“Mylène Farmer? Non, mais non. Not the singer, but Sister Magali. I thought they were having an affair in the Philippines when he was nearing the end of his Regency…..he never stopped loving her.’”
Father Petrus, comrade in arms and prayer of Father Jean-Paul, June 2021
I read that many authors have their playlist of songs they listened to as they wrote their books. If I told you mine, you’d might say “Mylène Farmer, who?”
Mylène Farmer arguably is the most successful singer in France, of either gender, of any nationality according to Syndicat National de l’Édition Phonographique (SNEP). From 1988 to 2016, she has had 15 singles hit number one in France, 9 of which went straight to number one. More number one singles than any other artist American, English, French, of all countries. Seven of her albums went diamond (million copies) more than any other artist in France. Her success in francophone markets over the decades has mirrored that of Madonna in anglophone markets.
With trademark red hair, some fans have called her an angel on earth. Many of her songs feature her “trademark” harmonious soaring refrains as if lifting all of us into the heavens with her voice. While drafting The Matriarch Matrix in Bruxelles, I picked up her 2016 album “Interstellaires” in a local FNAC and three songs gravitated into the book’s play list: “A Rebours” which features her soaring chorus vocals, “Voie Lactée” a mix of reggae and urban beats, and “City of Love” her 15th number one single.
Below is a YouTube video of City of Love – a mini story of a higher love discovered, much like the metaphors in The Matriarch Matrix.
Why would a Jesuit priest love Mylène?
The Matriarch Matrix is a book of metaphors. And former Father Jean-Paul Sobiros’ love of Mylène’s music is his metaphoric expression of his love for another redheaded “angel on earth” for whom overt love was no longer an option given his choice in life and spirituality. Ironically, if you watch some of Mylène’s videos from the 80’s and 90’s, you will see the darkness of her songs and rebelliousness against the Church. And yet Father Jean-Paul finds listening to her as the acceptable means to appreciate his unrequited love for Sister Magali – the songs of someone so, so different.
You can read a stand-alone chapter about Brother Jean-Paul and Sister Magali during their formation period in the link below.
This vignette follows the traditional romance story rhythm, but speaks of the different types of love between a man and a woman. It serves as an allegory to the love that Zara seeks and Peter is destined to find.
You can read about the history of romance stories in this blog post. The Jean-Paul and Magali story is reminiscent of the 17th and 18th century French romantic dramas where love is often a higher order concept.
What is the higher love that Zara seeks?
Zara Khatum devoutly follows Sufism, a mystical form of Islam. In chapter 6, one is introduced to Zara’s desire to emulate one of the greatest Sufi saints, Rabi’a al-Adawiyya, an eighth-century Persian philosopher and mystic, more commonly known in English as Rabia of Basra.
Rabia was born into a poor family in the lands now known as Iraq. Legends written 400 years after her death said at her birth her father saw a vision of the Prophet Muhammad who said Rabia is a favorite of the Lord. Poor Rabia was orphaned at an early age and sold into slavery. Even as a slave, she prayed many times a day. Legend tells of how one of her slave masters awoke one night to see her praying and a holy light illuminated around her head. Afraid, the slave master set her free the next day.
Rabia’s poetry bespeaks of Divine Love. Love of the Lord and a mutual love back as the purpose, the destiny to which a person should strive towards. She never married as she did not need an earthly husband with her love of the Lord. She is considered one of the most important of the early Sufi saints.
Her story provides a parallel for that of Zara, who after having been taken into sexual slavery by the Daesh and freed by her oligarch benefactor, Sasha, she turns to the love of the Lord as her guiding path and has opted to forgo seeking the love of a man. The forceful request by Sasha to bond with Peter, her spiritual, physical, and emotional antithesis from the other side of the world is against everything she has thus far evolved to be. How could she continue seek the love that she so desires tethered to this man? Therein lies a critical conflict driving this story of love like no other.
I have loved Thee with two loves –
a selfish love and a love that is worthy of Thee.
As for the love which is selfish,
Therein I occupy myself with Thee,
to the exclusion of all others.
But in the love which is worthy of Thee,
Thou dost raise the veil that I may see Thee.
Yet is the praise not mine in this or that,
But the praise is to Thee in both that and this.
Rabia al Basri
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