Friday, May 28, 2010

Lost- We Hardly Knew Ye

Nicki is so tired of hearing about Lost. The poor child has never seen the show and can't possibly understand it, yet she has had to endure countless discussions around the dinner-table, in the car, while cleaning up the kitchen. She'll probably always hate the show just because it has sucked up so much of our attention. Don't worry Nicki! You are getting your family back!

But of course, it is a winding-down process. We can't quit cold-turkey! Permit me a moment to comment on this favorite pastime.

I started watching Lost a few months after Nicki was born. It was suspenseful and intriguing, and frequently mind-blowing. Let us pause and acknowledge what an accomplishment that alone is; TV has matured enough, it's conventions are so formulaic- "young single professionals, blah, blah, blah, hilarity ensues"- that a show which is truly surprising is a rare treat. That "no way!" moment of many episodes was a genuine pleasure.

Of course that moment usually happened at the very last minute of an episode, and for a few seconds I'd be so frustrated at being left hanging for a whole 7 days (or 2 weeks, or 2 months, or over a year). But because the show raised so many questions and left them unanswered for so long, I had plenty of time to wonder about the possibilities. I'd find myself thinking through various scenarios before falling asleep; and because the show had science fiction elements, the possibilities were far more wide-open than for a more reality-bound show. As I waited for the next episode, I found myself rediscoving the childhood pleasure of getting lost in a story in my imagination. Do you remember that time in childhood, when you had to WAIT to find out the answers to a story, or when the story was so fantastic that you had to mull it around in your mind when you were doing other things like running errands with mom, or walking to school, or sitting in class working on an assignment, and you'd find yourself staring off in to space thinking about the story you'd just read? Back before you knew what to expect from a story about magic, or monsters, or time-travel, or aliens; back when, after the story ended you'd imagined alternate storylines, or how the story would continue after "The End"; back when the ending of a book made you wonder, rather than critique? Lost brought me back to that.

Another accomplishment of Lost: it could be discussed and debated with others. You had to reason things out and come up with theories that fit the evidence, and defend those views to others. I think this was a great exercise for the boys to engage in with us. In the final days before the finale, I'd read articles where the writer would wonder if it was possible for the finale to make 6 years of TV watching "worth it". To me, it had already been worth it, just for the enjoyment of the discussions we had about it. (Sorry again Nicki!)

In the end, it didn't matter to me that every question wasn't answered. In life we rarely find out the causes of the circumstances we find ourselves in, and authors have to come up with all kinds of tricky ways to give us the information that make their story make sense. They employ narrators, "myths" told by wise old storytellers, coincidences, flashes of inspiration to the main characters, and sometimes even scenes that we observe but that happen away from the main characters. It often seems pretty artificial; and often characters don't have crucial information but have to make decisions anyway. So we never find out "why" women can't have babies they conceive on the island, or exactly what experients were being done with polar bears, or how the Dharma Initiative found the island. Those mysteries weren't relevant to the central story of what Jack and the other Oceanic survivors were there to do, and so, while they were a part of why the island was so unusual and so disconcerting to new arrivals, they did not need to be answered in order for the central story of "why this plane?", "why these people?", to be resolved satisfactorily.

I liked the discussion of the intersections of free will, faith, manipulation, leadership, power, repentance, personal growth, and our inter-connectednesshow. If we have free will, faith is not just possible, but it is not possible to avoid it. At some point you must make a choice without having perfect knowledge, you will not have enough objective facts to use reason to make a decision, and you will have to chose based on what is in your heart. This is the moment of truth that shows just what you put you really believe in; the leap of faith. At first, Jack resents having to make this leap at all; but he learns that choices can't be avoided. Others more readily accept this idea, like Ben and Locke. But Ben usually choses a self-serving option, because he thinks he is "the good guy", and therefore whatever he wants must be good. Whereas Locke is willing to be self-sacrificing, but he lacks the wisdom and experience to make a truly good decision, and sometimes makes a bad decision with good intentions. Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Sayid all struggle with this as well, and they disagree vehemently among themselves and with Locke. But they seem to recognize that they are all trying to do the best they can with imperfect information, and so they forgive each other and retain the sense that they are on the same side, even when they oppose each other.

And they learn over time. Sawyer can't learn to make good choices until he comes to understand that forgiveness (of ourselves and others) is necessary; that life entails making mistakes or having wrong things happen to us, and we can go on; the real mistake is to decide that because we made a mistake we are forever Bad, or that because someone harmed us we are forever damaged. Ben begins to chose the right when he realizes that his sense of the good was unreliable and he had been deceived, so he steps back and decides to follow and learn from someone whose sense of right he trusts (Hurley) for a while. Sayid learns to make good decisions by evaluating them not by if they will get him what he wants, but if they are decisions he could tell his wife about with a clean conscience (the "would I do this if everyone could see" standard). Kate decides to stop doing what she wants (raise Aaron) and instead do what she would want someone to do for her (the golden rule standard). Jack learns to let go of the immediate thing he thinks he wants, and to listen to how it feels in his heart (the "still small voice" standard).

I told Bob midway through the 3rd season, when he started watching it with me, that their biggest problem wasn't the obvious one (that they were physically lost) but that they were all spiritually lost. The ending showed that this was always what the show was about. In the end, the Lost all found their way. That was an ending I didn't expect to see on TV.

For all of these reasons, Lost was awesome.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Moms in the Book of Mormon- a Belated Mother's Day Post

We had a great Mother's Day yesterday- and by we I mean the whole fam, although I probably enjoyed it the most. "We" all enjoyed breakfast in bed (yay, no pictures this year!); "we" enjoyed See's candy; "we" enjoyed the Hershey's bar they passed out at church; and "we" had a fantastic dinner of steak, shrimp, asparagus, potatoes, salad, and coconut cream pie (thank you Katy, Dad, Bob, and Dan!). Wow, that was all about the food! I guess "we" didn't care as much about the hand lotion I got, or the lipstick, although I enjoyed them.

It was fun to have mom and Judy there, so it was a pretty big celebration. After dinner, we watched The Blind Side, which I thought was appropriate, because really, has there been more awesome mom in the movies recently?

Now how does this relate to my post title, "Moms in the Book of Mormon"? Well, a few weeks ago Emily was going to bed when she asked me the question every girl in the church eventually asks, "Mom, does God love boys more than girls? Because the scriptures are all about men, and I just don't understand why. Are they more important? That just doesn't seem fair!" Oh, I remember wondering the same thing. At that age just on the cusp of adolescence, we experience the convergence of several things that all lead to this natural question: a growing awareness that our gender means something- that it is different than our hair color- and that it will influence our life and what we will be; worries and doubts about ourself, our ability, and our worth; and an increased knowledge about the stories in the scriptures. So we have a heightened awareness of gender and are wondering what it means, and when we read the scriptures they seem to be always talking about men, and then we take a leap to wonder if this is a comment on our worth.

I told her that was a very good question, and I reassured her that the Lord loves women as much as men, and we talked a little about how language has changed, and how "men" and "mankind" often refered to both men and women . . . .etc. It calmed her down for the night, but I've had it in the back of my mind that I need to be able to give her a more thorough answer (but at a time other than at 9:15 on a school night).

Then today, the day after Mother's Day, I came across this wonderful article about Nephi, and how he wrote about women. The author notes that Nephi's writing, when compared to the Old Testament, is remarkable for how he discusses women. Nephi was very aware of the feelings of his mother, his wife, his sisters, and sisters-in-law, and he speaks about them and the trials they endured and the faith they displayed numerous times in his record.

The author also notes that Nephi's writings contain important accounts of both Eve and Mary. In discussing Eve, Nephi corrected the record and provided an accurate picture of the mother of us all, as a loving mother who had a deep understanding of the gospel. And Nephi's vision of Mary is one of the clearest descriptions we have of her; quite a tribute is paid to her in that, when the angel tries to convey to Nephi the meaning of the Tree of Life, and how it represents the condescension and the love of God, he starts by showing Mary, and then by showing her holding the baby Jesus- and then Nephi gets it.

Reading this made me excited to show Emily that we can find women in the scriptures. I hadn't considered that in Nephi's writings we get pictures of some very significant women- Eve, Mary, Sariah the wife of Lehi, and Nephi's wife. Women may not show up very often in the scriptures, but when they do, they are remarkable.

Just like you, mom.