Exploring where life and story meet!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

An orphan indeed

I thought I had one remaining member of my family of origin who wasn't completely hopeless as a human being, either giving up and entombing their heart away from the painfulness of messy relationships or becoming a social parasite sucking the life and being out of unwitting friends and family, but I don't.  I finally figured out my last remaining sibling is a narcissist, I've ignored the symptoms, hoping maybe he could change, had escaped my family's legacy, but alas for his family, it just isn't so.  As a teen I'd ponder who might come to my funeral and actually be sad, let's just say my dance card was empty.  I consider that scenario anew, a whole lifetime later, and while there are actually people on the list now, not a single one is a biological relative.  It's something my heart has known forever but which my mind is still trying to wrap itself around: I'm truly an orphan, biologically speaking anyway.

There's a passage in scripture where Jesus says if you don't 'hate' your father and mother, and follow Him, you can in nowise be His.  The hate actually means 'to love less,' He isn't advocating hatred by any means, but that you must love Him more than your parents or anyone else.  Some people struggle with that, I never have.  What's it like to be loved, accepted, wanted by your parents?  How can I comprehend the love of God when I can't understand mortal affection and kindness?  I know what it is to love but not how to be loved.  There's another passage that I also don't understand like most normal human beings ought to, the part about love others as you love yourself, that no man hates his own flesh...I was never taught to love myself, I learned that I was the enemy, that all the problems in the world had their origin in me, that I didn't deserve even the least bit of kindness.  How very strange how constant childhood abuse warps what should be natural emotions and ideas about normal relationships!  I must learn the opposite of what scripture teaches everyone else: that I too am a valuable and worthwhile person, deserving of as much consideration as everyone else, that yes, even I can be loved and am worth loving.

He has a special place in His heart for the orphan and the widow, those bereft of everything and overlooked by society and everyone else.  It's just hard realizing that I fall into that category when physical death isn't the tool of bereavement, though I suppose it is a sort of spiritual death, this entombment of one's heart and soul whilst one still draws breath, this willing entrance into Hell while life still lingers.  No matter how wretched my own lot, theirs is worse and willingly borne.  How dreadful a life lived apart from all love and hope and joy, and worse, an eternity away from all Love and Hope and Joy, at least I have that Solace, and you can too, but first you need to realize you need it.  That's the greatest tragedy of all, they don't need anyone or anything else, they are sufficient unto themselves and they don't even realize they are miserable.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The sound of silence

I'm reading through Job right now, it sounds depressing but it isn't, it honestly wrestles with the question 'where is God in the middle of our strife and sorrow?'  I'm also having a bit of a relapse emotionally from childhood trauma triggered by a very dear friend's current struggles with the same, though I think I lived through that to help her live through this.  'Grumpy Cat' dying is news, but the aches and groans of uncountable breaking hearts is just life as usual, unspoken in its agony, but so common we think it's just how life is.  We don't want to deal with it so we'll go scan through grumpy cat memes or videos and anesthetize the agonized parts of our souls until they shrivel into nothingness.  In our world of ultra connectedness we've never been so alone.  But then the comforters that came to help Job out weren't much better than the inane posters on any given message board, mostly extolling themselves and running him down in the process of 'helping.'  They sat in silence together seven days but then they opened their mouths and ruined it.  We can't fix people, that's not our job, but we can give companionship and comfort to those who desperately need it, if we could just put down our phones long enough to notice.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Little bird, little bird

There seems to be an endless parade of holidays and special occasions that I tell myself, 'if I can just get through this day, everything will be okay,' but then Christmas or Mother's Day or a birthday rolls around again and the cycle of grief seems to start all over again.  Is this how Frodo felt, slogging through the Dead Marshes or scrabbling over the rocky wastes of Mordor?  Is this what Job went through, after losing everything and his friends show up to accuse him of some secret evil?  Is this how my grandfather felt after his wife of 65 years died?  Is this how the migrating birds feel, following winter's retreat north through wind and cold and snow and rain, when it seems like spring will never come?

Someone gave me a bird feeder a couple years ago and some really nice bird feed to go with it, but I've been slow to put it out and bad about keeping it filled because we don't live in a place where there are resident birds save in the spring, the winters are too cold and summers too dry.  I've had it out for about a year and have had exactly two birds (a house finch and a hairy woodpecker) anywhere near the thing, though the deer did find it this winter and made short work of what little there was inside.  But occasionally I'd fill it again and hope and watch and wait.  Nothing.  Then the other day I saw an odd bird in a tree near the feeder and finally got to check a pine siskin off my life list.  The day after I had a whole flock and they've emptied the feeder and they seem to have invited their friends, I have five species of sparrows, a couple warblers, and a pair of towhees hanging about, resting and refueling before their final push north.  My usually dead and dull yard is alive with singing and flitting wings, what appeared lifeless and lackluster is proving to be a refuge, a sanctuary, somewhere safe and comforting along an arduous and difficult journey.

Frodo found that in Rivendell and later Lorien.  And we each must find it in our own turn upon this arduous trek called life.  When sorrow or fear beset us, where can we turn to find rest and refreshment?  Where do we look for hope when the night of despair draws about us?  Even Jesus sought such comfort the night before His crucifixion, weeping tears of blood, praying in a night dark garden, but there was no delivery, there was no escape, only strength for the journey.  And it is that final, awful journey that has bought us each hope.  So when you walk through an interminable night, there may be something greater at journey's end than you can begin to comprehend.  Frodo's journey meant life for the world though it seemed only to lead to personal doom.  Where do you turn for hope?  What might lie at the end of your own disquiet night?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

And remove all doubt...

There's an old adage about it being better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt, well here's another example of the modern 'feel good' and 'be popular' philosophy triumphing once again over common sense and truth.  I recently cited the makers of the 'Les Miserables' musical movie and their interesting views of that particular work.  Liam Neeson, the voice of Aslan in the Narnia movies, also made a few odd statements about C.S. Lewis's beloved works being applicable to 'all people and faiths,' are also to be wondered at.  But I suppose this phenomenon should not be surprising in the age where the teachers of literature tell us to read into every work whatever it is we want to find there rather than ruminating upon the truths the author is trying to reveal.  I challenge Mr. Phoenix to find an ancient work outside the biblical narrative that treats women with such respect and significance as do the canonical scriptures.  I challenge each and everyone of us to find the actual truth in any given work or production, rather than reading into it only what we want to see.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Modern Applicability

PBS/Masterpiece Theater came out with a new version of Little Women a year or two ago and I finally got to watch it.  It was amazing!  I've never seen a movie version of this particular book and they did an excellent job.  I'm rather amazed that they could be so true to the book and the mores of classic literature in this 'enlightened' day and age.  Apparently the new 'Anne of Green Gables' had an episode that delved into a modern issue that had no place in the books and I'm glad I haven't started watching that only to rue it six hours in.  They are coming out with a 6 hour Les Miserables too, I read a blurb about it somewhere that was excited about the 'modern applicability' of the new version of the tale, which may be just the spin the writer of the blurb put on it or it may be a very scary thing indeed, but they did a good job with Little Women so maybe Jean val Jean will be in good hands?

It was rather hilarious watching the extras on the musical version of Les Mis that came out a few years back.  The cast and crew was going on and on about how applicable it was to modern sentiments (occupy wallstreet!) and completely missed the entire point of the story, they even waxed long about civil war soldiers carrying the book with them, 'Lee's Miserables' they were called, but not seeming to realize that Lee was on the pro-slavery side of the Civil War, oops!  They are right that these tales do have modern applicability, but not in the way they think.  Human nature does not change, the virtues and vices are unchanged since the dawn of time, though what occupies our cultural attention at any given moment certainly does.

Sending Anne Shirley to a drag ball isn't going to become a timeless tale like the original books because it is a mere cultural moment, not a glimpse of what it is to be human, regardless of your race, gender, sexual orientation, religious creed, culture, time period, hair style, income, education...those are all externals, like clothes or makeup, things that adorn us but it is not Who we are.  Modern culture likes to make What we are, Who.  But classic literature, like God, looks past all that, to the very heart of a person, to know who each and every one of us is.  Anne Shirley, Jo March, and Jean val Jean have endured for over a century because they are human, or rather were written so well we can identify with their struggles, rejoice in their triumphs, and find hope for our own growth in their adventures.  We see ourselves in them, rather than finding just another vehicle to push a political, social, or cultural agenda.

C.S. Lewis has it right when he says humans are immortal though kingdoms, cultures, even the earth itself, will fade away, of all this we currently call 'reality,' only human souls will endure, and it is the development and growth of that soul with which classic literature is concerned, while most modern storytellers are content with cheap and shallow cultural thrills, and their tales pass away as swiftly as leaves upon the wind, while the classics endure, generation after generation, even if the storytellers of the age don't fully comprehend their source material, still light and good shine through for those that have eyes to see, ears to hear, and the open, wonder seeking hearts of little children.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

How to Live like That

Whether you are taking the Dave Ramsey plunge or trying a new diet, revolutionizing your lifestyle to revolutionize yourself is all the rage in this modern era of ours, but I wonder if we have it backwards?  There's nothing wrong with eating better (me) or sticking with a workout plan (the hubby) or getting out of debt or getting a better job or moving to a better neighborhood or spending less time in the web-o-sphere, all of those are laudable accomplishments and may really change your life, but trying to change yourself, who you are as a person, that someone you become when no one is watching, by trying to change external things like diet, exercise, career, location, relationships...isn't going to do all that much for who you really are.

You can get that gender transition surgery or go see a psychiatrist or dye your hair or lose weight or identify as a howler monkey or go back to college or start a non-profit or go off the grid or whatever, but it isn't going to change who you are.  Contrary to popular belief, you were not born 'this way' neither will you stay 'this way,' you are a dynamic individual, different now than when you went to bed last night and you'll be different tomorrow than you are today.  Every thought, word, and action is slowly, think glacial here, changing you, for better or worse.  So if you want to start being a better person you just start saying, acting, and thinking better things, right?  Maybe, the question is, what are 'better things?'

Modern thinkers (why do I want to put quotes around that!) would have us believe we must be tolerant, open-minded, accepting of others (except those who don't believe as the modern thinkers do) but a quote I saw attributed to G.K. Chesterton comes to mind: 'don't be so open-minded your brains fall out.'  Be polite, kind, and respectful of all people, no matter what they believe?, by all means, yes!, but just because I don't happen to agree with you doesn't mean I hate or disrespect you, no one can agree on everything, be it colors or pizza toppings.  I miss the old days of 'agree to disagree,' instead it seems like everyone is ready to pummel everyone else over the silliest things.

Let's skip the political minefield of 'tolerance' and try some other measure of 'better things.'  Food?  Organic, paleo, gluten free, non-gmo, vegan...ugh, that's no better!  Environmentalism...no!  The weather?  Floods, blizzards, wildfires, hurricanes...this is not a good time for even that discussion.  So what is good and right and true?  How can we become better if we can't even define it?  And no, defining it for ourselves doesn't get us anywhere, the 'all chocolate diet' of my preference isn't going to fly in real life, no matter how much I want to believe that it is true.  Which leaves us with one big huge mess, maybe going on a diet is the only way to improve oneself, at least physically we have some consensus on what's desirable, just look at those models...ugh, nothing is safe!

The moderns have totally destroyed rational thought, thanks grandma!  Perhaps we should go back in time a hundred years or more and figure out what was good back then?  But we can't talk to anyone about it, or can we?  Go exhume Jane Austen or one of the Brontes or Louisa May Alcott and see what they think upon the matter, no one is more qualified!  How you ask?  Just dig into a great book and enjoy a little Sense with your addled Sensibilities!  If you want to change that inner person, a steady diet of classic literature is just the thing, it's even gluten free, enjoy!