Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Transitions and Ambivalence

This year I've been reading the history books of the Bible interspersed with the prophets who lived and prophesied at the same time. One of the things that leapt out this reading, especially in the context of the Northern Kingdom, were violent transitions. How grateful I am that our system of government allows for a smooth transition of power from one presidency to another! We are not a coup-friendly nation, and I am profoundly thankful for that.

Obama wasn't my candidate. McCain wasn't either, but he had my vote because his ideology and values are closer to my own and I believed he would do a better job of leading this nation. But now Barack Obama is my president (elect) and while there is disappointment and concern. I am also intensely moved by the significance of his election.

It struck me most profoundly when I heard a radio reporter mention watching Jesse Jackson weeping on television (as a TV-free zone I rely on radio for real-time descriptions of events). It's powerful for me that we have elected a self-identified black man to the highest office in the land - but I'm a middle-aged white woman who grew up in a racially diverse part of Los Angeles and the truth is, I have no idea what full-on racial prejudice feels like.

So hearing this reporter describe with a sense of awe that Jesse Jackson wept continually, wept like a young child, I realized how extraordinary this election is for the black community-- something they felt was out of their reach as a race has been grasped resoundingly, and not only by blacks but by all races. The Presidency is not a referendum on race but Obama's win required the support of myriads of white voters - and I hope that fact serves as a balm to the weary and torn souls who've been encouraged to view all of life through the lens of racism.

I pray that Obama will be a great and wise President; I pray that he is not a man of the Chicago machine but proves to be his own man and a man with a true heart for the Lord.

The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it
like a watercourse wherever He pleases.

Proverbs 21:1

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Redistribution of Peanut Butter Sandwiches...

Much has been made lately of Barack Obama's "spread the wealth around" philosophy, taking from Joe-the-plumber to give to the guys "behind him," to give them an equal chance to succeed as well as Joe has. But don't they already have an equal chance? Aren't the variables found in our individual gifts, abilities, vision, and work ethic? Or do we aspire to realize the nightmare of Kirk Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron short story? yikes--

When I indulge my indolent self, I accomplish much less than when I deliver a pep-talk to my go-getter self-- it's kind of the "two dogs at war within me" scenario.*

Being a television-free zone, I haven't been over-exposed to television ads or last night's Obama infomercial (caveat emptor: there is no money-back guarantee on this purchase and no 'do-over.' Bearing that in mind I've been fascinated by Obama's strong encouragement that people vote early instead of waiting until Election Day; it sounds so much like, "Vote for me now before you learn something that might change your mind--") but I've heard several references to Obama sharing his peanut butter and jelly sandwich in elementary school and his apparent comparison of that experience with his desire to redistribute wealth or, in his own words, "spread the wealth around."

I don't think so.

In fact, children sharing and trading lunches and sandwiches in elementary school is much more a 'free market' economy than a government redistribution economy. Remember? How often could you trade your liverwurst sandwich to another kid? I liked liverwurst but even I didn't want someone else's liverwurst sandwich; I liked the way my mom made them.

What Obama wants is for the teacher to collect all the lunches, pick out her favorite things, and then hand them back out the way she sees fit, so that it's 'fair' according to her own agenda. Guess who is 'the teacher' in Obama's left-leaning utopia?

But what if she cuts everything into pieces and divides it up, passes it back? She's still going to 'take her cut' of the pieces. In a classroom of 40 students (which was routine for my generation), she'd cut everything up into 45 pieces and she'd keep those extra 5 pieces. Maybe she'd cut it up in to 50 pieces and keep 10% and, as in the first scenario, some of those goodies are never going to be 'redistributed' back down to the classroom.

That nice piece of chocolate cake? Gone.

Now, for the kid whose mother is a drunk and who routinely gets margarine sandwiches, this is hopeful. But in your standard schoolyard economy, some kids are going to notice that he rarely gets a decent lunch and share - at least, that's what we did in the early 60s and I can't believe that my generation, the self-obsessed generation, was more inherently generous than the generations which follow.

*A man observed there were two dogs at war within him: one that does good and the other does evil. When asked which dog wins, he replied: "The one I feed the most."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Aslan is not a stuffed Lion

Like so many fans of the Inklings and mythopoeia, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams, fantasy and yes, even Harry Potter, I went to see the new Narnia movie Prince Caspian.

What a disappointment.

I went with my son & daughter-in-law and grandkids; I wore my C.S. Lewis Centenary Celebration t-shirt, the one with Nancy-Lou Patterson's great illustration of Bacchus' wild girls, from the spectacular Mythopoeic conference in Wheaton in 1998.

Spoilers follow, so if you don't know the book and you wish to remain in blissful ignorance until you've seen the film, cease and desist reading now.

The Peter Jacksonification of Narnia:

It's not fair to blame Peter Jackson, horror-film director made rich and famous by turning Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings into an action-driven horror-fest in place of a character-driven epic of high fantasy. Someone, somewhere, must have thought, "ah, these films are popular because of the really impressive battle sequences!" and Walden Media, God bless their pointed little heads, thought, "ah, we must do really impressive battle sequences in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - we can even film in New Zealand!"

I was disappointed in the first film, particularly in the characterization of Peter as whiny and bossy and troubled. This invented characterization has grown larger and more putrid in Prince Caspian, which starts with him fighting *yet again* with school mates. Where is High King Peter, where is illustration of the point, repeated over and over again by Lewis, that the children start to reacquire the maturity and skills they developed in their first stay in Narnia?

Now, fine, if a person thinks there's an interesting psychological story, to look at the impact of the 'Kings & Queens grown up in Narnia, back to childhood in England' experience, tell that story independently - but it's not the story Lewis told -- it's not Prince Caspian. These are children's books, children's magical fantasy stories, rich with spiritual meaning and interesting questions. The Walden Media people ignore most of the interesting questions and contort the spiritual content.

My son's lovely wife never read the Narnia books in childhood so she came to the film without expectations to be dashed; she came away very confused. "You know at the end, when Aslan says Peter and Susan won't be returning to Narnia because they learned the lessons they were supposed to learn? What did they learn?" Good question. Perhaps they were meant to learn you don't rely on your own understanding but you follow Aslan even when it doesn't appear to make sense - in which case, they didn't learn it.

Every question she had was related to the inventions of the filmmakers: "why did they attack the castle? Why did Caspian try to attack the Old Narnians? Why didn't Peter kill Miraz if it was a challenge to the death? What was Lucy doing? Why did she leave and ride through the forest?"

Yes-- most egregious of all. Aslan, who is not a tame lion, turns out to be a stuffed lion; Lucy has to return to the place she last saw him in order to fetch him.

Give me a break!

So, to recap the confusion: these are children's books so the battles can't have any blood (swords drawn out without gore) BUT they're Peter Jacksonified so we need more battles; these are books written by a man who enjoyed a smoke and a pint BUT that would confuse American evangelicals (apparently believed to be incapable of handling the rich, full humanity of Clive Staples Lewis) so we'll delete all the festivities with Bacchus and Pan and the wild girls (--so much for my t-shirt--); for entirely unclear reasons we change the two conniving Telmarine lords into a conniving lord and a reluctant victim lord and instead of having them initiate the accusation of treachery during the challenge when Peter steps back to allow Miraz to regain his feet, the filmmakers invent a sequence where High King Peter refuses to kill his opponent during a 'fight-to-the-death' challenge, passes the task off to Caspian (who also declines, showing himself weak), and thus make for a very clumsy accusation of treachery (using one of Susan's arrows, of all things).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sad Realities and Doomsday Book

We all lived through the Millennium without the power grid collapsing or the internet imploding or turning into cannibals. And after the initial shock and horror of the terrorist attacks on the east coast on 9/11/01 and months, perhaps even a year, of expecting another assault but none came, we've fallen back into our sense of safety and dismissal. I fear we've become a little smug.

Still, I couldn't help think of Connie Willis' brilliant novel Doomsday Book when a Ship of Fools hell thread started about a deadly flu outbreak in Hong Kong.

Paula DiSante and I optioned Doomsday Book from Connie back in the mid-90s and spent three years trying to get the puppy greenlit (not sufficient Hollywood juice ~ sigh). Paula's adaptation was brilliant, even Connie liked it and authors never like the truncated script version of their baby (too much like taking someone's lithe, leggy dream teen and handing them back a dwarf and saying, "well, of course we had to make it shorter..."). But this is one time I'd be very happy for one of my favorite SF writers not to be prescient-- *whimper* --I'm not looking for a modern Tyhpoid Mary à la 12 Monkeys by Terry Gilliam; we've already demonstrated our hubris in that we're unwilling to call for quarantines.

Still, if you haven't read it, do--

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Poem for My Father--

Shortly before Thanksgiving, while working with my organizer lady, I had a profound emotional experience; the next day I read in Diana Glyer’s The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community about Owen Barfield writing a poem for C.S. Lewis on the first anniversary of his death and it struck me that I should write about what happened the day before. This is the result:

in sorting, shifting house
I came upon my dead father's watch, a wristwatch
with large face and metal band
that marked it as of a certain time
in marking time

In my throat there caught and formed a swelling egg of grief, of loss

Brushing lightly across the well of tears
I staved them off
suppressed them as inconvenient
for I was working and not alone

Please, I pray, do not let this be a final dismissal
of his import or my gratitude

He was as large as life: expansive and wise
fixed and blindered
quick to laugh and quick to glare
too smart by half and always giving credit where perhaps little credit was due

I am his true child

I will miss him until Heaven.

November 15, 2007 © Lynn Maudlin, all rights reserved