Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: nonfiction Page 1 of 17

The Splendid and The Vile: New Read

I picked up The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson at Costco a few months back while I was shopping with my mom. I try to cruise carefully (so that not too many throw themselves into my cart as I pass) through the books while I’m there just in case there’s a book that I recognize…or is about books, bookstores, libraries, etc. I can’t help it! I must bring them home! So far, I have had a pretty good record there.

When I saw a new book by Erik Larson, I grabbed it. I devoured The Devil in the White City last year, so this one is bound to be brilliant. And it’s about WWII and Churchill, something I already know a good bit about.

I started reading just before dawn this morning, after I finished an article in Creative Nonfiction magazine. That’s a new habit I’ve started, reading a magazine article first instead of scrolling through social media on my phone. I love magazines, but I tend to buy them and then never finish reading them because I set them aside for afternoon reading and then forget about them.

The new system is working because I’ve already finished one, and I’m halfway through another. It just goes to show that setting priorities for things you say you want to do does work. First things first! Right?

As I’m writing this, I’m 25 pages into The Splendid and the Vile. This man is amazing. More people should be writing history this way. From his introduction:

“Although at times it may appear to be otherwise, this is a work of nonfiction. Anything between quotation marks comes from some form of historical document, be it a diary, letter, memoir, or other artifact; any reference to a gesture, gaze, or smile, or any other facial reaction, comes from an account by one who witnessed it. If some of what follows challenges what you have come to believe about Churchill and this era, may I just say that history is a lively abode, full of surprises.”

And I love every moment I’m reading his books because he writes this way.

Here’s one more that caught my attention just before I closed the book this morning:

“But a civilian diarist named Nella Last had a different view, one she reported to Mass-Observation, an organization launched in Britain two years before the war that recruited hundreds of volunteers to keep daily diaries with the goal of helping sociologists better understand ordinary British life.”

I volunteer! Much of what we know about the details of the past comes from the diaries, not only of famous or important players, but regular people. People like you and me, just humming along our lives, jotting down notes about out thoughts and experiences. THAT’S why I keep a personal journal. And it’s why I encouraged friends and family to keep their own back when the shutdowns over Covid started.

Social media can be a great record of the community’s emotional climate, but personal journals, one’s you don’t expect anyone to read in your lifetime, are a much better barometer. We write what’s happening to us specifically, how we feel, what we might do, more openly and honestly because it’s not out for the world to read.

Looking back on my old journals, I wish I had made more of an effort to be consistent, especially when my children were younger or when there was a major crisis in our lives. But who has the time and wherewithal to sit and write at times like that? In hindsight, it may have been a good mental health practice to take that fifteen to thirty minutes a day to jot down at least a bulleted list of what happened and how I was feeling.

In my next life, I will. For now, I’ll encourage others to take up the pen or keyboard (the are advantages to both) daily for posterity! You never know who might read those words and how they may help reconstruct the details of the past.

The Freedom to Say No

How to do I put this? Hmm…

I loved and hated this book at the same time? No, that’s not right. I agreed with some, disagreed with other parts, sure. I agree on the problem, but not the solution, maybe.

freedom to say no
Photo by Kristina V on Unsplash

While reading the essay Disobedience as a…Problem, I kept thinking about how we raised our sons. The answer “no” was always an option. When I tell people that, their response is usually, “Sure but there are consequences, right?”

Depends on what you mean. Punitive ones? Like, “You have said no, so now you’ll be ostracized or punished?” No. I wouldn’t have asked if you weren’t allowed to say no.

I don’t ask you not to hurt me. I tell you not to and I enforce that. If there is no other option at the moment, like I must stop at the post office and you cannot stay in the car, I don’t ask if you want to come inside with me. Those commands are few and far between.

Just about everything was optional in our family, negotiable. We worked together as much as possible toward a common goal, living in the same house and being happy and comfortable. And they learned to be more and more reasonable as they grew up into adults.

In most families, this isn’t so. Everything is a command from above, in every situation. We raise children as slaves to adult lives, until they are “of age” and then kick them out into the world and expect them to act as reasonable adults without any practice. Like putting a person in jail for 18 years, dictating every move, and then setting them free and saying, “Now continue on your own.”

And most of us do. What we need is to act like independent, reasoning, masters of our own lives, but we don’t have those skills. We only have slave skills, and they don’t serve us well at all. When things aren’t working, we look to government to solve the problems for us, just like our parents and teachers taught us to do.

Seems like a job security thing for politicians and other so-called “leaders.” Independent humans aren’t easily controlled.

In my experience, acting as an adult human is frowned upon. You’re a fool and treated as such, especially if you encourage others to take the reins of their own lives.

Disobedience is the answer, not the problem. We shouldn’t be “obeying” anyone.

I haven’t even quoted this book or presented his ideas to you. I’m not sure how. The book is so short, 91 pages. If I pull any one line out, I’d have to pull the whole page, and then…why not read the book?

There were four essays in this book, all of which I agreed with the premises of, except the last on “Humanist Socialism.” Why? Because I love the goals and principles of socialism, but I don’t see it working well anywhere in the world. And I don’t even have the words to describe why. That’s one of the reasons I keep studying it.

When my first reaction is, “Wonderful fantasy, but how do you get there from here?” I’m reminded of the reactions to my family’s choice of lifestyle and education. They can’t see what we are doing from their vantage point. Is that my problem when I look at socialism? Maybe.

My thoughts always go back to, “If this is so wonderful and perfect, and able to be done without the use of force and coercion, then why doesn’t someone build a working community like this on their own? Why do we have to have it as a form of government?”

Start with your own family, your own community. “If you build it, they will come.” If a socialist utopia works, more people will want to be in it, and it will spread. Right?

I’m not sure, only because of my experience with my sons. Sitting in a karate class, the teacher tells me, “Your sons are focused and dedicated. I can tell you strict with them, no backtalk and video games.” When I told him that our lives are quite the opposite, that we live without rules and they are treated as equals, play video games all they want, and are quite adept at “backtalk,” he just scoffed and walked away.

It feels insane, like everyone around me is seeing the world they want to see, not reality. Am I any different? I don’t believe I am.

To me it seems the best thing any of us can do is live our own lives and leave everyone else alone to do the same. That’s crazy talk to everyone else. When I started this book, I thought the author was headed down that road, but then the last chapter is how we can start a socialist utopia by taking all the power away from whoever has it now and redistributing it.

Whoa…it’s Tolkien’s Rings of Power. I’ll take this power to set things right and then give it back. But no one ever wants to give it back. The power corrupts, always. There is no utopia, socialist, capitalist, industrial, agrarian, or otherwise.

A side note: If you’re curious about the concept of unschooling (life without school instead of school at home), I highly recommend checking out Pam Laricchia’s work. And I’m always open to conversations about our experience, through email or over the phone.

On Disobedience: New Read

On Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying “No” to Power is the book I started reading on this very blustery Saturday morning. The subtitle says it all. I read Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving back in November of 2020 and loved just about every page of it, so when I saw this small collection of essays written in the early 1960’s, I immediately had it sent to my house.

on disobedience

Disobedience is a major sin in our culture and I’ve railing against that idea for most of my adult life. I am not one with a “rebellious” nature. I do not feel like I must take the opposite stance of whatever authority figure presents as “the rules.” I want to work together and get along. BUT…again with the but…

I do not obey anyone blindly. In fact, I don’t believe I wish to obey anyone at all. What kind of a world could we live in if establishing an authority meant that your reasoning and argument were solid enough to convince others to agree with you, compromise with you, and work toward voluntary common goals?

“If the capacity for disobedience constituted the beginning of human history, obedience might very well, as I have said, cause the end of human history. I am not speaking symbolically or poetically. There is the possibility, or even the probability, that the human race will destroy civilization and even all life upon earth within the next five to ten years. There is no rationality or sense in it. But the fact is that, while we are living technically in the Atomic Age, the majority of men – including most of those who are in power – still live emotionally in the Stone Age; that while our mathematics, astronomy, and the natural sciences are of the twentieth century, most of our ideas about politics, the state, and society lag far behind the age of science. If mankind commits suicide it will be because people will obey those who command them to push the deadly buttons; because they will obey the archaic passions of fear, hate, and greed; because they will obey obsolete cliches of State sovereignty and national honor. The Soviet leaders talk much about revolutions, and we in the ‘free world’ talk much about freedom. Yet they and we discourage disobedience – in the Soviet Union explicitly and by force, in the free world implicitly and by the more subtle method of persuasion.”

Disobedience as a psychological and moral problem by erich fromm

Oh, so dire. Right? Makes one want to give up and run into the forest. End it all.

Or does it?

To me, it’s hopeful. Once again, nothing really changes, so why get worked up about it? Why should I ruin my beautiful day because tomorrow may never come? There’s work to do, there always is, but I’ll do what I can cheerfully and with hope that little individual changes make big progress down the road of time. And leave others to do the same in their own lives.

This book is short, only four essays in about 100 small pages, but it’s chock full of some amazing words, almost every one of which applies to everything we are experiencing now. That is the glory of well thought out work, words that aren’t simply rhetoric glorifying one side of an issue or another.

I’m sure I’ll be finishing the book today, so I’ll have some more words of my own to share tomorrow. See you then!

Nudity and Purpose: Final Thoughts on Disneyanity

Do I have your attention? I’m terrible at titles and tying them in with SEO, but this is not clickbait. The post actually is about nudity and the idea of purpose, separately though. Please read on.

Have ever a read a non-fiction book, one you were so excited to read and glean from, and closed it muttering to yourself about how wrong the author is?

That’s what happened to me while reading Disneyanity by Douglas Brode.

I didn’t hate it. There were certainly a lot of very…interesting…takes on Disney movies and tv shows. I just don’t agree with most of them. Some of them seemed outright crazy to me, like maybe he was looking through a strangely distorted magnifying glass.

But then, that’s what we all do with life. The experiences we’ve had and what we’ve made of them, distorts what we see around us, unless we make a very concentrated effort to do otherwise. That’s what I tried to do while I read this book, but sometimes…wow… I wondered if we had been watching the same movies.

Sometimes I wondered what he was talking about. Maybe it was above my head? Too academic? It seemed disjointed and contradictory at times, a collection of unrelated essays. BUT I did like reading it and I found so much to think about. I even clarified some of my own “religious” thinking. I’m going through my notes, wondering what to do with them all. Such is my process, or lack thereof.

For this final post on Disneyanity, I’ll share one bit that I found magical and one that made me cringe.

First the magical one!

nudity

In All the Cats Join In (1946), a white female’s lithe body unswervingly moves to The Big Beat. She drives home, then unashamedly strips and leaps into a hot shower – female nudity on display as it would be four years later in an early sequence of Cinderella. It must be recalled that this was when post-war feminists, including France’s controversial Brigitte Bardot and America’s Marilyn Monroe, embraced nudity as “freedom.” (The concept that this indicates “exploitation” by and for men would emerge in the late-1960s.) Shortly, Disney positively portrayed his teen heroine on a dance floor, be-bopping with the boys, apparently without auteurial criticism.”

Auteurial: A creative artist, especially a film director, seen as having a specific, recognizable artistic vision, and who is seen as the single or preeminent ‘author’ of his works.

There’s a new word for me! It took me some time to figure out what he meant by “auteurial criticism.” Still, I’m wondering why he used that word. Does he mean that the creator was showing the teen girl dancing as a positive action, not a negative one?

What I really came to here to talk about was nudity. Yes! It’s something I have had a bit of an issue with for most of my life. When I was a kid, I refused to cover myself up and my mother was constantly after me about it. “You’re attracting the wrong kind of attention.” I was hot, so I wore shorts. I wanted my shoulders tanned, so I wore strappy tank tops. I was uncomfortably restrained, so I wouldn’t wear a bra. What I wore or not was about me and my comfort…until the world told me that I was attracting the wrong kind of attention. And then I only wondered what that attention was and why it was wrong.

This could be a whole blog post, couldn’t it?

I’m going to keep it short here and just say that nudity is freedom, and so are some articles of clothing.  Personally, with my fair skin, I can be outside much longer if I’m wearing a shirt, and my jeans and boots keep me from getting hurt on the trails. We need to figure out how to get around all this cultural programming that says men can walk around topless and women can’t. Men can show thigh, but women need to cover up. This is just crazy. Wear what makes you happy. Leave people alone. Clothes are for protection from the elements. Every other use is imaginary.

And now for the one that made me cringe.

“…the films, TV shows, and other storytelling forms offer variations on a theme that something deep in the human heart hungers for: The notion that each of us does indeed have a purpose in the greater cosmos. We can best realize it by wishing on a star, heeding Joseph Campbell’s call to ‘follow your bliss,’ and unwavering persistence, derived from faith and hope, to make your dream come true.

Whether you wish upon a star or any other heavenly body. Or the natural world around you.”

My note in the margin said, “I don’t WISH anything.” It reminds me of that uncouth saying, “Wish in one hand and shit in the other, see which one fills up faster.” Which, now that I think about it, is pretty good advice…figuratively. Wishing doesn’t get anything done, doing does.

And this notion of “purpose” really gets my goat lately. Do we all have some grand purpose in this world? I say, no, we don’t. Unless you consider just being here not making everyone else’s lives more difficult, a purpose. Then, yes, we all have THAT purpose.

When I wonder what my “grand purpose” is, I get depressed. This world will not know me when I’m gone. I made nothing better in the grand scheme of things. I’ve created nothing, built nothing, done nothing to better mankind in any big way. And that is the fate of 99.99% of humanity.

In my opinion, it’s sadder to think that billions of people over the millennia never found their purpose. All those serfs, slaves, farmers, peddlers, and clerics, never known by anyone but those they lived with, died penniless and alone, never leaving a mark on this existence. They didn’t even have books and movies, so they probably didn’t even know they needed a purpose other than to live and take care of themselves and the people around them…wait a minute.

Maybe “purpose” isn’t just what you see in books and movies. Those are just the glorified stories, the interesting, to more than you, ones. What if your purpose is better stated as “your personal reason for getting up in the morning?” It could be as simple as, “To see what tomorrow brings.” Hmm…more to think about.

Did I love this book? Yes, and no. Yes, because it brought me a different point of view. And no because it didn’t go far enough. I guess what I wanted was a more succinct and defined “Walt Religion,” a bible of sorts, but what I got was someone’s personal thoughts on a body of creative work. All good though, and I’d recommend it.

Silly Symphonies: It’s Research!

Yes, research! In the interest of social and behavioral science, I watched a few of the Silly Symphonies mentioned in Disneyanity  on Disney+ yesterday. I was tired and just couldn’t seem to get my butt in gear (Mom! Remember my brother and I wiggling our butts around like a stick shift when you used that figure of speech on us? “I’m having trouble with my clutch!”), so instead of grumping about what a lazy person I was all day and feeling bad about myself, I decided to try something different.

No, I did not use my amazing willpower to get up off the couch and do what needed to be done!

I decided to take the day off from other activities and read more of my book, watch some of the shows mentioned in it, talk on the phone with my mom and my brother, and just generally chill. I did feel a twinge of guilt for eating the rest of the oatmeal cookies AND the last of the peanut butter pretzels, but that’s what happens when I read. I must nibble! Which reminds me, I really need to find better reading nibbles. Any ideas? Raw veggies are boring but probably a good bet.

silly symphonies
By Walt Disney Productions – Published by The Walt Disney Company, Fair use, Link

The first few shows mentioned in Disneyanity are Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy which I’ve seen about a thousand times. Both are shown in Main Street Cinema at Disneyland, and between my own childhood and my children’s I’ve spent quite a bit of time in there. No need to rewatch those, so I skipped to the Silly Symphonies. The Ugly Duckling I still remember well so I moved on to Flowers and Trees, The Goddess of Spring, and The Grasshopper and the Ants!

In Flowers and Trees, the animation was beautiful, the story told without a word, beautiful. I loved the feminine tree dancing, the curve of her “breast” seen each time she turned, so subtle. The old tree stump getting jealous and starting a fire, and the reaction of the forest. He only hurt himself in the end, just as jealousy does to us.

And then there was The Goddess of Spring. I will admit watching the character dance made me laugh. The animation of the 30’s, I’m not sure what it is, but her arms and body are elongated and moving in such a strange way. Just a tad creepy, really.

In the book, Brode writes “And yet numerous critics, professional as well as (in the age of the Internet and IMBD) amateur, complain that ‘Disney gets the story all wrong.’ Which is a naïve approach to the continuing art of storytelling. In fact, there is no original version of the Persephone tale in existence. During the Greek Golden Age, poets drew on oral versions of fables dating back to Mycenean and other early agricultural societies, existing long before anyone set down narratives in writing. What Disney achieved is what those storytellers earlier did; take a tale with ongoing/universal appeal for humanity itself and relate this so as to ring true for the citizenry of the artist’s own time.”

That’s what we do, it’s why we tell stories in the first place. We all know that there are no completely original stories. If my kids and I had seen this version, I would have become curious about its origin, and looked up other versions and shared them with my kids. This version is 90 years old. How would it be rewritten and presented today?

The Grasshopper and the Ant. Man, I can envision an entirely different kind of story. I do understand the point of Aesop’s fable was to encourage citizens to work together, not slack, help the community prepare for winter, but wouldn’t that have been better told as an errant fellow-ant instead of a grasshopper? I would retell the story as a cautionary tale about how different people (insects) live a different kind of life, all according to their own principles, each having its own motivations and outcomes, but all respected. An “I’m not crazy. I’m just not you.” story.

That reminds me of us making fun of tv shows and cartoons to that put WAY too much emphasis on “diversity” and not nearly enough on the content of the story. There are clever storytelling ways to get a point across without being too preachy or obvious, and Walt was the master of that.

As an afterthought (I really wasn’t ready to go make dinner), I decided to watch one more show, Ferdinand the Bull!

I distinctly remember reading this book as a kid. I know…you’re surprised that I loved books a kid too, but it’s true. This was one of my favorite picture books, one of the hundreds of classics I bought and read to my own kids as they grew up. The short movie was every bit as cute. I haven’t seen the new movie, but I think I’ll watch it today and see how they remade it into a longer feature.

Now…here’s where the author of Disneyanity and I part ways. He says shows like Ferdinand the Bull (1938) and The Reluctant Dragon (1941) were a statement on Walt’s position on homosexuality. I disagree. Ferdinand was a passivist, not homosexual. He simply wasn’t interested in fighting. As to the Reluctant Dragon, I haven’t seen it lately, but I do remember him being rather “effeminate” as well, but I do believe it was also, at the time, more of a statement about being different.

And THAT is a universal topic, one on which we could all use some continued education today. Just because someone looks a certain a way, here a bull and a dragon, doesn’t mean they will act like you believe they should. We should all be taking people at who they actually say they are, not what we think they should be.

Which makes me think again. Isn’t that the better way to tell a story? Lately it seems everything around me, every book, movie, club, etc. is segmented into narrower and narrower niches. If I don’t see exactly myself in the story, and if the story isn’t exactly about my likes/dislikes, culture, or situation, then it isn’t for me, and I can’t learn anything from it. At least that’s what I feel I’m being told.

I think that this is the kind of thing the keeps us all separate and fighting. Wouldn’t it be more helpful to make stories that help us realize that we are all different in a million different ways, but one greater thing unites us? We are all human.

That made me think of a story I’d like to see. One that shows us how much we all inadvertently misunderstand each other and that’s what creates the conflict.

Picture this: A large community that seemingly speaks the same language and fights constantly, but as the story progresses you realize that they use the same words but each has their own, entirely different meanings. When one character says hand me the salt, another character throws it toward him. This opens into a fight because the original character believes that the thrower is hostile. The thrower just thinks the asker is completely crazy. Then somehow, they learn that “hand me” means something totally different to each of them.

I think Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, and Jim Carrey need to be in this.  

Misunderstandings about meaning and intent, assuming that you know what a person wants or needs, and overstepping each other’s personal boundaries, are what start 99% of the battles we are facing right now. Good storytelling can help us here.

Storytelling in the Form of Movies

I’m 100% in love with Disneyanity by Douglas Brode, but I do have a few complaints. First of all, he uses the title or a character’s full name once and then abbreviates it for the rest of the essay and that drives me crazy. I’m constantly trying to remember who or what it stands for. It uses up brain energy, people. You’re typing, not writing it out by hand, please.

Second, I think he’s wrong in a lot of places. I know. Crazy. I could be wrong too, but I doubt it. (Read that in “sarcasm font.”) Honestly, though, I think he’s definitely reading into a lot, but it’s still fascinating to read. We all interpret movies and books from our own world view, seeing what we want to see, connecting the dots to create the picture we really want. We’re not scientists or historians! We’re artists and lovers of craft!

And what’s better than pulling apart and peering into the inner workings of a great story?!

“And yet numerous critics, professional as well as (in the age of the Internet and IMDB) amateur, complain that “Disney get the story all wrong.” Which is a naïve approach to the continuing art of storytelling. In fact, there is no original version of the Persephone tale in existence. During the Greek Golden Age, poets drew on oral versions of fables dating back to Mycenean and other early agricultural societies, existing long before anyone set down narratives in writing. What Disney achieved is what those storytellers earlier did; take a tale with ongoing/universal appeal for humanity itself and relate this so as to ring true for the citizenry of the artist’s own time.”

disneyanity by douglas brode

I’ve heard that complaint from people when new Disney movies came out and agreed with it. If you’re going to present movies about historical figures, shouldn’t they be as true to life as possible? Pocahontas was the first movie I heard people losing their minds about.

I guess it depends on why you’re making the movie, why you’re telling the story.

I mean, history books and biographies have already been written, probably a documentary has already been made. So why create another?

In the past I might have said because it hasn’t been told by you, in your words. But why are your words and images so important?

Disney isn’t teaching history. He’s creating mythology. He’s taking characters from our past and telling their story (and his own) in the context of our time. Not himself these days, since he died in 1966 (or did he), but his company of storytellers.

That’s what all movie makers are. Storytellers.

When we watch something, anything really, we need to remember who is telling the story and why, not simply digest everything we see on a screen as the gospel truth.

Instead of screaming to yourself, and the online community at large, “This is false! That’s not what that person did!” Try asking yourself, “What did the presenter of this try to tell me?” We can spend some time reading more about the real-life character or situation if we like, or we can take the entire thing as mythology, a story that attempts to convey a message about humanity and the world around us using names and places we already know.

As a sidenote, the Disney company should pay the author of this book for all the new subscriptions to Disney+ it is probably generating. Reading about each tv show and movie, I want to go back and watch some of them to see if I see what Douglas Brode is talking about. I can’t be the only one. Besides, there are so many new Disney movies that I haven’t seen.

Over the weekend, I watched Encanto while my husband was working on our bathroom remodel. He came in several times to find me cross-legged on the couch, bouncing along to the music like a child. Once, toward the end, when I heard him walk into the room, I shouted, “I’m not crying!”

That movie…oh, wow. Absolutely gorgeous and completely unexpected. I found myself talking back to the tv more than once, which isn’t unheard of around here. I tend to get a little excited about what I’m watching. One of the world’s most beautiful inventions? The pause button!

Disneyanity: New Read

It’s been a while since I bought a book because I saw in advertised in a magazine, but when I saw Disneyanity: Of “Walt” and Religion by Douglas Brode in Reason magazine two months in a row, I had to have it.

Background: Just in case you don’t know this, I am an avid Disney fan. How do I explain this? Here is one photo from high school to shed just a little light.

This is my “backpack,” or what I called it back then, “my travelling locker.”

I had everything I needed in here. All my books, my binders, my pens, along with various high school sundries. I had a locker at school, yes, but using it would require forethought and planning. I was more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl, so I kept everything with me, just in case.

Me. Backstage as always. The “magic” maker.

Just in case what?

Well, what if I were in math class and already done with the assignment? I could work on history instead. And what if I were in the theater, which was where I was most of my day, and I found some downtime between rehearsals? I could work on whatever needed to be done…if I didn’t have to run to my locker and find it.

Knowing me, I’d forget what I was looking for while walking to my locker anyway, wander off and get a coke and a cookie instead.

Writing this I just realized something. This squirrel brain is not being caused by old age.

Like I was saying, I was (and still am) a huge Disney fan. You might even say more of a devout worshipper than a fan. I’ve fallen away at times, especially recently, but I always come back around. Don’t even get me started on the effects of the pandemic on my pilgrimages.

When I started working there, I was seventeen years old. I felt like I was entering the holy of holies, “maybe I should take my shoes off” kind of awe in my whole being. When I was ceremoniously cast outside the gates (fired) at 20, I was a “lost toy,” one of the darkest moments of my life.

And again, when I returned at 26, and finally chose to be home with my kids at 30. And then today…

Well, let’s say I’m worshipping from afar, dreaming of the day I’ll be able to return to the source of the magic.

disneyanity

When I saw this book promising, “a cogent and thought-provoking meditation on Disney Magic as Religious Belief,” I swooned. Could that feeling I’ve had since I was kid be a real thing, not just something I created for myself? Could others feel this way? I had to know more.

I’m 67 pages into the book already and loving it. It’s not what I expected. I’m not sure how I’ll share pieces of it with you, but something will come up, I’m sure. As the religious say, the spirit (or the muse) will speak somehow, if I allow it room.

I’ll leave you with one quote for today, one that sums up my feelings about fantasy and storytelling.

“’Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality,’ philosopher Lloyd Alexander stated, rather a ‘way of understanding it.’ As Disney realized, most people find everyday reality so unbearable that they must seek what appears merely blithe escapism as an alternative. Then again, what’s wrong with that? ‘Why should a man be scorned,’ J.R.R. Tolkien asked, ‘if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out or go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison walls?’”

from Disneyanity by douglas brode

Does this sound familiar, dad? I’ve heard you say it a million times. “I don’t watch movies to see real life.”

In some ways, it is an escape. And there is nothing wrong with trying to move away from what is hurting you, to get some relief. In other ways, fantasy and story helps us explain our reality. It’s easier to hear the underlying problem and solutions offered if we’re talking about aliens instead of foreigners, talking trees instead of gods.

Disneyland was my escape in high school, my happy place where I wasn’t just another theater nerd, not another kid at school to be corralled and contained until I was old enough to be let loose on the world. I was a whole person there, especially once I started working there. Then I was “part of the magic” that millions came to see every year, one of the chosen.

So, yeah, I’m looking forward to reading this gem cover to cover. It feels like more of a collection of short essays about each film, so I may just pull out my favorite pieces, the ones that speak directly to issues that are dearest to me. I’ve found a few I completely disagree with already, so I’m sure you’ll read at least one where I disagree with Walt’s vision of the world.

…sigh…

It feels good to be back here. Thanks for reading with me!

Want read more posts about the book Disneyanity by Douglas Brode? Check out:
Storytelling in the Form of Movies
Silly Symphonies: It’s Research!

Nudity and Purpose: Final Thoughts on Disneyanity

The Game of Life: New Read

Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that I’m a little disappointed with The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn. “A little” doesn’t begin to describe my feelings, and of course I’m here to tell you why. I’ll start with the basics, how we got here and what I was thinking going into this book.

the game of life

This book was this month’s read for one of those book clubs I told you I joined recently, and I was excited to read it because I am a big fan of self-help books. Unpopular, I know. We’re all supposed to poo-poo them, but I love them, and I will not hide it. I especially love older ones, the tried and true that are still in print years later. They give me perspective, so many ideas and thoughts about how one can make their own lives a little better. What’s not to love?

When I saw the title, I thought it would be a fun read. I like the idea of looking at life as a game to play. My personal philosophy is similar, and I celebrate my birthday every year as a “level up” day, taking stock of the special skills I have accumulated and the companions I’ve chosen to help me along the way.

When I looked the book up online, I found that it was first published nearly 100 years ago and by a woman. That was intriguing. I wondered how her life must have been so different from mine and what kind of ideas she would have about the game.

The description had me excited to read as well. “First published in 1925, this book has inspired thousands of people around the world to find a sense of purpose and belonging. It asserts that life is not a battle but a game of giving and receiving, and that whatever we send out into the world will eventually be returned to us. This little book will help you discover how your mind and its imaging faculties play leading roles in the game of life.”

Yes, please!

But then I started to read it.

I did assume that the book would have a Christian point of view because of when and where it was written, but I didn’t realize that the whole basis of the book is to use Jesus as a magic wish machine. All you must do is think what you want, speak it to Jesus, and you will have it.

What?

I’m not going to unpack each chapter, but I will say that for me, this idea never really held water, even when I was feeling deeply religious. I’ve read the bible several times through, done many bible studies, and I never found the idea that God grants wishes. The best we could ever do was to pray to be aligned and accepting of God’s path for you. Peace comes from letting go of desires, accepting what is, much like the Buddha’s path of non-resistance.

After the first chapter, I felt like putting the book down and walking away, but then where would I be. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, clearly, and neither can you judge it by the first chapter. It’s only 111 pages long, so it’s not wasting too much time. Besides, I may find pieces that fit into my life, change my thinking, or at least come to understand someone else’s point of view.

So, like Adler said to do in How to Read a Book, I kept reading to understand.

I did find a few gems to hold on to. Things like, “Man has an ever a silent listener at his side – the subconscious mind.”

That’s very true. And how we speak to ourselves in our minds is how we perceive the world around us. Better to keep up the positive talk instead of shooting ourselves down before we even get started. Like reading this book, I can’t sit here grumbling. I have to take deep breath and listen to learn.

“You can control any situation if you first control yourself.”

I’ve found this not to be very helpful. I can’t control any situation, but I can control how I react to it and that makes all the difference.

I learned that the word “acme” means perfection. Acme is always the company the coyote gets his tools and contraptions from to catch the roadrunner. Funny.

“Life is a mirror, and we find only ourselves reflected in our associates.”

This…yes. All my life I’ve been so irritated with the people around me. That driver, that food service person, the post office guy…what the hell, people? But these days I find myself thinking, “Well, maybe there’s something wrong.” “I could have made that same mistake.” And “Everyone has bad days.”

What’s different is how I’ve been learning to treat myself. I’ve been talking to myself in new ways, learning to forgive mistakes and not have to be perfect, to allow myself to feel loved just the way I am. It’s made all the difference.

And then there was, “The robbers of time are the past and the future.”

Oh, wow. We know that! Right? Sitting here lamenting our past mistakes. Nothing we can really do now but move forward and do better. And spending all night worrying about what tomorrow will bring. Wastes the time we could be getting a good night’s rest so that we’re at our best no matter what happens.

See? I did find some little tidbits even though I felt repulsed at first. That’s what happens when you listen to people you don’t agree with, even fundamentally. We find common ground and move forward on it instead of staying at a stand-still.

No, I don’t believe that Jesus will put money in your bank account if you believe hard enough. But we can relax and know that things generally do work out eventually. Less attachment to outcomes, more acceptance of what is, does make life nicer.

No, mothers can’t attract illness to their children with worry. But mothers can make themselves sick with worry and cause their children to be nervous and timid because their protector seems so helpless.

There were more crazy things, like “death can be overcome by stamping the unconscious mind with the conviction of eternal youth and eternal life.”

And more great ideas, like “Real love is selfless and free from fear. It pours itself out upon the object of its affection, without demanding any return.”

Now my question is, what will the book club think about this book? Will they be in love with it? Are they going to be a group full of that kind of Christian? That’s me, worrying about the future, wasting time. Does it matter? Nope. I’ll go and enjoy whatever experience is presented to me because that’s what the game of life is all about.

Words on the Heading “Men’s Interests”

In search of literary magazines, something bugged me yesterday, and I HAVE to tell you about it. Let me start by saying, that I’m not that easily offended…usually. Come on, everyone has things that bug them! I tend to have knee-jerk reactions to some things, and then come back from them pretty quickly to see the bigger picture or someone else’s point of view. Even now, after this issue I’m about to report caused me to squint my eyes and think, “What the…?” I’m considering how I could have misinterpreted what I saw. And to be totally honest, it looks as if it were an oversight, one that could easily be resolved.

What got me so hot and bothered? What made me get back in my truck and text three different people the news? Do hear Clopin again?

literary magazines
Hush! And Clopin will tell you!

Yesterday, I was between friend visits. That sounds so funny. I went down into the city to have breakfast with one friend before he went to work, and then waited for another friend to get off from work so I could have dinner with her before I came back home.

What to do in between those times? THAT is the question. Go shopping, of course!

First, I stopped at Target for some essentials. We don’t have that store in my town, only a very crappy version of Walmart. I’m not opening a Walmart trash session. I love the place in other towns. It has always been one of my favorite stops when we are traveling with our trailer, but in California…I’m not sure what the deal is. But I digress!

Then I decided to get a cup of coffee and a delicious snack at Panera. I brought the book I just finished and my journal so I could sit there and read and write some notes, maybe plot out a blog post while I relaxed indoors. Ok, yes, it made me feel like one of the cool kids. I love seeing those people working on their laptops and tablets in coffee shops. I want to be them! But I don’t live in the city, so I have my quiet little porch, all the coffee I can drink, and pastries I make myself, so I don’t need a coffee shop.

But I still felt cool.

That’s when I realized I was right across the street from Barnes & Noble and I remember seeing a magazine rack there. Maybe I could browse through them and find something interesting to take home. I love magazines for short stories and articles far more than the internet. They are curated, printed, and (the best part) no comments!

When I pulled into the parking lot, there was a man thumbing through a book he had just bought, right in the middle of the road. We’ve all been there, right? You see it on the shelf, have to have it, make your purchase, and then crack it open as you walk to your car, only to be sucked into the smell, the words, the feel of it in your hands.

I smiled at him. He smiled at me. The connection. Hot.

Walking inside, I went straight to the magazine section at the front of the store. Where would I find literary magazines? Hmm…

I found them at the bottom of the section labeled “Men’s Interests.”

I knelt down to get a closer look shaking my head. I picked through them, finding one I used to subscribe to, Creative Nonfiction, along with a couple new ones, Oh Reader and American Short Fiction. Then I took a step back and looked at the display again. Maybe I was reading it wrong.

The shelf was labeled “Literary Magazines,” so maybe it was just thrown in at the bottom like this because it was only one shelf? But other shelves were labeled there as well, “Sports,” “Health,” and “Outdoors.” Over the top of the display was a different sign for “Men’s Interests.”

I’m not liking this. I think it’s bizarre that the two labels are even there, men’s and women’s interests. Why not just a shelf for sports, fashion, business, or writing and reading? It feels like a vestige from the past, a tail or gills in utero that has evolved away.

“Did you make a scene?” is the first thing my husband asked when I told him. No, that’s not like me. I’m too shy. I may have…if I were with friends or drinking. That’s funny: drunk bookstore shopping. Who’s in?!

And later, while telling my friend the story, I thought I should have asked where the literary magazines are and when they told me I could have made a face or some comment about how bizarre it was, especially since most of the names I see in those magazine look like female names.

Now I’m sitting here wondering if I should say something the next time I’m in there buying magazines. It’s a simple fix. There are several rows and sections of magazines, business, current affairs, food, etc. Why not get rid of men’s and women’s and just put fashion with fashion and sports with sports?

Am I being crazy here?

literary magazines

Oh, before I go. I swore I would only buy a couple magazines to check out and…maybe just walk around the store, browse the poetry section…and then I found this:

How to Live, What to Do: In Search of Ourselves in Life and Literature by Josh Cohen

How can I possibly pass that up!?

The Arts of Communication

Well…shit…

That was my final thought as I closed this book. I’m too tired and depressed now to even comment, so I leave you with this.

Where men lack the arts of communication, intelligent discussion must languish. Where there is no mastery of the medium for exchanging ideas, ideas cease to play a part in human life. When that happens, men are little better than the brutes they dominate by force or cunning, and they will soon try to dominate each other in the same way.

The loss of freedom follows. When men cannot live together as friends, when a whole society is not built on a real community of understanding, freedom cannot flourish. We can live freely only with our friends. With all others, we are constantly oppressed by every sort of dread, and checked in every movement by suspicion.”

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler

Any ideas how we can fix this? I used to think homeschooling was the answer. Back then I was a part of a small group that read and discussed books with people of all ages. A small little spark still believes I could lead a discussion like this again, but it’s dying out fast.

Page 1 of 17

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: