Sunday, August 30, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
- Katrina stew
- Free gumbo
- Help yourself to gravy
- Katrina, I hate you
- FEMA sucks
- Go to hell, George W.
- Desperate people on rooftops awaiting rescue
- Loyal people refusing rescue if their cat or dog will be left behind
- Maverick boat people ferrying the stranded from flooded homes to helicopter pick-up
- Angry people shooting at the rescuers
- Weary people trudging out of the city
- Uniformed people forcing the weary back at gunpoint
- Dedicated people keeping patients alive in sweltering hospital hallways
- Critically ill people on blankets at the airport awaiting airlift
- Crowded people on overpasses with no food, water, shelter, or toilets
- Dead people in flooded beds, in lonely attics, on exposed sidewalks
P.S. Michael died in Houston on Wednesday, December 9, 2009. May he soar freely and joyfully in the world of spirit.
- Negative sense: To express ourselves through the stuff we choose to consume or own.
- Positive sense: To express ourselves through the way we choose to act. Our moral choices express who we are. What we choose to create does, too.
- Win-Lose: I win and you lose. I get my way, and you don't get yours. I win at your expense, and you feel it.
- Lose-Win: I lose and you win. You get your way, and I don't get mine. You win at my expense, and I feel it.
- Lose-Lose: We both lose. The chosen solution makes neither of us happy. We are both disgruntled.
- Win-Win: Your happiness is as important to me as is mine, and you feel the same way about me. I am committed to finding a solution that you and I both feel good about, and you are also so committed. I won't feel happy about a solution that favors me at your expense, and you feel this way about me. The key is that I deeply want you to be a winner just as much as I want to be a winner, and you deeply want me to be a winner just as much as you want yourself to be a winner. With that commitment, I believe that two individuals or whole families can always find Win-Win solutions.
Friday, August 28, 2009
- Portofino, about the Becker family's annual summer vacation in Portofino, Italy
- Zermatt, about the Becker family's annual winter vacation in Zermatt, Switzerland
- Saving Grandma, about the Becker family's experience when the outspoken, profane Grandmother Becker comes to live with them in Switzerland
HUMOR. The Calvin Becker Trilogy is funny--and I mean laughing-out-loud-for-minutes-and-minutes funny. The stories are constantly funny. What's funny? Calvin's theological misunderstandings are funny. Church splits over miniscule points of doctrine are funny. Grandmother Becker's profane outbursts are funny. Elsa Becker's extensive talks about sex with her children are funny. Puberty and sex are very, very funny. Obviously, my list isn't the least bit funny--but Frank's stories are! Sometimes as I'm going about my day in what I hope is a relatively sane manner, a Calvin Becker story will flash into my mind and I'll start laughing out loud!
BEAUTY. Frank weaves many passages of absolute beauty into the Calvin Becker Trilogy. I think of Frank's wonderful descriptions in Portofino of the town's aromas and of the sensuous meals the Becker family ate there. I also think of Calvin's memories and fantasies in Saving Grandma about his best friend, Jennifer from England, whom he sees only during his family's annual Portofino vacation. While taking care of Grandmother Becker back in Switzerland during the year, Calvin remembers and fantasizes about Jennifer: the time Jennifer's bathing suit strap slipped as she pushed off from the bottom of Portofino Bay, giving Calvin a view of her breasts; Calvin's fantasy of diving with Jennifer into the deep waters of an isolated cove and their struggle to regain footing on land; Calvin's fantasy of having sex with Jennifer for the first time. These are exquisite.
HORROR. Frank includes a few truly horrifying stories. One of the most horrifying is the beating Calvin receives from his father, Ralph Becker, for drinking alcohol at a yacht party. Frank's description of this incident causes me to gasp in horror. (I realize that I keep repeating the word, "horror," but this is truly the most fitting word here.)
THE WHOLE. The whole of the humor, the beauty, and the horror--told so masterfully by Frank and therefore experienced so deeply by me--affects me profoundly. The laughing out loud is enjoyable and opens me to "get" the point of the story. The beauty, too, has an opening effect. Then, somehow, the fact that I've laughed so heartily at Calvin's antics makes the horror all the more horrifying. I believe that I feel the horror more deeply because I've gone so far in the direction of laughing. I experience how funny this extreme version of Christianity can be and how horrifying. And the beauty Frank creates draws me in yet further. I find myself thoroughly enjoying the Calvin Becker Trilogy, experiencing a full emotional range, and receiving insight after insight about life and faith as a result of the way Frank engages my mind through my heart.
Thank you, Frank.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
How does Frank--how does any author--find the courage to tell the world about his or her regrets, wrongdoings, and shames by publishing these things for the world to read in a memoir?
Frank says that he is able to separate himself as an actual person from himself as a character in the story he's telling, each story chosen for its potential to keep the reader turning the page. But I don't think this is why Frank tells us about his treatment of his daughter in his memoir. Here's why.
- First, the information about Frank's treatment of his daughter is not needed to make Crazy For God a page-turner. Crazy For God is a fine page-turner without this information. Some readers may even find this information a turn-off.
- Second, Frank doesn't seem to separate himself very effectively from the Frank character in the memoir when he discusses his treatment of his daughter. Instead, every time Frank mentions this behavior toward his daughter, one feels that Frank is touching a deep well of pain.
- Third, you can bet that readers of Crazy For God will most definitely not separate Frank the character in the memoir from Frank the actual person. When one reads in Crazy For God, "I did this," or "I did that," one knows that "I" is Frank Schaeffer the actual person who did those things.
Frank also says that in Crazy For God he was following principles of fairness and from-the-front leadership. This I do see, and I believe that these are deeply held principles for Frank. In fairness, Frank turns his sharp lens on himself as well as on others in his memoir. He examines his own faults as closely as he examines anyone else's. And like a Marine Corps Drill Instructor, Frank leads from the front. He goes first. He opens his life to tough examination--very tough. He is tougher on no one than he is on himself.
I believe that this deep honesty is also a quality that Frank observed in his father, Francis Schaeffer, who Frank says was always his own toughest critic. It seems that Francis Schaeffer was open about his faults and struggles within his family, but it's also clear from Crazy For God that Francis Schaeffer's episodes of anger and depression were family secrets, never to be mentioned outside the family. Frank takes the honesty he saw in his father to a very public level, telling the world about his own episodes of anger toward his daughter in Crazy For God.
Finally, I believe that authors find the courage to make difficult self-disclosures because these self-disclosures are intrinsic to the highly important message these authors want to convey. This message often involves bringing to light what has been hidden and giving voice to those who have been silenced.
I think, for example, of Nancy Venable Raine's After Silence: Rape and My Journey Back. Nancy was raped--at age thirty-nine, while standing at her kitchen sink, by a stranger who broke into her home and attacked her from behind. Like many rape survivors, Nancy was silenced:
- by the shame that attaches to the woman raped, perhaps even more than to the rapist
- by the fact that people recoil from stories of rape
- by the distressing and isolating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
- by the body's way of isolating traumatic memories in an area of the brain that doesn't deal in language or time sequence, making it hard to talk about the rape and to integrate it into one's languaged and chronological life story
Frank Schaeffer's overriding purpose in Crazy For God seems to be to give an honest account of his life journey, especially with regard to the aspects of his life mentioned in his memoir's subtitle: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back. Having been such an outspoken proponent of the religious right and having moved away from that absolutist stance to a far more nuanced religious and political position, Frank wants to explain his evolution--from his upbringing within the Evangelical Christian ministry of L'Abri, through his years of leadership in the religious right, to his embrace of the Greek Orthodox Church and of his passions for writing and painting.
In Crazy for God, Frank recounts his personal evolution with deep honesty. Honesty requires that he shine light on the hidden and speak that which has been kept silent. Accordingly, he shines light on the unspoken family secrets with which he was raised: his father's anger toward and even physical abuse of his mother, his father's heavy depression, his mother's excessive interest in the sexual development of her children. He courageously turns that same light full upon himself, revealing his own anger and its physical expression toward his daughter. He continues to shine that light on his current doubts and struggles: the times he questions God's existence, his own bouts of depression, his tendency to impatience.
I would say that the best memoirs do deep soul work. In disclosing difficult things about his family and himself, Frank Schaeffer is probably advancing his own healing as well as the soul work of the family soul to which he belongs. Francis Schaeffer, Frank's father, did important soul work in the area of honesty within the privacy of his personal and family life; Frank carries this soul work further, into the public arena, through his memoir.
To summarize, I believe that all these things can provide courage for a memoir writer in disclosing painful things about him- or herself. I list them in order of ascending importance.
- Desire for good story material
- Ability to separate oneself as a character in the memoir from oneself as an actual person
- Principles of fairness and from-the-front leadership--shining the same light of honesty upon oneself as upon anyone else in one's memoir, and going first under the light of examination
- The deeply held purpose of healing soul work, often connected with shining light on the hidden and giving voice to the silenced
Certainly, even an unshared memoir can be deeply healing for an individual, as mine has been for me--I've had the courage to tell my story to myself. Limited sharing of a memoir with close friends goes a step further--I've let someone beyond myself hear my story. Full-fledged publication says that I'm ready to tell my story to the world. (Which I'm not!)