising my voice or repeating and clarifying even though the other person is not seeking to understand.
2. I might take the path of moderation, where I wait for a quiet time, and request to have a hearing, and then gently explain my perspective, appealing to the friend’s compassion.
3. I might remain silent and surrender my demand to be understood, because I recognize that being understood is over-rated sometimes, and I am so concerned with caring for the friend that I forget to resolve my own perceived injustices.
Spiritual living might engage in extreme activity, but the engagement is consciously chosen for some higher purpose. “Extreme behavior” concerns deviation from societal norms. The highest goal is to live as those alive from the dead, not walking in the dead animal life of the earthly kingdom. There is a conscious dimension – the kingdom of God – that is right here, right now. And if I miss that, then I will live like an animal, even though my mind may function with advance levels of intelligent analytical processing. For the difference between unconscious living and conscious living is not quantitative, but qualitative.