Book Treasures

I picked up a gem of a book recently and I have to share how awesome it is! It’s Dick Van Dyke’s memoir called “My Lucky Life in and out of Show Business.” Honestly, I only knew him growing up watching “Mary Poppins” over and over again, and the occasional 80’s TV show. My oldest son reintroduced him to me a few years ago watching “The Dick Van Dyke Show” on Netflix. I’d seen one or two of them in the past, but watching them all in order, I just fell in love with it. So when I saw his memoir on the bookshelf at the thrift store, I had to have it.

It’s a wonderfully upbeat book. He seems to have lived just like he comes across on TV. Simple, kind, and honest. He isn’t innocent or perfect, just a sincere human trying to do his best.

Today, the opening of the chapter I read had this quote from his brother, Jerry. “You know what Dick’s problem is? He always wanted to be smarter than he is.” Insert my name in that one! I’ve always longed, not only to know more but to understand more; to have an intuition about things and really see the bigger picture. I feel like I get close to an idea and then it’s whisked away. At this point, I’m starting to understand that this may be God’s way of getting me to focus on what I really need to know. If I had more information on hand, I’d probably use it in the wrong way or take the wrong path. I’ve learned to let God hold the big picture and let Him lead my steps instead. It’s been enlightening and freeing to look to the Lord for guidance, instead of wishing I were smart enough to lead the way.

The end of that same chapter gave me this, “Like it or not, life is a never-ending confrontation with bouts of uncertainty and chapters of self-discovery. As I was about to learn, it is a series of fine messes that we enter, some wittingly, and others not.” Isn’t that the truth? Just when I think I have it all together, a curve ball comes in and knocks all my milk bottles down. As a kid, I firmly believed I’d eventually figure it all out and things would run smoothly. The older I get, the more I wish I had let go of that idea long ago. Life never runs smoothly and we never know what we’re doing, but if we look at the world like a giant yarn ball that can never be untangled, we can sit back and enjoy working on it just for the sake of working on it. We can even stop trying to untangle it entirely and use the rest as a ball to bat around instead of a string to knit into a sweater.

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Roles

When I saw the ad for the show “Lucifer” I really wanted to watch it. And then I found out it had been on TV a while and I’d have to catch up, so I didn’t start recording it. Then I saw it was on Hulu! Yay! So now we’ve been watching it when we have time between Star Trek and World War II in Color. I know, we have strange tastes. Anyway… I love this show. I love the characters. I love the story. We have fun watching it. It’s just good.

This morning I thought of something interesting. Lucifer (in the show) is angry at God because he says God has made a role for him that he doesn’t want, punisher of the bad people in the world. And he hates that humans think of him as evil, mean demon going after people when all he is doing is punishing bad guys like God told him to do. His character is just so hurt and sad. It makes me want to give him a hug. He obviously needs a friend.

It’s not a very biblical view of Lucifer from what I’ve read and come to understand. But then there are some interesting things to look into here. If I go with what the show is portraying, I can say maybe this guy is wrong in his understanding of what has happened. God hasn’t chosen a role for him. He believes that’s the case and is acting it out, though.

Here’s what I think I know about the real Satan. He disobeyed God and tried to overthrow Him. God banished him from Heaven, and his followers. Satan is still angry and jealous of God and His creation and does his very best to lure us away from God, to put a wall up between us and true happiness. But it is his choice to remain jealous and angry. He could humble himself and ask for forgiveness. He doesn’t have to play the part of evil. He just does.

How many of us have that same feeling? We feel angry at God for the role He has given us in this world. We didn’t want to be born poor, male, in Maine, but here we are. We can be angry at God, jealous of our fellow humans in their relationship with God, envious of the things they have. These feelings are acted out and ruin our chances of happiness while we live in this world. Or we can humble ourselves and ask God to help us become closer to Him, to know what it is He wants for us.

We aren’t given roles in this life, we take them on. You name it, we can chose it. Good or bad. Positive or negative. In the end, it is up to us which we take on and work with. I can chose to be a victim in this world, of this world. Or I can chose to be the child of God, beautiful, powerful, happy, and content with what I have and could have in this world and the next.

Lions and tigers and bears!

One of the greatest series of books that I have ever found has been the “Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series.” Philosophy is the study of human nature and whenever anyone creates any kind of art, the creator’s human nature shows through it, whether it be a book, a painting, a song, a movie, or even a popular tv series. It’s absolutely mind-bending how much one can pull out of a piece of art as examples of what philosophers are showing us through their writing. It’s better than using current events or real people as examples because we have no real emotional attachment to the art pieces. We understand that the piece is there to entertain us and make us think and it makes it easier to put the mirror of philosophy up to them, instead of ourselves, without getting our feelings hurt.

The latest one I’m reading is on the tv show “Lost.” When I watched the show years ago, I was struck by the character names and the idea of a random group of people surviving on an island. I felt the vague sense of the writers trying to tell us something. I loved the characters and how they reacted to situations. And, yes, I was totally in love with Sawyer and not just for his sexy abs. I loved the character because he didn’t act vulnerable, he didn’t react emotionally (most of the time). He was tough and a bit mean at times, but if you really looked at his actions (and deep behind those dreamy eyes), you got the sense of who he really was, that his feelings ran deep. <sigh> Anyway…

I’m on chapter 10, “Friends and Enemies in the State of Nature – The Absence of Hobbes and the Presence of Schmitt.” I’ve read Locke and some of Hobbes. I had heard of Rousseau and his theories, but I’d never heard of Schmitt until today, so his theories totally shocked me with how closely they run with our own political climate since the 1930’s. It really has me wondering why we don’t study the history of the last 100 years more closely, why we let ourselves forget and believe the new watered down versions instead.

I was so struck by these lines that I ran out to the garage to talk it all out to my husband while he was trying so hard to get our new Christmas decoration finished! My quotes here are from the book, not the philosophers themselves. Here it goes.

Locke was one of the most influential writers that spurred our own American Revolution and our independence from Great Britain. His theories are based on logic and reason. “Lockean government, like a farmer, nurtures and cultivates the soil of human nature and natural rights in a way that is consistent with the laws of nature so that human beings will flourish peaceably and rationally.” Sounds nice. I like it!

Rousseau was one of the most influential writers that spurred the French Revolution. His theories are somewhat based on emotion and human feelings of power. “For Rousseau, the invention of society is more like the invention of human flight. Like an aircraft, according to Rousseau, society must honor nature and nature’s rights, but the delicate invention of society nevertheless allows us to transcend nature, to take a higher, enlarged view of our world and ourselves.” Not bad either. It reminds me of the story of the “talents” from the bible, putting work into what God has given us and doing wonderful things with it.

And then there is our friend Hobbes. I’ve never liked Hobbes’ theories. I listened to an audiobook of “Leviathan.” It depressed me. His theories have a huge hole in my opinion. He says humans are just so nasty, they need to be controlled. “Like a caged animal in a zoo, the beast can remain well fed, peaceful, and long-lived only by being contained.” But my question always remains, “Who is qualified to be the zoo-keeper?” I mean if all humans are mean and nasty, then what is it that would give certain ones the authority to rise above and keep the others in line? Whenever anyone starts with this line of thinking, and it comes up fairly often, the people I talk with all seem to think they are the rulers and “everyone else” are the slaves. I’ve yet to hear anyone say they aren’t capable of taking care of themselves and that they leave those things to their betters for their own good.

But Schmitt, his ideas ring a little too clearly in our current government and it frightens me, not because he wrote about it and our government seems to be following his advice, but because the people I talk to or hear talking seem not to think about it at all. Most of us have never even heard of him. See if this sounds familiar to you, “Schmitt’s central thesis is that an “enemy” is necessary to the formation and development of society. If liberal political theory is defined by its goal of eliminating conflict and securing a rational peace, Shmittian-Nazi theory is defined by its embracing conflict and war as not only desirable, but essential.” This is the man that defined and supported the Nazi party ideas. They didn’t want to expand their empire and kill off the Jews because it would be great for the government. They believed they were doing something wonderful for their country and its people, and for a while they made the people very happy. They chose the Jews as the enemy because they believed most of the world would not react badly to it. Anti-semitism was widely accepted in our country at the time, as well as racism and eugenics.

Is this the idea that both the Democrats and Republicans are operating under? “If you follow us, we’ll protect you from the others!” The cry of “Terrorists!” gets everyone behind them. We really have only one party. Every time the power shifts from one side to the other, all we hear about is how the ruling party is going to take us in a terrible direction. We battle between ourselves for the next eight years, with the same arguments they used against the party that was just replaced. “Bush did that!” “Obama did that!” And now “Trump did that!” But we’re always going in the same direction, more war against the others. The only thing people fight over is the promises of wealth the candidate made before he was elected. What if we just stopped fighting wars overseas and became more defensive instead of offensive? What if we stopped giving more and more power to the government and then complaining when the government uses it against us “for our own good”? What if the survivors on Lost just set up a defense of their own area and stopped going out in the jungle looking to stop the others before they started anything?

Rabbit Holes

I saw an ad for “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” the TV show, which is strange. We generally watch recorded or streaming TV, so seeing an ad is rare, but this one got through. I loved that book in high school and was thrilled to find out it was made into a TV show. I searched to find where it was playing…Hulu. We don’t have that. Darn. Over a year ago, I saw an ad for “Lucifer” which looked like an interesting show, but I haven’t watched it because I didn’t want to find it on the satellite, record it, and watch it out of order. I did find it on Hulu then but couldn’t bring myself to pay $12 a month for one TV show, so I let it go. And now there’s Dirk! Two shows, probably more when I get there and look around. I signed up! My sons are thrilled because “Rick and Morty” is playing there as well.

So, we’re flipping through to find out all that’s on Hulu and my husband finds “11.22.63.” Conspiracy theories are a fascination for most of this family, but not me so much. I’d watch it just because it had time travel! We watched it over the week, grumbling about time travel paradoxes, the lack of planning, and problems with the story. It was still a good show. We like shows we can pick apart just as much as ones that thrill us.

A week later, I’m having lunch with my Dad (also an avid time travel fan) and he tells me it’s a much better book. Of course, it is, but I didn’t know it was a book. I go home, look up the book, and find it’s a Stephen King book! What?! Maybe I should pay closer attention to titles and credits. Why is there so much going on that I don’t know about?! I guess I’ve had my nose stuck in classic literature and history too much to see the awesome new stuff coming out. I bought it instantly, along with “From Here to Eternity.” It was mentioned several times in the TV show, so I figured it was important to read that too. My reading list grows exponentially.

So here I am, reading and already loving it sixty-two pages in. But here’s what I really came to write about.

At the front of the book is this,

“It is virtually not assimilable to our reason that a small lonely man felled a giant in the midst of his limousines, his legions, his throng, and his security. If such a nonentity destroyed the leader of the most powerful nation on earth, then a world of disproportion engulfs us, and we live in a universe that is absurd.” -Norman Mailer

First of all, the “assimilable” bothers me. I can’t pronounce it, no matter how hard I try.

Second, the universe is not absurd. We are. Everyone lives in a world made up in their own mind. The rules we follow, i.e. all the “you have to” statements, are created by ourselves and then we voluntarily follow them. Everything we do is a choice, even not making a choice is actually a choice not to act. “Reason” is subjective to each individual. So, yes, something like a single gunman just walking up to a powerful figure and gunning him down might throw you for a loop if you believed that individuals have no real power. But we do. We all do. We all have an amazing power within us, but we’ve all been conditioned to believe otherwise. Think of “Finding Nemo” when the clown fish tells all the mackerel to “swim down.”

What if we all stopped? What if every one of us started to believe that we had power over our own choices? What if when we saw a hungry person we fed them, instead of complaining that no one does? What if we saw an injustice and refused to comply, instead of going along because the authorities say it is the law? What if we felt that something was painful or making us unhappy or sick and we just stopped doing it, instead of complaining about the difficulties of doing it?

It really is all up to us individually. “They” have no power over us that “we” don’t give them. “It” has no bearing on us that “we” don’t give it.