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Seeing and Being Seen

So far this year, I’ve read my way through a large portion of fan fiction.com’s Pride & Prejudice fan fiction (as well as some other sites like Dwiggie.com). I love that story. Lately, I feel like I need the daily reminder that people can change. This week’s favorite version is: The View from Where I Sit by Darcysfriend.

The deviation from the original version begins just after Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet tells Elizabeth: “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.” Instead of following Elizabeth, the author chooses to follow Mrs. Bennet who leaves the house quite distraught over the loss of Longbourne from the Bennet family. Mr. Darcy comes upon her weeping in the woods and they end up having a lengthy conversation where Mrs. Bennet takes Mr. Darcy to task for his pride and reveals that Jane loves Bingley.

Both Mrs. Bennet and Darcy end up asking each other questions that are outside of normal polite discourse and they come to truly understand each other, as well as gain a deeper understanding of themselves and how society views them. For instance, the author says that Darcy asks: “‘…you want your eldest daughter to marry for love. Does not Miss Elizabeth deserve the same?’ Darcy, while dismayed that he could barely speak straight, was astounded at his own forthrightness–but he truly ached to know and understand.”

It’s a beautiful story. Their simple act of letting go of their prejudices in order to see the other person as they are and letting go of their pride in order to allow themselves to be seen sets off a whole series of events whereby all the characters around them are redeemed. Don’t get me wrong: I love the original Pride & Prejudice. However, I love, love, love fanfics where more than just Elizabeth and Darcy change.

Henri Nouwen said that listening is the art of creating space for someone to be themselves. The View from Where I Sit showcases that reality. Each character is changed simply through the act of knowing and being known. I was challenged not to underestimate the power of simply being with someone vs. trying to force and/or encourage them to change.

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