Wednesday, April 20, 2011
That encouragement to persevere may come from unexpected places.
Every night, I share bedtime stories with my two youngest children. As their taste in stories is, of course, completely different, this can take awhile. I'm reading L.M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon with Emma (which I like too) but for Blake, I'm plowing through Enid Blyton's The Enchanted Wood. I confess that I never begin another chapter of this book expecting to glean anything profound but last night I was surprised!
In the story, the boy-hero, Jo, had recently poked his head up through the hole in the cloud near the top of the Faraway Tree to see which new land was up there. Those of you familiar with this series will know what I'm talking about. It turns out to be an icy, polar-looking place and an aggressive, burly snowman snatches him up to be his servant. Jo's sisters, Bessie and Fanny (my old copy of the book is from the 1970s before their names were updated to Beth and Fran) are left gasping with shock from the safety of Moon-Face's house. Ms Blyton could certainly give some modern authors good, sound tips on plotting and suspense.
Anyway, later Jo is busy building the tyrant snowman an igloo, shivering in his thin little coat. He pleads with a couple of kindly bears to help him find a new way back to the Faraway Tree, as the hole has iced over, but all they can grunt is "Oooomph." Now comes the important bit.
"Never mind," said Jo, with a sigh, and made up his mind to put up with things till he could see a way to escape.
When I read that line to Blake, it seemed the old story took on new significance. What a fantastic attitude. To me, the situation would have seemed devoid of all hope. I could imagine myself weeping and dismissing all hope of ever being reunited with my family again, but not Jo. The possibility that no escape may be possible never occurs to him. His first few attempts have backfired, but his mind is ticking over, certain that with faith and determination, success will be inevitable.
When do we learn to doubt the optimistic whispers in our spirits? Why do setbacks crush us into accepting bad situations instead of challenging us to come up with workable solutions? What voice convinces us that second best may be all we can hope to settle for? Who kids us into believing that faint-hearted resignation is a virtue?
The famous "Serenity Prayer" tells us to change the things we can and accept the things we can't, but I don't think making a few attempts to achieve a goal before shrugging and giving up is what it is talking about. I see it more as an encouragement to put unworkable solutions behind us and come up with new ones. It's the sort of thing Thomas Edison did with his light bulb experiments, and look how we all benefit from his persistence.
I have an author friend named Laura O'Connell who has written her first Christian novel and her optimistic energy in getting out to market it inspires me to lift my head high and keep going too. She's paying no attention to the apparent fact that the Aussie Christian market is indifferent to fiction by its own citizens and similar stuff I've been tussling with for seven novels written over a decade. (Hey, I'm not saying that I haven't had good things happen with my writing because there have been many great moments. All I'm saying is that my spirit gets bruised and a bit rumpled at times.)
Laura sent me an email in which she said that on the evenings following discouraging days, she relaxes with a bit of wine, chocolate and a good sleep. Then she wakes up in the morning with a renewed sense that a new day is before her. To me, this attitude is as heroic as Jo making up his mind to discover a way to escape from the bossy snowman. The simple attitudes are indeed the most profound.