Did you ever notice that when you're thinking about something you see/hear/feel it everywhere? There's some kind of synchronicity to the major themes of living, at least in human perception. Maybe it's simply the power of suggestion, like when there's a lice epidemic at the elementary school, so you check your child and he/she is okay, but you can't stop itching and twitching, just thinking about it. Or maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but I don't think so...
For me, this week's theme is REDEMPTION.
I finished reading the deceptively simple and stunningly beautiful The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It is a redemption story with a capital "R." I Recommend it to anyone who has not read it yet, although I think most people have and I'm very late enjoying it. It's the story of a boy growing up in Afghanistan who feels he can never earn his father's love and respect, and so he makes choices and follows a path that leads him eventually to damn his own existence, even when he moves to the US, away from his past. Then an old friend gets in touch with him and tells him, "There is a way to be good again." That's what the story is about.
Saturday evening I watched Elizabethtown - yeah, I know, finally. We rented the dvd. The surrealism wasn't Andy's cup of tea, so I ended up clutching a blanket on the couch mesmerized by a redemption tale of another kind. In this one, a young man who has just created what he thinks is an irredeemable fiasco postpones suicide to attend to his father's unexpected death. Along the way he finds the opportunity to wake up from his sleepwalking existence and experience real sadness, joy and love.
Then in church on Sunday the sermon was about "lifting the veil" and receiving and giving out God's true light. One of the stories Mary told was of John Newton, the 18th century slave trader to whom God spoke during a storm at sea. He became a changed man, stopped his evil ways and wrote the well-loved hymn, Amazing Grace.
That's pretty much my clump of redemption references - enough to get me thinking about the idea of redemption and what it means. It occurred to me right away that in the case of Amir in The Kite Runner and Drew in Elizabethtown, redemption equalled life-saving relief from an unbearable state of existence. I don't know enough about John Newton but I wonder if it was the same for him. Was he stuck in a way of living that made him feel terrible, and grateful for the opportunity to make a change? And what about "Life after redemption?" Without giving away too much (for the 3 or 4 people who haven't read the book and/or seen the movie), both have happy endings. Predictably the movie is Hollywood-happy (Tom Cruise was one of the producers, and it was written by Cameron Crowe). The book's ending is much more satisfyingly real. In both cases "after" is much better than "before," and the stories are explorations of what's stopping the guy from changing, what it takes to make change possible, and what he has to do to get there. I think it's something everyone thinks about to greater and lesser degrees.
I think about my own small redemptions and how sometimes they are easy to accomplish and sometimes unexplainably impossible, and wonder if it's the same with great big ones? I want so much to depend less on attention and approval from external sources. I want to listen better and judge less. I want to be able to set aside my own comfort in a more genuine way and be more generous. I want to stop faking proficiency at some or all of the above and be more real about my own failings and insecurity. Not being able to do these things well (or to my own definition of "well") feels bad. I compare myself harshly to other people who I think are better, and I'm tempted to stop trying and just wallow in "that's the best I can do." But I can't because it feels too crummy when I even think about not trying.
So maybe redemption isn't the "after" it's the road you take toward it. The ending of the book or the movie, the historical tale and beloved song aren't the seal of accomplishment. They're just evidence of movement in the right direction. Maybe that's all there is. Maybe that's what is.
So I'll keep thinking about redemption. Now that I've tuned in to a cluster I'm sure more bits and pieces will come and stick to me like cat hairs. Let me know what you think.
question: what's your take on redemption?
mompoet - just thinking