As an introduction to this post, I would like to share with you something terrible that happened to me just yesterday: Someone broke into my home and stole things. My television, my computers, my Kindle, a necklace that had lots of meaning to me. Things that belonged to me. I earned them, I had them locked up safely in my home. Someone else decided I did not deserve them and took them. Of course, there are millions of thoughts racing through my mind: Why would someone do this? What in the world did he/she/they do with my stuff? Why doesn’t he/she/the group bring my things back to me? I’m sad and angry and frustrated because I know there is very little that can be done.
That said, I am also very fortunate. Although these thoughtless people entered my home unwelcome and took things that belonged to me, and left the door wide open because they rushed out, they did think to put our dog gate up so the dogs couldn’t get out. The two most important creatures in my life are still here, snoozing away on their dog beds. The thieves also did not destroy what they left behind: Sure, things were a little messy, but it only took me an hour or so to clean it up. I wasn’t here to “surprise them” so I am safe and sound. This could have been much worse.
You are probably wondering by now what this has to do with my 100 books. In case you don’t know me very well, I have friends who I make jokes with about what goes on in my mind – these jokes usually have to do with unicorns, vampires, Edgar Allan Poe… My world is full of fantasy – a world of good versus evil. That is, in part, why I decided to begin writing this blog in the first place. I want to think about and consider all things good and evil. I want to ponder how allegorical and metaphorical creatures reflect our real lives.
While driving back to Salem this past Saturday, after visiting with family in the Berkshires, I listened to a Poe audio book I love. This excursion’s topic of the hour: Island of the Fay. Poe’s story tells a tale of a man viewing a tiny island. This island, the man tells us, homes fairies and on this particular day the man witnesses the life and death of one such fairy. He watches her change from light to dark, and finally to a shadow. This tale considers the “grayness” of light and dark and the confusion that can arise when it is not clear what is good and what is evil:
*… She floated again from out the light and into the gloom (which deepened momently) and again her shadow fell from her into the ebony water, and became absorbed into its blackness. And again and again she made the circuit of the island, (while the sun rushed down to his slumbers), and at each issuing into the light there was more sorrow about her person, while it grew feebler and far fainter and more indistinct, and at each passage into the gloom there fell from her a darker shade, which became whelmed in a shadow more black. But at length when the sun had utterly departed, the Fay, now the mere ghost of her former self, went disconsolately with her boat into the region of the ebony flood, and that she issued thence at all I cannot say, for darkness fell over an things and I beheld her magical figure no more. *
So, with this in mind, let us consider, for a moment, Metamorphosis by Kafka. A young man – a “good” young man – finds himself, one day, transformed into an evil bug. A giant, awful, smelly beetle. At first, his thoughts are still there. He thinks about his family and how awful it will be for them since his income will no longer be able to support them. He worries about his sister and her studies. Eventually, though, because his family can no longer understand him, he loses this part of himself. He becomes, on the inside, too, an evil, disgusting beetle with no love or passion. This is so true of many circumstances in life. Imagine the abandoned dog who turns violent because he is hungry and lonely. Or the awkward child on the playground who lashes out when he finally gets fed up with being made fun of.
Perhaps, also, we can think a bit about the fairy tale princesses: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella. These young ladies, legend says, were murdered, put to sleep for centuries, and locked up as maids because of some one’s jealousy over things they had. Their beauty (I like to think of this as inner and skin deep beauty – imagine Snow White the dwarfs home singing to animals) was more than anyone else’s in the land so someone else came along – in the Grimm versions, their own step-mothers – and tried to take that away from them. Modern versions of the tales, with their happy endings, show, though, that this theft was impossible. The princess’ beauty won out every time.
Finally, let’s ponder a bit about the Wizard of Oz. I’m sticking with the movie version here, since that is the most familiar to many of you. When I was a very little girl, my Grampa Knights had a laser disk player. For those not familiar, this was pre-VHS; it was sort of like CD meets vinyl. Whenever we visited, he would play the Wizard of Oz for us. Eventually he made a copy of it on VHS for us (boo SOPA!). I will never forget watching this taped version and know it by heart: In the nature of CDs, at the scene where the Scarecrow joins Dorothy’s journey the VHS even “skipped” a little. So instead of saying “To Oz!”, it said “To… we’re off to see the Wizard!” The whole movie, as you know, is about a little girl who wants more out of her quiet, black and white life. She wants to fly over a rainbow and visit distant lands. She wants to meet interesting people and enjoy snacks of hotdogs with a traveling ‘professor.’ Along the way she finds magic shoes. Red. Shiny. Sparkly. And someone else wants them. That someone else, the evil witch, does everything in her power to take them back. At the end of the journey, though, Dorothy learns she does not even need the magic powers of the shoes. All she needs is her family. Those fancy expensive shoes, the traveling… it is meaningless without her family and friends. Good wins again.
So, although this awful, terrible, no good thing happened to us it certainly is not the worst most awful terrible no good thing that could have happened. These people who stole my things because they could not earn them on their own – whether out of inability, or laziness, or jerkiness – were not able to steal the things most important to me. I won’t let them take that away. So, while I sit here typing away at my new laptop, drinking delicious coffee with a Greyhound at my feet, I can’t stop but think about my amazing family and friends and all of the love in which I am surrounded.