This is what our windows looked like yesterday. Outside, everything was whiteout. It was like reenacting one of the snowstorms from The Long Winter or something. We had all kinds of important errands that didn't happen because my car actually doesn't drive over roads that have 8+ inches of snow on them. Not to mention the fact that once a plow finally did come down my road, they walled off our driveway again with a couple feet of snow, which took hours to dig out.
So, what did we do instead? We all sat around and read books, and then last night we watched a movie. I have been in need of good escape books (seeing as we've been stuck in the house thanks to germs and cold for so long), so I reread Stephenie Meyer's The Host. Incidentally, a film of it is coming out next month. There hasn't been ton of hype about this book (er, comparatively speaking as far as her other books, I mean), but I rather like it. You may like or dislike her books (people tend to feel rather strongly either way, I notice), but one thing she does extremely well is suck you into her stories. I still can't figure out how she does it, but even people who don't like her books admit to being sucked in. I try to analyze it, but...then I always get sucked in.
Anyway, The Host is about a near-future world where body snatchers have invaded and earth has lost. The Souls, as they call themselves, insert themselves into the humans' bodies and sort of take over their brains. Other than their forced colonization, they are very peaceful and advanced, and as far as they are concerned, they are making the world a better place. But some humans haven't given up, and one of them, Melanie Stryder, has been caught. A Soul--Wanderer--has been inserted into her body with the goal to access Melanie's leftover memories and turn them over to the Seeker who wants to find these rebels. But instead of disappearing, Melanie fights back. Sticks around inside Wanderer's head. At first enemies, they become friends--and soon Wanderer--or Wanda, as her name gets shortened--agrees to search out the hiding place where Melanie's brother and boyfriend are hiding. While there, Wanda finds herself rethinking her loyalties, her expectations, and her roles. There is also a love...quadrangle? I really, really dislike love triangles, but the issue here is more one of not enough bodies to go around... Self-sacrificing Wanda is well balanced by the much more practical Melanie, which makes for more interesting characters than some others I could think of. A searing hot Arizona adventure to read during a blizzard was a great idea.
Then last night we watched The Truman Show. I saw it once before, but my oldest was a toddler, and let's just say that I didn't really hear any of the movie then. It's sort of dialogue-intensive, so it was nice to hear it this time around. And my kids are old enough that they enjoyed it, too. Such a great film! Sometimes I see/read stories that are obviously meant to be profound, but er, seem more like the emperor's new clothes. This one, though... It's about a guy, Truman Burbank, who has grown up his whole life on a reality TV show, only he has no idea. He thinks it's all real: his family, his friends, even his job. But it's fake. Everyone around the world watches this show, and Truman is the only one who doesn't know. Only one person has tried to tell him the truth: an extra he notices despite the girl written into the script for him. The extra is of course hustled off the show as fast as possible, but he remembers... And one day, a piece of machinery--a light--falls from the "sky," and he starts to notice that things...aren't quite as spontaneous and random as he always thought they were. And thus begins his struggle to leave the "perfect" world his creators have invented for him.
I love this film. As far as religious/philosophical attitudes, there are some strong ones out there. One one end: grace is all you need; you don't have to change a thing as long as you believe! At the other end--you must not mess up! You have to do everything perfectly or you'll go to The Bad Place. I think both of these polarizing ideas perhaps see part of the truth but don't fully understand it. I believe we're here in this life to learn and grow and become mature, complete, wise, and capable beings. That that is what the word "perfect" means. Not "never messing up." And not never trying, either. I believe every person has something they are called to do in this life, and also something they have to learn. And the thing is, you can't learn if you only try things you are already good at. You can't learn unless you "get messy," as Ms. Frizzle always says. You have to try it out, walk around inside of it for a bit, fall short and maybe even break a few things before you understand how to fix things and put them back together right and true and strong. I believe the grace part comes in to cover those weaknesses as we're learning; to give us the chances we need and do the parts we can't when we really aren't there yet. I don't think getting into heaven is so much a matter of having a perfect test score as it is becoming a greater person through a combination of hands-on learning, and grace spotting us and filling in the rest. It's like learning French. The point is not that you get an A. The point is that you can go to France and not starve to death; that you can make friends and laugh at the jokes and feel comfortable and capable in your new environment. Work is where you try out the language and use it until you are fluent. Grace is people not minding when you slaughter the grammar along the way. Filling in for you when you don't have the word. Understanding your sign language, if nothing else. Bridging the gap when you've done what you can.
Which is why I love this film, because it shows so clearly that even though the easy way looks good, it's counterfeit. Truman's world is 1950s commercial safe. While it may look like he has choices on the surface, he really doesn't--look how every apparent choice to get off the island is gently but irrevocably removed. Everything, from his job to his wife to his hypothetical future children--is decided for him. And...he's like a child, even though he's 30 years old. Without choice and a chance to fail, Truman can never truly succeed.
But Truman doesn't stay. He finds the exit, and steps out into the real world, the world that I am so grateful we live in. Even though it's hard and not perfect and doesn't always have the results we're looking for. But it's full of choice. And it's full of learning. And that's what I'm here for! And so are you.