‘Emmanuel’ God With Us!

Here we are with yet another year to add on to the tale of our lives. How the story grows, and how the plot thickens as time moves steadily forward, as obstacles arise, and conflicts threaten resolution; nevertheless, time pushes us ever onward, towards our final, fatal destiny.

The eternity of the soul cries out and welcomes Emmanuel, God with us. And because God is present with us, we are able to make sense of this time-based narrative that leads us, not to denouement, but to an eternal story, a timeless story with unlimited resources, without sickness, without strife, without separation from and loss of those whom we love. Essentially, we have a story with no conflict to build tension, no suspense, nothing but fulfillment! Hard to imagine that being remotely interesting…yet, unending fulfilment, or should I say wholeness, is our hope.

Because the author of our story introduced the character of Jesus, a word (logos) that is living and breathing, clothed in mortal matter: the flesh; a word that transcends language and cultural barriers; a word that declares, “Peace and Good will to all,” we now have a story of hope, not despair; love, not hate; unity, not strife; prosperity, not harm: A comedy, not a tragedy!

O Come O Come Emmanuel!

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YA Fiction

To prepare for teaching high school students, I’ve been forced to read a pile of Young Adult Fiction. For the most part, I’m not impressed by YA Fiction. I find it loaded with social and political ideology, and it often takes a moralizing tone. I’m not speaking of the Harry Potter books, by any means. These have focussed entirely on building great, likeable characters, intriguing plot and terrifying adventures. Rather, I’m speaking of books like The Chrysalids, The Giver, Among the Hidden, Farenheit 451, The Outsiders, The Maestro, The Crazy Horse Electric Game, etc…

Many of these books are dystopias which are political by nature. What if the government had complete control?>>> blah blah blah. Can I say that if this is all we give kids to read, I can see why video games are so popular! Still, there is always a good point or two to make about any and all of these books. But why is it that good YA fiction is so hard to find?

Public vs Private: For Everything there is a time and a place

Lately the issue of public versus private has been on my mind. Many bloggers are describing their feelings of unease over the mixing of the public and the private through the blogging medium. I certainly feel this tension. I have a couple of blogs that I keep up: a personal blog that relays information to family and close friends, and this public one that I use to document general information about my life and thoughts.

I have long thought that blurring private with public is a mistake. The feminist movement had difficulty with these boundaries because the notion of "feminine" was associated with the private life, and "masculine" was associated with public life. Many women thought that in order to bring themselves to the public life, they had to mix private with public. They didn’t consider their capability to take on a masculine, public role. (Nor was it socially acceptable for them to do so.)

Honor of the Queen by David Weber is a sci-fi novel that explores this theme of feminine and masculine roles in society. Honor is a woman, and the captain of the starship, Fearless. She is tall, strong, brave, smart and objective—everything one can hope for in a good captain. In fact, if I replaced “she” with “he” in the story, there are only a few moments where I would feel that the “he” doesn’t fit. At one point, after work in her private quarters, the story briefly describes Honor’s personal enjoyment of hot chocolate and cats. Another point is when Honor empathizes with one of her officers and he becomes embarassed. Here the reader realizes that Honor, to be successful, must keep feminine characteristics at bay. Honor’s mother is another character that highlights how Honor is unusual, and therefore successful. Honor’s mother teases her about men, and love, but Honor is embarrassed by her mother’s comments and gives them very little time, thinking only how unattractive she would be to the opposite sex, due to her size and strength, and position.

I think this story is really talking about public and private roles in society, not only masculinity and femininity. Codes of masculinity are rules of public, war-like, competitive behaviour, and codes of femininity are codes of private, peace-loving, domestic behaviour. When alone Honor is free to think in terms of love and relationships, comforts, beauty, and emotion. When in her professional role, Honor must be objective, strategic, strong, and brave. Still, Honor is confused about her public and private roles, and does not develop a strong personal life. (This may reflect the author's own confusion about roles and code-switching in different contexts.)

Throughout time the blurring of public and private has caused problems. Men, who were raised to be knights, warriors, protectors, and hunters, found domestic life difficult because it felt like they were being feminized at home. Some responded to this by leaving, or engaging in risk-taking activities whenever possible to prove they are still men (think of Deliverance) and some responded by acting like aggressive warriors in their own home, abusing and battering their family members when the security of the family seemed threatened. (There are of course many responses but these are generalizations) Women, bringing their private, domestic code into the public life made things very complicated, and they were responsible for creating destabilizing effects in the workplace. Even now there is a real conflict between top levels of government, who must be responsible for protecting the business, organization, or nation, by competitive behavior, or engaging in war (masculine/public roles) and those who are against any type of aggression, muscle-showing, or competitive roles in society.

My opinion is that there is a time and a place for everything. Code-switching is an important skill in all areas of life. We don’t go into a high-class restaurant and act like we would at McDonalds. We code-switch. We try not to use jargon when we go for a job interview. We code-switch. I think, too, that in public life, we need to code-switch. I don’t think that domesticating the public world is any more beneficial to the public, than publicizing the private is to the private life. I also find I’m very uncomfortable in a world that blindly accepts Foucault’s idea that anything private or hidden is shameful and must be brought out into the public eye. There is nothing shameful about the private life remaining private. But that is another topic…

Pretentious

One of the most effective silencers of people and their opinions is to label them in the negative. Thus the political correctness regime, that labelled certain opinions as "politically incorrect," has silenced what seems the majority of Canadians on many current issues. The Anti-Oppressive movement within Education tells us that labels are bad. We shouldn't label people. Yet, during our class discussion the other day, my opinion was labelled "pretentious" and I was silenced…almost.

Of great value to contemporary Education is the exploration/subversion of our white, privileged, patriarchal assumptions, including the assumptions that formed our great canon of literature. One of my beliefs about "great" literature is that it is great because it has universal appeal, aspects that delight, amaze, or can be identified with by all people, regardless of race, gender, or time. Why else is Homer's Odyssey still widely read and appreciated, 2500 years, and a multitude of cultures after it was first written down? We are all human, (all who read anyway, lest I fail to represent animals, creation, and spiritual identities) and we have commonality in our humanity. However, the "sacred" question of post-colonial academics is: "Who has been written out of this text?" In other words, who is not represented in this story, poem, etcetera? While this is a good question to explore when addressing history (whose story), or even when addressing the canon, I don't find this a beneficial question to ask of a piece of literature. First, it is impossible to represent or include all people groups when I sit down to write a poem, a personal expression of my experience of life. Second, the fact that I can enjoy a poem written by a person from another time, gender, or culture, even though my time, gender, or culture has not been represented suggests that there is some element of literature that can be identified with by people of all times and cultures. If this is true, can anyone, then, really be written out of a text? I think the answer is "no," because great literature is great because it appeals to, informs, and expresses common human experience.

The real question that should be addressed is whether what we believe to be universal is in fact universal, or is it just cultural? Had my professor been less interested in silencing an alternate point of view, and more interested in searching out truth, this would have been a good discussion.