Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Good Earth

Our family philosophy is a reading philosophy and I love sharing all the books. In lieu of this philosophy, I want to create a series of posts highlighting books that I would recommend to others because EVERYONE needs good literature. #roseandtoastreads

One of the seemingly ironic aspects of reading this book was that I was always eating whenever I picked it up. Most commonly, I would take it with me to lunch. This felt like a huge indiscretion considering that for the majority of the first half the main character, Wang Lung, and his family are starving, quite literally, to death. Despite the overwhelming guilt I experienced for continually stuffing my face during the reading of this book, I absolutely loved it!

I fully understand how this is a contemporary classic and I am surprised that I had never read it before, especially given that I was subjected to several courses on contemporary lit, post-modern lit, and post-colonial lit; not once did this book appear on course syllabi during my undergraduate career. In Literature. I find this quite absurd to be honest. Although my rant/soap box on the absurdity of my college literary education is one that those close to me hear on a regular basis, I will spare you, my dear readers, except for this one point: The number of books I was forced to read that had very little to contribute to the Great Conversation has left me feeling rather illiterate. Heck, I read God of Small Things, which wasn't my favorite, several times in several courses and let me tell you, there are only so many times one can read about the orange-ice man and not want to vomit in the sink. Once. The answer is once. But not so with The Good Earth.

The characters were believable - i.e. human, experiencing human problems in a world overrun with other humans experiencing different human problems. Wang Lung exhibited many true-to-life flaws and attributes that led to my rejoicing and sorrowing with him throughout his life. A life that begs to be reread. Pearl S. Buck delivers her message without shoving it down your throat (unlike another previously mentioned author, who I'm sure is a wonderful human being and that her book is probably pretty good, but not one that I will read again in this lifetime). She, Buck, explores the conflicts between romance and responsibility in love; the pros and cons of filial obedience; wealth and poverty; and human progression (or digression) intellectually and morally.

This book doesn't detail much in the way of descriptions of China the country, but instead it focuses on one character his life and his family, but I think the setting is important and that as a farmer Wang Lung is tied to his land, his Chinese soil, and the Chinese way of life. However, the setting isn't isolating. I can enjoy the landscape without having set foot in the country; I can appreciate the trials that the revolution spurred without knowing the whole, vast history.

It was an interesting progression from rural life to city life and back to rural life, and that throughout his life Wang Lung is continually connected to the land, his land, even when he's removed from it. His children don't always (or ever) appreciate the life their father has led or his connection to the land, but isn't that also true to human nature? We cannot truly experience or know the life of another, fellow hooman being. We cannot totally and completely appreciate the choices, the trials, the highs, the lows, the values of another, even one we're blood related to. Luckily we have books to teach us; and Wang Lung teaches us that he feels most at home working in the soil, getting dirty, and smelling like garlic. And who doesn't love the smell of garlic?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Follow the sat nav

Welcome back to my little corner of the internet.

I've missed writing and getting thoughts from my head through my fingers to the page. Things have not gone as planned. Do they ever?

I wrote the first two paragraphs of this post a couple weeks ago and although my sentiments have changed slightly, I would like to keep the authenticity of the original post intact. So they remain just as they were (I've put them in italics for the sake of differentiation).

Originally, I had written a whole slew of welcome back posts complete with all my grand intentions of homeschooling and being a stay-at-home mom, finally. But God had other plans. My religion is very close to my heart and I struggle to put into words what my thoughts and feelings are. I'm still pretty raw and entirely overwhelmed by the blessings and the trials I have experienced in the last two weeks. It hasn't all be bad, not at all, but last week I just about cried for one reason or another every day. But I know the Lord is good. And that whatever plan He has for me and my family is a better plan than I can imagine, though it may not look how I think it should look.

We moved across the country. In our family, a move isn't a move unless it's across the country or the ocean. So we're thousands of miles away from routines and home and all things familiar. I have a terrible, truly terrible, sense of direction so I've been using the sat nav to get everywhere. But isn't that how it goes - on earth as it is in heaven? I'm new here. So I need guidance - temporally and spiritually. When we arrived on earth, tiny and indefensible didn't we need guidance? Our parents did everything for us because we could do very little for ourselves. As we grow, the need for guidance doesn't disappear, it just changes and as a perpetual child of God, I need continual guidance.

Picking up from where I left off all those weeks ago, we moved. And I needed the sat nav. And I made a connection to God's plan through the need for a sat nav. AND now I've taken that sat nav story and run a half marathon with it (a half marathon btw is on my never-bucket list, I am so not a runner). But, please continue...

In the beginning it's quite easy to follow the path that the sat nav tells us because we don't know the way, so we place all our faith in route we are told in direction-by-directionally based pieces. We haven't had the chance to look around and get our own sense of direction including shortcuts, and stop-overs. We aren't distracted by the possibility of other routes. Or Target. As I got more and more comfortable driving, I trusted the sat nav less and less. I have no reason not to trust the machine, although I am warned that the map is out of date, and given my directionally-challenged nature, I should be much more wary of where my brain is telling me I should go rather than the sat nav. However, I found that I would question the directions. I would double check the overview and triple check the address before trusting, having faith that this device would get me where I needed to go.

The scriptures (and if you're LDS, the prophets) are like our sat navs. They are filled, programed (in keeping with the sat nav analogy) with the correct routes for us to follow. The test of our faith is whether we trust their directions and follow them even after we "know" the way.

I have lately realized that not only has my reliance on the sat nav decreased, but also my speed has increased. I started of trepidatious, unsure of what the speed limits were and keeping a close eye on available road signs. As my comfort with the road increased, so did my speed. For one thing the flow of traffic is quicker than I'm used to - and to be fair, there aren't many clearly posted limits. However, this analogy has to do with sin rather than faith. When we're comfortable stretching our limits in one area, it easily transfers to other areas. When I'm lax in my temporal experiences, I am usually being lax in my spiritual upkeep as well and not doing all that I should to follow God's promptings and keep His commandments. Wo, unto those who are at ease in Zion, or something like that. When I'm not paying my full attention - to the road, to my children, to my spouse, or my scriptures - that is when things start to slip through the cracks and the toddler takes a sharpie to the wall.

But what does all this have to do with Rose & Toast? I dunno. But I needed to write them. Things, life, don't always turn out how we plan them and this space is a perfect, world-class, fantastic example of that. It has had so many incarnations with no set direction or organization or consistency other than it's all my writing. I don't know when I'll write again. I don't know what I'll write again. But chances are I'll write. Again and again.

I'll keep writing.