Friday, November 21, 2008

Fiction and not-so-fictitious living

Frequently, I wish I were a character in a book. I wish that as I turned corners in my life, I could bump into my narrator telling my story. How would she depict my life? What seemingly insignificant details would she pull out of my life, choosing to weave beauty from the mundane? How would she describe my manner, and how would she support her case? What do I look like, what are my flaws? How would my relationships with others be portrayed?
Perhaps I crave this description because I love to analyze myself, others, and the way I fit in my world. I would love to hear another, more omniscient, creator figure describe me as she sees me - to show me how I fit into the greater plot, to display the repurcussions of actions, to show me who I am. Maybe I would like to "see as [I] am seen." Does anybody else ever want this, or am I a total book nerd?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Les Miserables

As I was listening to some music from Les Mis this week, I began to think about sin, Satan's tactics, our reactions, and the Atonement. In Les Miserables, Valjean commits the sin of stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving nephew. His 19 years in prison do not suffice for retribution; like Cain, he bears the mark of his ill deed for all to see. He is forever a slave to this sin; people won't forget; people won't forgive, even though this misdeed did not directly impact their lives. His sin is continuously displayed, reminding him that he will always be a slave to his past mistakes.
Some people struggle with more obvious sins, and others - for whatever reason - are forced to wear their sins on their sleeves. When this is the case, no matter the size or quality of the sin, we tend to be more judgmental, less forgiving. As the villagers in Les Mis we seem to sing "You broke the law, it's there for people to see. Why should you get the same as honest men like me?", obliterating the memory of our own sins and replacing it with disdain for another's. We play God, taking it upon ourselves to judge and dole out terms of payment. In this manner, we slam the breaks on another's progression, forever detaining him in his sinful stage. We mute the possibility of change, place the label, and box him into a role of sinner.
Valjean's hope for freedom and a new life is quickly replaced with the reality of man's reaction to his sins. Valjean cries, "Now every door is closed to me. Another jail. Another key. Another chain... And now I know how freedom feels, the jailer always at your heels. It is the law!" The irony in the last line frequently makes me feel a bit guilty. The law should be there to make us free, not the opposite. It should enable us, provide us with new freedoms; but too often, because of our own insecurities and guilt, we cause the law to be restrictive and overactive. We hold past offenses over past offender's heads, as if to dare them to try and succeed with the Scarlet A we have branded them with.
After all this rejection, the bishop, instead of condemning Valjean for his ripe sin, provides Valjean with freedom, with a reason to hope and live. He enables Valjean a rebirth, to become the man that the bishop sees he can be. Through the bishop's gift, Valjean's previous sins are forgotten and he is allowed to move beyond his past mistakes. In this act of true selflessness, the bishop essentially pays for Valjean's sins with his silver - something that Valjean did not deserve and could never pay for. He abates those calling for justice and provides mercy to one sorely needing it. This gift is the true gift of freedom - freedom because the sin is no longer remembered, and freedom because it is given to start anew, disentangled from the past and its mistakes. Freedom from ourselves, freedom from other's judgments, and freedom from Satan's grasp.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Red, yellow and orange

All elements conspired this morning to paint a fall masterpiece before my eyes. In an incident that I would not normally deem happy, a truck let fly all of the glorious papers that were supposed to be kept under wraps in its bed. Drawing from a palette of warm pumpkin, burnt orange, mustard yellow and apple red, these small, square papers danced through the air as cars stirred and wind spurred them on. I felt cozily blanketed as vibrantly colored papers fell around my car. As the papers flitted about, my eyes caught the reflection of these colors in the trees surrounding me. What resulted was a dancing sea of autumn, and I could hardly keep my eyes on the road. I don't know if it's normal to get so excited about colors, but I felt an acute awakening at such a poignant display of color and motion.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


What are heartstrings really? And when something tugs at our heartstrings, where exactly is it tugging? I can never seem to find this elusive anatomical part.