… feeling love does make you feel superior.  Until you find that you aren’t loved back.

Kaui Hart Hemmings, in The Descendents

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Successful, born to privilege Hawaiian lawyer Matt King’s wife Joanie is in an irreversible coma and on life-support when he finds out his wife has been unfaithful.


Betrayal is a most interesting experience.  In the movie made from this book (while retaining its title) Matt King (played by George Clooney) gives us a glimpse of betrayal and its lived event.

Matt, the busy and hence detached sole practicioner in “paradise,” portrays the death that is betrayal, the death of innocence, of hope, of love, of trust and the birth of bewilderment and the shock of what the world is and how close its piecing pain and utter confusion can be.

Plop.  In the middle of grieving – more grieving – on the lip of death, death all the more.

Perhaps I find his reaction most plausible and real in that he does not lose control, but rather his reaction is true to the form for the masters we can become; masters, that is, of functioning calmly amid the disasters which belong to others.

Yes, some among us are masters of the mighty messes that life brings us as observers or professionals, tagged by the fates to minister to the crucifixions of others.

You see, when I handled calamity and grand deceptions that hammered my law clients, I always knew that the brutality of the childhood world of my violent Irish community and my personal story was a divine preparation for a world of betrayals.  I was picked to function in this and to know what others intently denied: that we are betrayed and not infrequently.

Matt King in Paradise is awakened without losing his calm – confused and numbed without abandoning ship, without losing “it” – whatever (in a Clintonian-variation) “it” is that “it” is in the context of a love-killing betrayal.

Funny thing about betrayal, when you seek quotes about betrayal most are quotes written from a woman’s perspective as if women are the victim and men the perpetrator.  But alas Matt King offers the counterpoint.

Betrayal knows not gender.  It comes in female and male form. True to women, by the way, our Matt King receives confirmation of Joanie’s “handiwork” from his wife’s friend, a woman, with whom Joanie has (no surprise here) shared her antics.

Men, I dare say, no not make betrayal a subject of conversation with their brothers.  That gene must have been withheld from the male, though sure enough the practice has its presence.

Love in the face of betrayal must be divine and transcendent for among our species, here on earth, love seems so fragile and illusive while its injury, after trust is broken, seems so damning.