On Sunday, I stumbled upon a crate of folders and binders, which contained the many papers I wrote when I returned to school to pursue teaching. At forty-years old, I was attending school full-time during the day to complete my English degree, while simultaneously completing my teacher certification at another university at night. In two of those folders, I found a writing assignment about fate versus free will and in another, an assignment to review five children’s books. When I reflected on the five titles I choose, alongside my thoughts on spirituality, I couldn’t help to notice the connections and themes that emerged.
(1970) Are you There God? It’s Me, Margaret – maturity/spiritual journey What is God?
(1980) Stone Fox – HF – inner strength/values – When is God?
(1989) Number the Stars – HF – inner strength/trust/family Why is God?
(1992) Old Turtle – journey/wisdom – Who is God?
(1999) The Bad Beginning – dark humor/family – Where is God?
Like most people, my thinking and beliefs have grown with age and experience. As a seeker, I am always searching for truth and for answers to those big questions in life, especially in reference to the existence of God. The essay I wrote in college in 2002, is far different from what I would write today, but it’s fascinating to have that snapshot of my thinking. Regardless of religion, and whether or not we believe in a higher power, there is much to learn from the human spirit. That’s what the books I selected all have in common. It’s through that human spirit and journey of the soul that each character gains an insight to help make sense of their particular dilemma. With that in mind, I am sharing some favorite quotes from each of the books and briefly contemplate their meaning.
“I lived in New York for eleven and a half years and I don’t think anybody ever asked me about my religion. I never even thought about it. Now, all of a sudden, it was the big thing in my life.” (Are you There God? It’s me, Margaret?) Having been raised in an interfaith family, Margaret is encouraged to choose a faith, but is feeling that pressure. She is struggling with “what” is God. Physiologically, her body is changing which seems to highlight the emotional journey as well.
“But their shoulders were as straight as they had been in the past: in the classroom, on the stage, at the Sabbath table. So there were other sources, too, of pride, and they had not left everything behind.” (Number the Stars) This classic narrative about German occupation n Denmark addresses many themes. However at its core, Ellen’s family ad the entire Jewish population needs to escape. With the help of their Christian friends, most managed to make it to Sweden. This quote reminds me that, even if you lose your home and possessions, your faith remains. The reader along with Annmarie and Ellen seem to be asking, “Why God?”
“God is all that we dream of, and all that we seek,” said Old Turtle, “all that we come from and all that we can find. God is.” (Old Turtle) Through various conversations, a great debate emerges on the question, “Who is God?” Old Turtle shares his deep wisdom.
“Figuratively, they escaped from Count Olaf and their miserable existence. They did not literally escape, because they were still in his house and vulnerable to Olaf’s evil in loco parentis ways. But by immersing themselves in their favorite reading topics, they felt far away from their predicament, as if they had escaped. In the situation of the orphans, figuratively escaping was not enough, of course, but at the end of a tiring and hopeless day, it would have to do.” (The Bad Beginning) Readers are shocked by the tragic events that the Baudelaire children face, but then become equally enamored with their cleverness in outsmarting Count Olaf. Luckily, they are able to escape inside the comfort of their books, when life becomes unbearable and they think, Where is God?
“Little Willy learned that no white man had ever heard Stone Fox talk. Stone Fox refused to speak with the white man because of the treatment his people had received. His tribe, the Shoshone, who were peaceful seed gatherers, had been forced to leave Utah and settle on a reservation in Wyoming with another tribe called the Arapaho. Stone Fox’s dream was for his people to return to their homeland. Stone Fox was using the money he won from racing to simply buy the land back.” (Stone Fox) The parallel between Little Willy and Stone Fox, is that each is selflessly striving to earn money to purchase land, that has been part of their heritage. Like The Bad Beginning, this is a story of the human spirit and the ultimate act of kindness.
Participating in this weekly Slice of Life challenge, has helped to develop my writing muscles. I am always amazed at what “turns up” on the page. Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for providing this opportunity to write within such a supportive community.