Archive for June, 2008

When is a Frog not a Frog?

The Space trilogy by C.S. Lewis. I’ve read them before; a long time ago and had forgotten how much I like them. I’m through Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. I really love Perelandra, but I was talking to a friend who said he prefers Out of the Silent Planet by a longshot over the other two. To each his own, right?

I’m not sure why these books aren’t as popular as some of this others- Not the Chronicles of Narnia because they have that appeal to children, along with adults. These are definitely more adult oriented, but they also combine Christian philosophy within the story. Perelandra in particular is a largely about a faith struggle, so it lends itself to considering the puzzles of living in the shadow of the Fall.

The other writer I’ve enjoyed that has the same manner of writing the argument into a fictitous setting, is Brian McLaren. The difference with his works that are written that way is that the story’s purpose is the philosophical discussion whereas Lewis’ writing is a story that, by it’s nature, has to wrestle with the grander questions. Making assumptions would take away from his story.

Out of the Silent Planet is an action movie. Quick moving, lots of input, lots of characters to draw the readers’ attention. Perelandra is, I’d guess purposely, the opposite. Few characters, lush descriptions, little sense of physical danger excepting one section. There’s a last book (it is a trilogy after all) but I’m not through it yet, so that review will have to wait.

What Lewis really does well, as far as Story goes, is that he understands that the conventional assumptions we make can be challenged in the context of the Story intself. It’s not necessary to pull the questions out of the context, like we usually do in children’s Sunday School classes up through the adults’ sermons and lectures. If the Story has something to say, Lewis seems able to tease it out within the story itself. He doesn’t treat his readers with condescention, as if they are unable to figure out the point; so often we feel like we have to explain the story. If the story is worthwhile, can’t it stand by itself? Why do we feel such a need to dissect it and pull out the innards? Do you remember in High School Biology when you dissected a frog? it was a frog, but then those kids tear it to shreds and, really, if anyone took a look at what was left afterward, how many would know that it had started as a frog? How would our audiences know there was ever a Story there to begin with, if we insist on deconstructing it to prove our point? Sometimes, when you kiss a frog you get a Prince-what if we dissected the wrong frog?



a story in a story in a story

My 11 year old son likes to imagine. Sometimes he writes down what he imagines, and sometimes he draws it and other times he just thinks up the idea. He came up with the start of a story. It was a great idea that I haven’t been able to forget. I got involved in adding to it, tacking on details and just fleshing it out in my mind. 

Basically the idea is that there is a girl who is adventurous (my son’s description, verbatim). This girl goes wandering in the woods and finds a tree that fascinates her. It was never there before but it’s so big and old that she can’t imagine the woods without it. It’s bark is lumpy and rough, with lots of spaces around the huge roots for climbing and hiding. as she invesitagates this tree, a door open in it with stairs curving down into the dark. Our girl slowly descends the stairs which open out into a huge library, all golden with soft lamplights, gold and brass, and warm, dark wood.

This simple little idea my son came up with if so full of potential, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. There’s a type of story that is actually a frame for other stories (think Arabian Nights). The other stories can stand on their own, but in the framework they have added reason for their existence and a grander presence.

It’s how I see our stories being part of God’s story. That’s why it’s so important to be a part of His Story. Each of us has our own story and it can exist on it’s own when you look at only that life. But the intersection of that one life with other lives, deepens the meaning of that person’s story. Then placing those intersections, multiple lives and stories into God’s story they can have so much more impact on the individual’s life and their storyline. It gives each person meaning and purpose if they choose to bring themselves into the bigger story. If not, yeah, they can be their own thing, but their meaning is diminished. The little things actually carry a lot of weight in the framework that God provides us. Who wants that?  If asked, who would ever say “I want to be less”?

Alright, so stop reading this, shut down the computer and go be part of the story. It’s what I’m going to do.


Playing games in the gym

Tonight was the first time I’ve been in the same room with them since it the problems happened. Admittedly, it was a gym, which is a pretty big room but it’s an elemntary school gym which isn’t big enough to play the avoidance game effectively. And even thought the problems are yesterday’s news at the school, there are still repercussions in our family.

Tonight, I watched my son receive all kinds of awards for things that you only get patted on the back for when you’re a kid. He had a great year and is very ready to move on to the next phase of his life in the educational system. But last year, I had another son in the same school and also in fourth grade who never had the chance to hear that he was acceptable, worthy of awards, or even a worthwhile human being. He had to leave school for a season because he was unable to meet the demands of the teacher and I was unable to send him back to try and fail every day. Can you imagine the depth of wounds like that on the heart of a 10 year old?

I can honestly, as a parent, own up to the pain it causes me. I’m past the anger but I suffer for him. I cheat my other children out of what should be fun, joyful events. And I thought he did so well this year at another school that the whole thing might have faded in his memory. I was wrong. A few days ago, he started talking about how he had to miss this celebration when he was in fourth grade. He mentioned kids picking on him and wondered what was wrong with him. He asked why he didn’t fit in anywhere. After having a great school year with friends and successes that we would have thought could never happen when we saw it in the shadow of last year, why does he still feel like there is something wrong with him? Why is it that earning an award for his citizenship in his class reminds him of the expectations he couldn’t live up to last year instead of the the ones he exceeded this year?

I managed to run into both of the people I was trying to avoid. I’ve seen one a few other times during this school year and had found stable ground for our conversations-keep it short and ingore the situation altogether. Tonight was the first time I had any contact with the second person. You’d have thought we never met before instead of having spent six months trying to work out problems together. We didn’t just ignore the siutation, we ignored each other.

Plastic, happy people, smiles plastered on our faces, pretending nothing is out of sync. Teaching our kids that it’s better to stuff it down, hide it and pretend.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. No one has to live inside a fake plastic mask. We can rupture the whole system just by getting off the merry-go-round long enough to say “Hey, this is hard for me; it hurts. I’m not happy and I’m not asking you to fix it but I won’t fake how I feel, either.” Maybe then enough people will find what they need to move beyond the pain and rejection they feel.

Maybe then people can begin to find that it really is possible to be happy.


Verbal Petri dish

Thanks to marko for finding this amazing little web gadget-visuwords.

Ok, yeah, it’s only worth playing with if you happen to like words (a lot). Type in a word. I tried “great” which wasn’t the best first choice, so try something else. Then it springs into action with all these scientific looking nodes with branches off of each one. That was fun but then, if you double click on some of the nodes, the whole thing expands in this cool little petri dish way and it’s like word association without the mental gymnasics that are usually involved. it’s a good distraction and, potentially, a handy little tool.