Becoming Bethany

Observations on becoming and being

Category: books

A Wide View

Sometimes I wonder why I chose to study film and not something more practical.  Well, yesterday I had an insight into why I made that decision. I was talking with a pathologist about her job when she made an observation that took me completely by surprise.  She told me the most difficult thing about her job is keeping an open mind.  She explained that she has seen her pathologist friends over the years go from being very “wide-minded” people to very narrow-minded people.

“It’s all about the job,” she said.  “All day, every day, we look into a microscope.  We intentionally narrow our vision.  We must ignore everything else except this microscopic thing right in front of our eyes.  I am not looking at a whole person to find their disease.  I am only looking at a small piece of his kidney or her lung to find the disease.  It begins to affect your outlook on life too.”

She went on to explain how she saw her pathologist friends narrow their views of morality, religion, politics, family life, etc. until they could no longer contextually evaluate anything.  She finds she must be very intentional about keeping an open mind to not fall into the same rut as her colleagues.

As she was talking, the light bulb clicked on for me.  “That’s why I chose to study mass communications!”  I love gathering information from a variety of sources.  I feel stifled if I am stuck with the same thing for too long.  I feel the most fulfilled when I am in situations where I am encouraged to have an open mind.  I want to live with a wide view.

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Seasonal Writer’s Block?

I have been terrible about keeping up with this blog lately.  I have started two or three different posts that are just languishing in my draft box.  I attribute that to a variety of reasons.  I have also been terrible about writing at all lately.  I attribute that to fewer reasons: busy-ness, lots of life happening, and just plain old laziness.  I will be the first to admit that sometimes I just get lazy about writing.  I get out of a routine or writing or I don’t have classes requiring me to write and before I know it, I haven’t written a page in weeks (or sometimes months)!  There is something else though that I am just now realizing.  I almost never write in the summer.

summer

I read in the summer.  Sometimes during the summer I read shelves of books.  But I hardly ever write.  Oh, I may turn out a poem or two, maybe even start a short story, but nothing serious or that ever really comes to anything.  I started to realize this yesterday when I walked home in the rain and came up with two or three separate short story ideas in the space of forty minutes.  I fully realized it this morning as I walked to the bus and noticed the cooler air and autumn light of September.  Something in my mind is stirring and something in my heart is beating harder and I want to write.

Now I’m trying to figure out why I never write in the summer.  Is it something I trained myself to do after years of school?  I write so much during the school year that I want the summer to rest?  Or maybe because I have a freer schedule my writing just gets neglected?  Is it related to the warmer weather?  Does the heat dampen my feelings of creativity?  Whatever the reason, I need to take steps to keep writing creatively even when I’m not feeling creativity.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the renewed creativity and really looking forward to autumn words.

Words

This was the final paper for my Literature: Autobiography class this semester. It is written according to the guidelines of the “This I Believe” project.

I believe in words.

My mother tells me that when I first learned how to talk I would only say the end of words. Watermelon became “lon-lon”. Maybe this has to do with the fact that I was an American child learning to speak English in Jamaica. Rather than choose the American or Jamaican pronunciation, I made up my own way. My father also tells me a story about when I was first learning to use words. I was two years old and playing with some little boys of the same age. My father was watching us in the front yard when a red car parked in front of our house. My little friends and I were very amused. The little boys started making car sounds–“brrrrrmmmm”, “beep-beep”. I stood beside them saying things like “look, it’s a car”, “pretty car”.
I was four years old when I discovered that words can be given to others without actually saying them. Books. My favorite book was about a wig on a pig. There was another book about a boy flying a kite. The book had a line that went something like, “I fly a kite.” I read it aloud as, “He flies a kite.” My teacher kept insisting that I was reading it wrong. I kept insisting that the story wasn’t about me so of course I wasn’t flying the kite. The first time that I wrote my own story (which was about a ladybug) I was amazed by the fact that other people would read it and know just what I was saying. Words on a page took on an almost magical quality. Books became my portal to other worlds.
I was eleven years old when I tried to speak using words different from my own. It was so extraordinary when “naan” started connoting “bread” to me. I have since studied three other languages and each time I begin to recognize the meaning of a word, I get a chill. How do foreign sounds suddenly import deep meaning to me? It is the magic of words that I can (with practice) communicate with a person whose every word used to be strange to me.
Now, in college, I have dedicated four years to studying words. They have become no less mysterious to me, but all the more powerful. I have come across sayings like, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” And “Your words are like honey on my lips.” And “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. How can words fight, taste sweet, and live? I think it is because words are shared among people, but at the same time live a life of their own. Think about it, long after an author dies, his words continue to affect us. It is another magic of words—they can live forever.

Prince Caspian the film: Not quite Lewis

So the film has been only been out for three days but it is already being highly debated. Some are saying that it is much better than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, while others say it is even further from Lewis’ original vision. Here are my two cents:

Warning: Spoilers

I think that it is a better film than LWW. The special/visual effects were MUCH better. The mythical creatures were more interesting. The land of Narnia felt…bigger. I believed in the magic a little more. And it was more fun to watch.

But I think the story was severely lacking. The characters (which I think is Lewis’ strength in storytelling) were lacking motivation. I didn’t really believe that Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy were once Kings and Queens of Narnia (even though we were reminded of the fact, often). The introduced conflict between Peter and Caspian felt petty. Much too petty for kings. More like two school boys fighting over the alpha male position. Susan spent a lot of the movie scowling rather than living up to her reputation of gentleness. I liked Edmund and Lucy though. They were the only ones who seemed to have grown from their years of reigning. I just didn’t believe that the characters were really fighting for the name of Aslan and restoring Old Narnia. Peter and Caspian, especially, seemed to just be fighting to prove something to themselves (or maybe each other).

There were too many battle scenes (esp. for a PG movie!) and most just felt like excuses to show off cool CGI (which was definitely cool). I want a pet Griffin now! But I don’t think that’s the point of Lewis’ writing. The whole movie was really interesting to see but it wasn’t Lewis. And I really like Lewis. I wanted to feel like he was telling me the story. Instead I felt like Hollywood was telling me a story (which they were). And they tell me a lot of stories. I wanted to hear from someone else for once.

Oh, well. Here’s to hoping maybe Michael Apted (director of the upcoming Dawn Treader) will let Lewis tell his story!

Kite Runners

A photo taken in Kabul yesterday:

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What kinds of stories do these little boys have to tell? And will anyone ever hear their stories?

Real Questions

An excerpt from Elie Wiesel’s Night, an autobiography of the Holocaust:

“And why do you pray, Moishe?” I asked him.

“I pray to the God within me for the strength to ask Him the real questions.”

Devastating Stories

Every once in a while I see a movie that, for lack of a better word, devastates me. And I use that word in its original meaning, “to thoroughly lay waste”. I walk out and I feel like every preconceived idea has been blasted and I find myself surveying the rubble of myself. All I want to do is go somewhere to think…and pray.

The Kite Runner did that to me today. I had read the book over winter break. It touched me deeply and I found myself misty-eyed several times while I was reading. The themes of transgression, honor, forgiveness, brotherly love, and redemption all set in a part of the world that is very close to my heart. I naively thought I was prepared to see the film. I already knew the story, right?  So much of the story is internal as well.  How could that possibly translate well to the screen? But, I think watching the film touched me even more deeply than reading the book.

I am sitting here trying to figure out why I had more of an emotional reaction to the film than the book.  For one thing, seeing the characters in their natural environment was very touching to me.  Though I have never been to Afghanistan, the market, the houses and courtyards, the faces of people were all very familiar to me.  I feel like someone brought a video camera into my backyard.  For another thing, there are expressions and movements that just can’t be captured in writing; no matter how great the writer.  There are things that can only be fully expressed through images.  And lastly, I think that there is something about seeing a person saying the words, real flesh and blood talking to you (through the medium of 35mm film) that just can’t compare to printed words on a page.  That (albeit fake) interaction with another human is profoundly meaningful.

I know that every author who reads this blog will probably be offended.  I am even a little hesitant to write this.  These are all new ideas to me.  I love books!  I don’t want to say that they come up short anywhere!  And I will grant you, there are some things that can be expressed much better through writing than through images.  But this evening, I really believe there is something about seeing another man and not just ink that is more powerful.

I mean, after all, isn’t that why the Word became flesh?