Friday, September 17, 2010

The Help

This book was a new context to me. I never was in a position to have "Help", and I've never known anyone else who did. For us upper-middle class white americans*, it's easy to forget what things were like in the 1950's (or sometimes are like) for people with different circumstances.
Some critics said the book was one-sided, that all the white women were evil, but reading the book, it is impossible to agree.

* All middle class americans describe themselves as "upper-middle class". It's part of the ambition that makes our country prosperous, and a perfect example of the self-delusions that are most common. We all think we're smarter and richer than we really are. But that's ok, because I'm pretty sure that I'm smarter than everyone I've met so far :).

p.s. I read this in April.

Devices and Desires

I read this trilogy back in April.

A more complex style of storytelling, the author uses 5 protagonists to explore how predictable human emotion can be. The first book in the series was possibly the best. The main protagonist in search of laudable personal objectives sets up a war that kills thousands. By the second book, you hope that someone will see through his duplicity, and kill him. By the third book, you're just hoping that he's made some major mistake that will cause the whole thing to fall apart. The biggest failure in these books is that everything goes as planned. Past the point of believability. My enjoyment fell as I realized that the main protagonist was going to be proven correct in all his plans, manipulations and designs. Not only did I want him to fail, I knew he really should have.
3-4.5/5 (at first, a 4.5, then a 3 at the end)

Friday, September 10, 2010

FHE + NPR = Syngergy

Our FHE lesson was an article by Elder Oaks, "The Atonement and Faith". As we read, we felt that he was teaching that atonement is harder than we are taught as children. The atonement and repentance do not save us from all suffering, nor is it as easy as saying "I'm sorry, I promise not to do it again." Melinda wanted to make sure that as our children matured, we should teach them more completely about the atonement. As she talked about it, I realized how something I heard on NPR was connected.

Radio West had a guest who wrote a book: The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. They talked about "modern sensibilities", that taught current generations that we ought to be looking for work that is like our hobby. We ought to love our jobs, that a happy life is predicated on finding that career that we never dread going to work.

Unfortunately, it also teaches the corollary, that if we don't find that perfect job, we should feel unfulfilled. People won't apply for jobs unless they are fit their perfect description, or they quit their job because it's not going in the direction they want. They go on Eat, Pray, Love tours of the world. When they lose their job, they don't find a temporary job to tide them over, they look for months to find a job that is just right.

In a way, the same pressures have been brought to bear on marriage. We should be rapturously in love with our spouses, our perfect mates. And if we are not, we should feel unhappy. People who should be perfectly happy in their marriages will look outside for that spark, that may just be the perfect romantic love. People who should be dating will wait for the chemistry of a crush before saying yes to the first date, or even flirting in the hope of a first date.

These cultural pressures have made "endurance" into a bad word. Endurance gets you through torture without breaking. It means grit your teeth, push through the pain, wait for the perfect outcome on the other side. Forgotten is the idea of finding fulfillment in what we endure. That endurance is about the current experience, and not about the difference between our current circumstances and perfection.

We should endure the imperfections in life, not because at some point all will be perfected, but because through endurance of imperfection, we may find bits of perfection. In a job, we may find the fulfillment of responsibility, or the pleasure of putting in our full efforts. In a marriage, we may endure routine days by finding the perfect moments: quiet moments when in the same room, the pleasure of companionship when running an errand.

Just so, we should endure the suffering imposed by a necessarily imperfect life. We can't avoid the suffering imposed by sins without leaving those sins unaddressed in our lives. We endure that suffering by looking for the perfect lessons. In this way suffering is part of the process of repentance. We use those perfect lessons to crack and soften our hearts. Then we call upon the power of the atonement to reshape our hearts, and seal it against the sin.

At the same time, endurance is not inaction, nor should it imply pacifistic acceptance of unjust circumstances.

What are your thoughts?

p.s. This post was written in May.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hunger Games

Melinda saw her students reading a book, and decided that I would like it. I'm not sure if that's a compliment, seeing as they are 7th graders, but I really enjoyed it.

Written in first person, the book is set in a post-apocalyptic US, with a dictatorial, privileged oligarchy, separated from the working classes through the creation of 12 districts. My first impression was that it was a fun book, something for people who like historical reenactments to feel good about their hobby(trapping and hunting with a bow and arrow are valuable skills). As the book goes on, I felt like there was more hints of a moral dilemma. As in V for Vendetta, there are no moral discussions of the morality of revolution, but it's impossible to avoid thinking about it as you read. Action-packed, quick pace, but teenage characters that sometimes feel archetypal rather than individual.


p.s. I read this back in April, and just now am getting around to post this.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

If you can't create humor out of a military dictatorship, then where can you find it?

via: Abu Muqawama