Archive for the ‘America’ Category

Re-reading Literature

February 17, 2010

Now that I have a bit more time than I used to have, I decided to read some American literature.  Its a subject that has always fascinated me.  I think, however prejudicially, that America is a pretty special place, and I wanted to dig into the American psyche a bit more.

I went to the library and checked out some college textbooks on American Literature.  Now, I’m not totally illiterate on the subject.  I read a great deal of good American fiction when I was younger, and have continued reading it through life, although at a slower pace when I was busier.  I understood the elements of a story to be: the main character or hero faces a conflict.  The conflict could be a person, situation, or internal crisis.  The conflict gets resolved, and the story ends either with the problem overcome, or the hero learning something vital, which allows the reader to determine how he will then act on his new knowledge.  However, what I read in the Literature texts, almost exclusively, was something else.  What I read seemed to go like this: the main character is in despair, the book explores dark elements of the human psyche, the main character is searching for meaning or happiness or love, and the climax is discovering it doesn’t exist.  The story ends either explicitly with the character’s death, or implicitly, with the character’s disappointment in his or her quest.  It was all pretty dark, depressing material.  It was amazing that I didn’t remember reading very much of this kind of literature in my youth.  Then it hit upon me that perhaps the selection of literature in these texts is biased toward this very negative kind of story.

Searching farther, I read an article explaining the difference between popular fiction and literature.  I expected to find out that popular fiction was lacking description, had shallow, underveloped characters or the like.  Instead, the difference is that popular fiction has the plot I described above, with a conflict resolution and (according to the author of the article) a “happy ending”.  According to this auth0r, true literature described the human condition as it is, with all its “angst”, and lack of answers.  In other words, real life has no happy endings, and no answers, so to write stories that have either of these is to succumb to the lure of writing popular fiction (with the inferior motive of making money) instead of literature.  Another author stated it was impossible for any Christian fiction to ever be considered literature, because a Christian’s unique belief system precludes any “angst” or despair.

Well, all I can say is I wonder if the requirement to study American Literature in one’s first two years of college  is a good thing.  What if it leads those young, mostly teenage students to believe that life is nothing but despair and meaninglessness?  No wonder there are so many college students on antidepressants!  Their beliefs about life have been shattered.  This is totally unnecessary in my judgment, because there are quite a lot of very happy people in the world: people solving their problems and creating good and beautiful things for their families and their posterity.  The intellectual crowd may be the ones out of synch with the “human condition”.  They are staring in despair at a glass thats all but empty, sure there are no answers to their thirst.  The rest of humanity is out to find the faucet.


The Top of the Mountain

December 30, 2009

Once upon a time a young man was told by the wise man of his village that he was to receive a great gift.  Just outside his village was a beautiful, very tall mountain.  Every young man in the village climbed this mountain as a rite of passage into manhood.

The young man strained his eyes to see the mountain peak.  Some days it was covered with cloud, and other days the peak was very clear.  The day after he was told about the gift he would receive, he saw a glint upon the mountain top.  He got a pair of binoculars and looked.  There was a beautiful package on top of the mountain, wrapped in gold and silver and tied with gold and silver twine.  There was no gift tag he could see, but he was sure it was the gift that had been foretold for him.  As he started out to climb the mountain, he saw beside the road, a very large brown sack with his name on it.  He was sure someone was joking about his wonderful gift by leaving such a plain old bag, and he passed it by.

He climbed all day, and in the night he was hungry and thirsty and cold.  He wished he had thought to bring a blanket, water and food, but he remembered that the next day he would receive the great gift on top of the mountain and his discomfort wouldn’t matter then.

He didn’t sleep well for he was very cold.  In the morning he was very hungry and not a little thirsty, but he shrugged it off and began to climb again.  By noon he was very, very weak from hunger and thirst, but he anticipated reaching the package by late afternoon, and by then every need would be satisfied by his present.  By late afternoon, as he approached the gift,  he could see writing on the silver and gold wrapping paper.  The writing said: “wealth, fame, success, admiration”.  His heart beat a little faster as he was sure this package would contain everything his heart desired.  He became weaker and weaker, but at last he reached the package–a box bigger than he was.  He was nearly blinded by the glitter of it all.  He saw the written words, “wealth, fame, success and admiration”, were repeated many times all over the box.  With his last bit of strength, he opened the box, and to his great dismay, it was empty.  He nearly fainted from weariness, weakness, thirst and disappointment.  As he lay near the open box and all the glittering paper, a little creature came by.  Whether the creature was a fairy, an angel or a  human, he couldn’t tell.  The little creature said, “what good are wealth, fame, success and admiration now when you are now dying for what you really need? Nevertheless, I will give you food, water, and the warmth you will need to get back home.  You have climbed the mountain after all, and you are now a man in the eyes of your village”.  “But where is the present I was promised”, demanded the young man.  The creature struggled as it pulled out a large brown bag with the young man’s name on it.  It had a cask of water, food and a big, very warm blanket.  Without this present, he knew, he would never get back home.

Sensing Something Wrong

October 7, 2009

When I was a young woman I worked the night shift for a couple of years.  Then I switched to the day shift, and after a couple weeks transition I was amazed one day to realize how good I felt.  I had so much energy and such a sense of well-being compared to a few weeks earlier, I was finding it hard to believe I had once taken feeling bad for granted.  Sometimes you feel so bad for so long you don’t realize how sick you are.  Our society is like that.  We are living thoroughly unhealthy lives in every area of life.  Our dietary habits are unhealthy.  Our sleep habits are unhealthy.  Our minds are full of disturbing junk.  Our relationships are unsatisfactory and sometimes on life support.  We lack nourishing family and community.  Our spirits are so parched we’re crying out.  Yet we’ve come to accept all of this as “just the way it is.”  We aren’t what we were made for nor enjoying what we were meant to be.  God save us.

Best Selling Self-Help Books

October 7, 2009

For the past 30 or 40 years there has nearly always been a self-help book on the bestseller list.  Some of the personal stories are quite astounding and very inspirational.  I’m very happy for the people who beat addiction or crime and now have a nice life.  I saw a television interview with such a man.  He beat crime and drugs by changing his thinking and his self talk.  Now he is a best-selling author with a family and a nice life.  Very inspirational, but I caught myself thinking “now what?”  So many addicts were very successful people with a family and a nice life.  They all said their life felt empty, meaningless and without purpose.  A meaningless life is painful and drugs numb the pain.  And I asked myself “Where is God in this success story?”  It is from God we achieve our sense of meaning and purpose.  He made us all for a purpose and He tells us what the purpose is.  Without that taproot of purpose I’m like a rose I planted that blooms great for awhile and then dies for lack of a root system.  Getting off drugs is wonderful.  Getting off drugs without God has its limits.  If my car has an empty tank and I need to make a 10 mile trip, I can push the car 10 miles and write an inspirational book about it.  I may receive loads of admiration for my feat in achieving the 10 mile push through sheer will power.  I can also fill my tank with what the car was made for and drive 400 miles in that time.

The Dark Side of Young Fiction

October 7, 2009

The school librarian spoke animatedly about the trends in young people’s fiction.  From the child witches and wizards of the Harry Potter series, through the vampire series, to the futuristic struggles for survival under tyrannical powers, themes of good and evil are explored.  In a naturalistic world, the supernatural in these books is not off limits.  The one thing seemingly off limits is God.  Heroes fight evil, love conquers evil, yet what defines good and what prompts sacrificial love without God as the author of  good and love and the supernatural?  Children have an instinctual appreciation of good and love and God, yet the latter is consistently absent.  Why?

Whose Needs

October 7, 2009

Whenever we hear the case for a government program, we hear sad stories of individuals in distress.  The argument goes that a new government program would be the answer to the person’s problems.  In reality though, there never is a program or a system that fits everyone.  There are always exceptions.  The other reality is that in a country where the government has a program for nearly every problem, the individual hard cases are still hard cases.  They are hard on the program, on the government and on the taxpayers.  Therefore in some European countries, caregivers are being taught they have a responsibility to the society as a whole that is greater than their responsibility to their patient or client.  This really sets professions on their ears when their very reason for existence is healing and helping.  Its creating an identity crisis of mammoth proportions when the healers are told that healing may not be in society’s best interests.  The great irony is that individual hard cases which supposedly justified massive governmental intervention have been the same cases that governments now don’t want to treat, pleading hardship to the society.  There will always be a conflict between individual needs and societal needs.  You can’t balance on the knife edge between them.  It always requires facing up to the society’s ultimate values: the sacred value of each individual life, or the sacred value of the society not to overstretch its economy.

Hidden Taxes

September 13, 2009

I looked at my phone bill last week and wondered why it gets higher and higher as the months go by.  I scrutinized it further and found the actual service charge hadn’t increased, but the taxes on it had increased.  I added up all the different tax assessments added on top of the service charge.  I was amazed at the total.  Then I figured the percent of these taxes to the original charge and I am paying a whopping 17.85% tax on my phone bill!  Now I’m just a little granny, living in a condo, driving a 10 year old car.  I thought my taxes weren’t supposed to be going up.  Truth is, every time a business tax goes up, I the consumer pay the tax through the increased prices.  What would really be fun is to see what the taxes are for various bills I pay.  How much of my gasoline bill is taxes paid by the oil company.  How much of my electric bill is taxes the utilities have to pay.  How much of my grocery bill is taxes paid by the farmer, the trucking company, and the grocery chain.  And now that I know I’m paying more taxes than I ever realized, where is that money going?  Businesses are subject to audits by the IRS.  Charities are subject to audits by the IRS.  We the people are subject to audits by the IRS.  Why isn’t the government subject to an audit by some agency outside the government?  Thats one of the reforms I would like to see.

A Prayer About Healthcare

August 10, 2009

Lord, we know you are in control, and you influence kings and governors for your purposes.  We approach you at this significant time in our nation’s history and ask you to impress your thoughts on our congress as they make decisions about healthcare reform.  Open the eyes of our lawmakers to writings of our forefathers.  Let them consider the things that made this country great.  Please let their decisions be compassionate, let them honor and dignify all human life, let them give dignity to all persons and let them honor our human rights.  Don’t allow them to make government so strong over us that it becomes our god, for whenever government has taken the place of God, it has always become a cruel tyranny.

Did Sarah Palin “make up” the part about death panels?

August 10, 2009

I just read the blog about  “Dean” saying Sarah Palin “made up” the fear of “death panels” for her son Trig.  I also just googled “Ezekiel Emanuel”.  He is the brother of Rahm Emanuel the president’s chief of staff, he is a bioethicist at the NIH, and he is on the whitehouse staff as an advisor for healthcare reform.  While he states he does not support state assisted suicide, he does consider mental abilities when deciding who should get healthcare.  He does support withholding healthcare for people with mental disabilities.  This is not “made up”.  It was just there in black and white.  However, I would suppose by now the whitehouse has managed to pull down every website about Ezekiel Emanuel I just read.  Look anyway.  They might have missed something.

Health Care Retort

August 10, 2009

I am just amazed at the media feeding frenzy over the health care town hall meetings.  People ARE angry.  But instead of analyzing why people might be angry, as the media usually analyzes the “why” of everything, they are in lockstep with insulting the people who are protesting.  Can you imagine the media insulting people who protested the war in Iraq, or anything else?


I think people at these meetings are afraid, because in the past,  the president has favored a single payer system similar to the NHS in England. Perhaps these bills aren’t yet a single payer system, but will possibly be leading to one if the private sector has to support yet more government underfunding and it bankrupts them. Our local hospitals are today in serious financial crisis because of medicare and medicaid cuts. They keep seeing patients, but are running out of funds to make up the difference between what the government pays and what it costs to treat these patients.

I lived with the NHS for six years, and could tell first person stories of what I saw and experienced in our local community. Yes, care is much more scarce and of lower quality. Taxes are much higher. Eventually, a two-tiered system developed because the NHS basically broke down. Its on the verge of breakdown again. It is this kind of a system people fear.

Instead of looking at these issues, the media is labeling and insulting the protesters.  Its a media retort instead of a report