This was really good. It relates to the college admissions cheating scandal, but also to what we as a society teach and believe is important.
Celebrity status, money, fame and external success – all these folks thought it would make them happy. When they got those things, they found otherwise.
In some ways, finding internal #happiness might not be an easy road, but it’s truly waiting out there (and in) for us, simple as a hug.
“WHERE HAS THIS CHARACTER BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!”
The physically-active, FEMALE, athletic, scared-but-brave character of Tris was a revelation.
As a woman, as a female, without knowing it I’d longed for so many years, for a physically and mentally strong woman, who was still somewhat of an introvert. Really for forever I’d wanted that.
Although I enjoyed Nancy Drew — she was very active with her clean and sporty convertible — she was also super well-groomed, all the time.
Tris was a mess.
It was tremendously refreshing.
I wasn’t a three-sport athlete in school like my sister, but I rode my bike constantly in the summers, climbed a tall blue spruce up to my two-board treehouse to read library books, and still like to try and get outside and move often.
Exercise doesn’t really figure in to a lot of girl characters.
–> Okay. Just figured out this is YA. Young woman instead of girl.
It still counts.
Long live flawed, real heroines.
There’s something about staring at green, green grass; hearing fluttering cottonwood leaves; sitting under a magnificent blue summer sky, complete with its ever-changing free cloud show; watching insects flit, hover and buzz … that settles my soul.
It’s been warm but cool in the shade. I toted around a canvas folding chair and books, trying to slow down and breathe.
Nature met me more than halfway in that respirational endeavor. It offered the calm, steady embrace of minutely growing things.
It displayed its intricate ecosystems. Miraculously year after year, trees grow from seeds … flowers from buds … and a certainty in me grows — of something great and good. Something bigger than me. Reassuring.
It’s like a loving mother’s arms, the embrace of the earth.
One day I happened to mention in a text to our neighbors that I wasn’t feeling well.
I was down for the count with a head cold.
The next thing I knew she was on our porch with homemade chicken soup accompanied by fresh cut pieces of baguette and a bowl of strawberries. All delivered by her wonderful self, in a handy canvas German market tote (she’s from Germany).
The kindness received was just as much of sustenance as the nourishing food.
We all know that when our body’s sick, our mind can also be pitiful.
A kind word or action (or both!) can shore up someone’s spirit like nothing else.
Kindness holds that kind of power. The sort that can turn around a person’s day – whether there are sniffles and a headache in it or not.
Recently, we watched their house while they were out of town, picked up the newpapers … when they got back the most deliciously sweet, gorgeous deep-red rose showed up on our porch in a clear glass bud vase.
What kind of magical sprite of niceness is this?
I’m continuing to read Sophie Scholl & The White Rose and yes, as I mentioned I might, I do have another blog post about it.
About halfway through reading I’ve discovered something.
The friendship between these people was part of their resistance.
The bonds between them, the respect and affection as it grew, effected them greatly for good.
They met, they argued, they shared lives. They discussed ideas, what was happening in their country, the countries around them, with Nazism.
This resulted in revolutionary behavior.
In a way friendship itself is revolutionary. It’s violently against hate. It’s FOR the bonds between people.
A friend loves you right along with your foibles, because of your strengths, but also — simply as your person, as who you are, as a unique human being.
You share with each other … stories, jokes, time together and … simply enjoy one another.
But the richness between you, is what?
It’s love – it’s affection, camaraderie, respect, fun.
Friends make us more of a person, more of a developed person. We call each other out on stuff, we help each other figure out life, we share experiences.
Just having someone else experience who YOU ARE. Is a gift. And I’m realizing, also a powerful strengthening agent.
Photos by Daniel Rogers | Greece
“We’ve marginalized art [in our society].” George Saunders said during his visit to Colorado Springs. Yes, we have.
After Saunders talked about the vagaries of the writing life, including editing down a sentence until it eventually disappears; and shared some about his own journey creating with words and finding himself as a writer, he talked about the “assigned” topic (by the Converge Lecture Series) of “moral beauty.”
This concept is meant to (and rather successfully does, after it sinks in and one is able absorb it) encapsulate the responsibility we have as people to create. To make our world better. To build, instead of destroy.
We’ve overlooked the power of art, and misunderstood the value of it. This has resulted in dire consequences. Because of discarding the unifying, clarifying and constructive functions of art, we’ve achieved a level of rage and antagonism among one another that is unprecedented.
We malign and see as unimportant and without value, artistic pursuits. This is evidenced by the question we are repeatedly asked when people hear of our son’s college major: “What do you do with an English Literature degree?”
Have you heard of books? Have you heard of something called critical thinking? Without these tools for a civil society, we spiral into a vortex of materialism, chaos and yes, rage. But with these pages — pages full of thoughts, observations, poetry, stories – these pages, created with intense and prolonged effort; created with a mysterious yielding to the “luminous other;” that Saunders talked about; created with a humility and a respect for readers that prohibits condescension – WITH THESE tools and weapons in our armory, we can battle apathy, hatred and the black hole of selfishness.
We need to get to a place where we realize the value of artistic professions, not seeing them as “just” hobbies (though artistic hobbies are valuable too) or relegating them to the margins. When we see and value them as work, as important work — equally as important as, say, plumber, teacher, construction worker — then we can generate more beauty with words, with paint, with clay, with cameras and even in micro conversations with each other.
This beauty will heal us.
What is it about stacks and shelves of books that is so compelling?
Open the cover…
And who knows what you might find?
The possibility of story…
In this case, I went in search of a library containing books I wouldn’t want to read. This particular library was full of law books. I write fiction. But still. The library itself and its design drew me. I’d seen pictures of shelves full of colorful spines, decorative metal stairs spiraling to the books, huge, tall windows — in this fascinating building.
So with my laptop in my hand and the welcome of a public library in my heart, I set off.
“Library” in German is “Bibliothek.” Remember that. You’ll need to know it later.
It was hard to find the right entrance. I walked all around the building. When I finally went in I was faced with this. No map or listing of offices in sight.
So I went back out and found a glassed in booth next to a doorway under an archway, that looked like it might be information. In English I asked about the library and … nothing. The man didn’t speak English. This is where the one word I’d read in a brochure came in. When I said, “Bibliothek bitte?” The man nodded and wrote a room number down on a post-it note and gave it to me. That was all the direction I got. I said danke.
This library is kind of famous. But it turns out, not that easy to find.
After some weaving around in the warren of hallways, going up and down some unnecessary but interesting stairs and a couple of false moves in a tiny elevator I finally found the right floor and opened a small wooden door that appeared to be the right room number. Still not much signage outside.
And I entered a small office. Two desks, some ordinary bookshelves. That was it.
The woman in there spoke SOME English, and was also very nice. She explained to me that I had to leave my purse and bag in a locker and then said something about how to use the law books; and I had to pretend I was interested in those. What can I say? I didn’t mean to mislead but I was determined to get in there. Turns out the library was through a door in her office.
I saw this view while stashing my bags; and after getting change from her for a 2 Euro coin because the lockers only took 1 Euro coins.
Finally I went in! It was quiet … and small … and I felt like a poseur and an imposter … but still I was determined. And also I craved some quiet in the middle of our travel, and some time to work on a few things.
When I opened my laptop this large photo was on the screen. Kind of embarrassing. Our dog sitter back home had sent updates and those were the last thing I’d been looking at. (Go Rover.com!)
So after I got comfortable and minimized the doggie photo, I enjoyed it. I spent some time working and that felt good. Then sunlight came streaming in the windows and I snuck a picture. Gorgeous, no?
I heard these bells going off while sitting there.
This was the view out the window.
The mystique of a library is in the possibility. The imagining. What stories might exist within the pages? What knowledge? What action of the mind and heart might happen, upon reading the words?
We’ve just gotten back from Germany, and I’ve resumed reading (I barely started it before the trip) the book Sophie Scholl & The White Rose. Only to discover a 75th anniversary edition (with new preface and more photos) published this month.
It’s no wonder we are still lifted up by the words and actions of these people. I was impressed by what it might’ve been like for them as I walked the same cold, winter streets of Munich somewhat self-consciously in 2017, following Sophie and Hans Scholl’s footsteps the few blocks from his student apartment to the main lecture building of the university. They carried a suitcase of pamphlets whose words would change history.
(Literally. We’re still talking about them and reading them now, and the following fall after it was smuggled out, Allied forces copied the 7th pamphlets into millions of positive propaganda brochures to drop out of planes over Germany.)
There are so many good quotes in it.
Like this one:
“Isn’t it a riddle [Sophie wrote to a friend near the time of her move to Munich] … and awe-inspiring, that everything is so beautiful? Despite the horror. Lately I’ve noticed something grand and mysterious peering through my sheer joy in all that is beautiful, a sense of its creator… Only man can be truly ugly, because he has the free will to estrange himself from this song of praise.
It often seems that he’ll manage to drown out this hymn with his cannon thunder, curses and blasphemy. But during this past spring it has dawned upon me that he won’t be able to do this. And so I want to try and throw myself on the side of the victor.”
These words give some insight into the strength and determination she found a short time later to face that roomful of men in the courtroom during her false trial. Everything happened so fast. They were caught on the campus February 18th and four days later on the 22nd they were dead.
And yet. Were they? I mean this existentially and spiritually of course.
When I saw the movie Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, which features a lot of her actual courtroom testimony word-for-word I was greatly moved and inspired.
This woman had a way with words. She had a way of capturing the power of life-giving, essential concepts and communicating them. You can see the intensity (and sadness) in her eyes in the above picture.
She was full of conviction and a brilliant search for truth. Not to mention the courage to share that truth with others, at the risk of death by guillotine.
She and the others were also full of laughter. As evidenced by this other picture taken the same day.
I think it’s important to note both Hans and Sophie a few years before were members of the Hitler Youth in its early stages – when it was still voluntary.
This important detail says to me, that:
1) They were among the majority of Germans wanting the best for their country at that time, and they thought (at first) that the National Socialist party (Nazism) was it.
2) People thought Hitler and the National Socialist party were offering them power — power for good.
I also think it was compelling for children to be acknowledged as having something to contribute.
3) It’s important to note that Magdalene and Robert Scholl, the parents of Sophie and Hans and their other three siblings close in age, did not forbid them to join the various Nazi youth organizations.
“He (their father) knew that opponents to tyranny could never be created by force, only by personal experience.”
Therefore, Robert Scholl at the same time stocked their home library with books that explored important issues, celebrated human accomplishment and encouraged critical thinking. Magdalene Scholl also apparently had a vital Christian faith that strongly influenced her daily life.
This kind of upbringing and encouragement to analyze and seek truth led Sophie to involuntarily laugh out loud in class one time after hearing “an absurd ideological comment intoned solemnly” – and she got in trouble for that.
She and her brother eventually became disillusioned with Hitler’s organizations. Hans was a standard bearer at the Nuremberg Rally (I never realized before how theatrical this all was – it was a gigantic, astonishingly designed set) — and he came back changed — commenting to his sister Inge about how there hadn’t been a chance for a single “sensible conversation” amidst all the noise and mindless enthusiasm.
Their leaflets would’ve been heavy – they were paper – and the weight of that adds up.
A few steps away from the lecture hall where classes were in session while Sophie impulsively tossed extra papers from the top of the stairs to flutter down into the atrium below, and then was seen and reported by the building’s janitor, is a series of beautiful parks of Munich. The Scholls and other members of the White Rose as well as many Jewish and other Muencheners I’m sure walked and talked here in those years, as they do now.