I’ve always been a fan of detective stories, and over the years, one of the detectives I have enjoyed the most is Jules Maigret, Commissaire de la Police Judiciaire, the creation of Georges Simenon. The Maigret novels are short, and written in a spare and simple style. Deceptively simple. Maigret is a detective who’s often more interested in whydunit, than whodunit. I can’t recall the Inspector ever using a gun. His weapon of choice is his psychological insight.
There’s a certain Buddhist/Taoist quality about Maigret. As Pierre Weisz wrote in his essay, Simenon and ‘Le Commissaire,’ “Maigret’s great asset is being there.” Maigret has his own unique way of working cases, and many times, he’s like Lao Tzu’s sage, who “goes about doing nothing.” It may seem like he’s doing nothing, perhaps strolling along the banks of the Seine smoking his pipe, or having a casual beer in a small Paris cafe, but actually he’s deep into an investigation of the causes and conditions behind the actions of both the guilty and the innocent.
My cable company carries the MHZ Network (KCET) which has “International Mysteries,” currently featuring Beck, a Swedish police detective, based on the novels by Sjowall and Wahloo, who were pioneers of Scandinavian crime fiction in the ‘60s and ‘70s; Inspector Montablano, created by Italian writer Andrea Camilleri, an absolutely great series (and great books); and Maigret. The Maigret series was produced for French TV in the 1990s and are set in the times of the novels.
I was watching “Maigret and the Candle Auction” last night, and I forget what the other character said to provoke this response, but Maigret said, “Happiness is just dormant sadness.”
It seemed to me that Maigret was making an important point about non-duality. That was probably not his intent, and possibly not Simenon’s either, assuming the line was taken from the book.
It reminded me of something I read by Krishnamurti not long ago:
There is sorrow. My son is dead. I do not move away. Where is the duality? It is only when I say I have lost my companion, my son, that duality comes into being.
Even though we talk about the cessation of suffering, there really is none. Suffering is never completely absent. Sadness at the loss of a loved one, for instance, never leaves. Not even after decades. I know. Like Buddha Nature the potential for suffering exists within us always, and can arise at any time. Peace is just dormant suffering.
Sadness and happiness are advaita: two, but not two. They are non-dual. Duality comes into being when we begin to make distinctions and comparisons. And cessation comes into being when we stop suffering from ruling, and ruining, our lives.
When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
nothing in the world can offend,
and when a thing can no longer offend,
it ceases to exist in the old way.
Seng-ts’an, Verses on the Heart-Mind
Just in case you’d like to learn more about the novels of George Simenon and his character, Inspector Maigret, hop over to pattinase, the blog of Patti Abbott, a writer of short stories, and check out Friday’s Forgotten Books. This week the bloggers at taking a look at Simenon’s work.