Exploring where life and story meet!

Monday, November 30, 2015

'That glorious song of old'

The 'Holidays' are coming up, whatever that means in modern society and culture, but amidst all the tinsel and cheesy inflatable reindeer, in a world of broken families, for many it means extra salt in the never healing wound of loneliness.  I used to abhor mother's day back when I was stuck on an adoption waiting list for the first time, but I think the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is far worse for many people, not because they are related to the Grinch or go by the unfortunate name of Ebenezer Scrooge, but because they feel like the whole world, everybody but them, is warm and cozy before a dying fire, surrounded by loved ones, whilst Nat King Cole croons in the background, as they sip hot cocoa and enjoy a homey silence.  As with social media, everyone's life but yours is wonderful and perfect.  It is all a lie, the oldest lie, old as the world itself, but one particularly felt in our increasingly socially isolated culture at this time of year.

We all yearn for that paradisiacal feeling of belonging and togetherness and peace and hope and joy, it is that for which we were designed.  It is 'deep calling out to deep.'  But outside a Currier and Ives print or a Christmas movie, such is not to be found on this mortal earth.  We are all lonely, broken, wounded, and estranged from our true home.  There was a time when our poor race knew such perfection, but a serpent whispered 'ye can be gods,' and we believed him.  And we are gods, just miserable ones.  And that wretched snake still whispers: it will all be well if only…  But even if we achieve the if only, we are still unhappy and soon chasing after another vain if only.

I'd like a baby for christmas, yes we're moldering on a wait-list again, and I keep hinting just as much in my prayers.  And the response?  I already got a baby for Christmas.  Strange I could forget such a vital part of my own mythology!  We were mortals intent on becoming gods and here God took on flesh and dwelt among us.  We don't have to be lonely any more, we don't have to chase the if onlys, we can love Christmas again or perhaps for the first time.  Because that baby came for Christmas.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dystopian novels and their uses

I remember reading 'Brave New World' in junior high and hating it, mostly because I was hoping for a good story and did not understand dystopian novels and their warning to those who think to somehow create a Utopian society here on earth.  I personally prefer the 'happily ever after' genre but anti-utopian novels certainly have their place and purpose and now that no one is forcing me to read them, our paths can safely bifurcate.  But one thing that still stands out, even twenty years later, was society's insistence that the government could raise and educate children ever so much better than their parents, that the family had outworn its necessity to society and its usefulness thereto.  I remember a bad version (bad in that it was unfaithful to the book) made for television back in the 90's with a scene with babies growing in gallon jars or something like that; people were no longer born but made or grown like so much corn.

At the time I really did not 'get it.'  Family was a concept foreign to me, though I didn't know it back then.  What was so scary about the government taking over the raising and nurture of children?  I was technically one such myself after all.  At home I basically got fed and had a corner to sleep in like some stray dog, but for anything important or vital to my knowledge of humanity and society, that was left to the day care and public school to impart.  I was a content little automaton, mostly because I was completely ignorant of what I was missing at the time.  The main problem with this little equation is that there is very little of humanity left to it.  Humans are not robots that absorb information and then go out into society to function for the benefit of all.  We are living, breathing, feeling, thinking, creative, social beings and need to be treated as such.

The government wasn't there to congratulate me at my graduation or to celebrate my wedding or condole with me while we languished on an adoption wait list.  And anytime I have tried to interact with it, it has been an impersonal, confusing, frustrating, inefficient disaster (yes, I just filled out my health insurance stuff!).  If they can't manage the post office, they definitely shouldn't be in the childcare business.  People to them are not people but problems, more work, a nuisance, a number.  But a number is by definition not a person, it is a unit.  If we were automatons or sheep, we could be mass produced but we are not, we are unique and feeling individuals with unique needs and wants, which is where the family comes in.  Your mother (in general, in situations such as mine, it is not true) knows and cares about you far more than any teacher or day care worker and thus is far more likely to produce a happy, healthy, and well adjusted person than any government program.

I had an education, I had knowledge, I was relatively healthy, but I sure wasn't happy or well adjusted. I wasn't even human.  Then came love and sorrow and suffering and waiting and frustration and joy.  And now I'm human.  I have a soul.  I am a person.  I'm broken and I cry sometimes, but I don't have to pretend to be perfect because I'm not and I'm loved anyway.  That's what it is to be human.  We need love, joy, hope, purpose, not just an education and food and clothes and a job and an iPhone.  Otherwise we are just automatons.  I think that's what that whole book was about (Brave New World): a man finding that he had a heart, discovering what it was to truly be human.  Strange that it took so long for me to discover such a parable about my own life.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Failed subplots

Just when you finally get life figured out or have it all together or the stars finally align and everything is going to work out perfectly you turn the page and there's a big fat plot twist.  Yes, you are living in a novel or rather a fairy tale, because novels of the usual generic sort aren't allowed to have happy endings and don't allow for miraculous happenings.  'Miraculous happenings?!' you ask.  But of course.  Take a breath: miracle!  Look at that picture on the wall: miracle!  Your very basic body functions, your thoughts, your senses are all quite miraculous in and of themselves, but we have become so used to them we take them very much for granted.  How about the computer or device you are reading this post on?  Sunsets?  Stars?  Cells?  Organisms?  Life?  Birth?  The Universe?  Conscious thought?  Literature?  You get the idea.  There is no such thing as 'normal' or an 'ordinary life.'  Every breath, every heartbeat is a miracle and wonder in and of itself, how much more an entire lifetime of such?

Plot twists?  Ah yes, I get a little distracted…squirrel!…as I was saying, plot twists…yes…I should have known better.  Just looking back at the strange tale that is my own life should have taught me that, but I fell victim to the formulaic expectation of modern materialistic thinking: it will work out because it should, it must!  I had my checklist, everything was perfectly in order, we had only to wait and wait and wait and well then nothing.  All that anticipation and dread that it wouldn't work out (or that it might) was in vain.  And strangely, I am much more at ease with myself now that I know it won't happen than I was in that state of hopeful anticipation when it might, should, must happen.  Where do you draw the line between hopeful anticipation and getting yourself so worked up with false hope that the failure thereof leads to dejection?  How do you keep from becoming cynical and bitter in the face of dashed hopes?

We are in a story after all.  Go to the Author!  The one advantage we have over fictional characters is that we are aware that we are actually characters in a story (His story) and we can also petition our Creator if the plot line becomes a little distressing.  So that minor subplot didn't work out, there will be others, and for all I know there's a better one just around the bend.  The Author knows far better than I what I need and supplies that rather than giving me just what I want, when I want it.  My toddler is also starting to figure that out in relation to his parents, you'd think I would be a quicker study!  At least the tale is never dull!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The salt and its savor

I wish I could have an actual discussion with people, I mean about something besides the weather or the price of cattle (yes, we live in a rural area and no, I don't know anything about sports).  But in our 'enlightened' modern culture, I run into two major stumbling blocks to real conversation: people are not used to thinking and don't know why they do or do not agree with a certain idea and anything you say might offend someone.  It used to be quipped that politics and religion were not to be discussed in polite company, now it seems that just about anything of substance is anathema unless you know exactly what your companion believes and you agree wholeheartedly with one another.  In this civilized age, disagreement is a form of hatred, just post something slightly controversial on Facebook and see what happens: you'll be virtually stoned.  I thought we had progressed beyond mob violence?

First, people have lots of opinions, many of them contradictory, but few know why they actually believe what they do.  They read it online, their mother said so, their professor insists it is true, everybody knows that or whatever is reason enough to defend something vehemently.  What is so dangerous about GMOs (genetically modified organisms)?  Why is Christopher Columbus evil?  Vaccines cause autism?  And ten thousand other things that if you say something contrary to someone's deeply held belief, you are suddenly a hater and the worst of all people even though they haven't a clue why they hold that opinion in the first place.  So instead, we talk about the weather.  It saves us from having our feelings hurt, offending someone, and having to think about anything.  It also limits us to superficial friendships, tedious social interactions, and we'll never learn, grow, or change as people.

The crazy thing is nobody agrees on anything, let alone everything!  Try ordering a pizza for a group of three or more and see what happens.  How much more so on topics of actual importance.  But no, we'll discuss that latest episode of whatever or that new movie (the 34th remake of that particular film) instead.  Yawn.  We'll just fiddle while Rome burns.  There are major problems in the world and in our own town, but if we just ignore them, they'll go away.  We'll turn on our media device and pretend they don't exist, and better yet, then I don't have to interact with anyone either as 'I'm busy.'  We'll create our own little virtual world where it is happy and safe and non-threatening and I won't be exposed to 'offensive' material and don't have to think but can just 'be,' whatever that means.  Double yawn.

I look back at the insipid and 'educational' TV shows and books I was exposed to as a child and wonder if that is someone's ideal of what the world should be.  I was insulted that they thought I would enjoy such a dull presentation of the world.  No danger, no uncertainty, no sorrow, no risk; no flavor, no zest.  Like soup without salt, it was a presentation I just could not stomach.  Where there is no risk or danger there is no hope, no joy, nothing worthwhile.  The price of Love is the risk of sorrow.  We could be robots: programmed to be good and perfectly obedient, but our world would be dull, drab, and colorless and completely lacking in meaning.  But we are not robots, we can rebel, we can disobey, we can be naughty, but we can also be redeemed.  Someone took a risk, gave us a choice, paid the price for Love and even though it cost Him everything, He still gives us that choice, everyday, every moment, we may crucify Him anew if we wish.

But we are afraid of Love, we saw what it cost Him, and fear what it might cost us.  So we hide behind phrases like 'live and let live,' 'politically correct,' and so forth.  We insist on being robots, on being unsalted broth, on foregoing any color in our lives.  We would rather exist than live.