Charlie Chaplin was well-known in the silent movie industry as an actor and director. But he was also greatly admired for his personality and noble mind. Moreover, his talent as a poet also provides us with impactful lessons in personal development.
His talents and personality drew not only the attention of the public but also the attention of one of his most prolific contemporaries, Sigmund Freud.
At the time, Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was also deemed to be the greatest name in his field. His notable works caught the attention of MGM Studios, so much so, that its head CEO Samuel Goldwyn, declared him the “greatest love specialist in the world.” And asked him to consult on scripts for several love stories, including Anthony and Cleopatra. However, Freud flat out refused the offer and never showed any interest in the film industry. That was until 1931 when Freud wrote a letter to a friend proclaiming his deep admiration for someone in the film industry, that he called a “great genius” and even expressed an interest in a personal meeting. That artist was none other than Chaplin.
In the letter, Freud applied his professional approach to analyze Chaplin and the persona he portrayed on stage and screen.
“Certainly he always portrays one and the same figure; only the weakly, poor, helpless, clumsy youngster for whom, things turn out well in the end. Now, do you think that for this role he has to forget his own ego? On the contrary, he always plays only himself as he was in his early dismal youth. He cannot get away from those impressions and to this day he obtains for himself the compensation for the frustrations and humiliations of that past period of his life.”
Sigmund showed his apparent empathy for the difficult childhood of the genius artist, at the same time holding him in high regard, by seeing him as collecting, “compensation for the frustrations and humiliations of that past period of his life.”
We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know “THAT IS LIFE”!” (Charlie Chaplin)
This quote could be understood to display the understanding that Chaplin had for the birth of brilliance out of chaos. Perhaps in reference to own energetic talents being fed by his own complex turmoils.
From Freud’s letter and analysis, we can begin to understand the deeper truth behind the comedic genius. “A poor man, despite an arduous childhood, who had grown up with the most humane values.” No matter how difficult everyday life was, Chaplin always harbored love and optimism. Despite the adversities and barriers of a complex and unequal society, he always solved all his problems with kindness.
In his short film “Easy Street,” for instance, he played a bumbling cop sent to reform a bad neighborhood, recreating East Street—the South London street where he was born.
Freud’s analysis seems to be relatively consistent with what Chaplin wanted to convey not only in his films but also in his poems. His poems hold true lessons of morality and are a commentary on personality development.
Charlie Chaplin, the man behind the performance
It is thought that Chaplin wrote the poem “As I began to love myself” at the age of 70. However, some argue that it was not wholly of his imagination, but an adaptation from Kim and Alison McMillen’s book, “When I Love Myself” Regardless of its inspiration, the poem Chaplin composed is stunningly beautiful, deeply profound, and universally inspirational. It is a poem about the power and value of the spirit and portrays a different perspective from which the great man can be observed.
It provides us with a great lesson on personal development. It includes a passage which reads, “As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it SELF-CONFIDENCE.”
We also find in the poem “Live,” a reminder that the world belongs to those who dare to do, dare to step up, dare to grapple with emotions, to experience, and to love with determination. It does not matter if one says the poem is a modification from another, or that it did indeed come from the mind and heart of the genius who seduced us with his gait, his mustache, and his baton, alone. Regardless, the sentiment is clear and should be respected.
Chaplin, the stunted character, the wandering loner, the poet, and the dreamer who was constantly searching for romance, or daring adventure, had a brilliant mind. He was a person with a very clear idea of what he wanted to convey. And what he showed in every movie was perfectly suited to every word of this poem. Furthermore, in his memoirs, he explains that every prop his character used had a meaning deeper than their appearance.
His pants were a challenge of belief.
The hat and the baton were an attempt to portray dignity.
The small stunted mustache represented pride.
The snapped shoes signified the daily obstacles that appeared on the road of life.
In addition, through the purity of his character, Chaplin always tried to help us perceive, and react to the paradoxes and complexities of the world. Only our human and psychological powers can be united against the absurd, the inequality, and the presence of evil. In no film more so perhaps than the film “The Dictator,” where evil is laid bare before us. The film is provoking us to become more connected with ourselves and with others, to protect the rights of man and the planet.
Today, we can not deny Chaplin’s legacy, it is not obsolete; on the contrary, he remains emotive and indispensable. The lessons that were given by this comedian make us realize the fullness of the man. He was more than just a living cartoon, or an actor or a satirist. His poems read as gifts from the hear—they are his direct voice, instructing us to perfect ourselves.
‘As I began to love myself ‘ by Charlie Chaplin
Hopefully the full intent of Chaplin’s poem will be realized in you. It will lift your soul and your spirits, especially if you’re unlucky enough to be living with self-deprecation or frustration with yourself. Your life is very precious and Chaplin’s poems were designed to deliver this truth. As the clown king, Chaplin endeavored to convey this to you through each word of his poem.
The world outside is waiting for the jewels in your soul. Those jewels are the virtues, the beautiful qualities that in every hour of your life are carefully preserved. Chaplin was a complex soul, full of talent and joy but with a past of harrowing pain. In his life, he found a way to utilize his experiences to tell a story, which would entertain and explain but his truest message is found in the composition of his poetry.
From Charlie Chaplin himself, direct to you, please, cherish yourself!