Have a Little Faith

Books given at Christmas can sometimes be a mixed blessing.  Either they are worth it, or you feel guilty and finish what would normally be a toss-away.  Luckily, Have a Little Faith was worth it.  By the author of Tuesday’s with Morrie, Mitch Albom, we see first-hand the relationship between clerics and their congregants.  Invited to deliver his rabbi’s eulogy, even though the rabbi is still living, Albom begins interviewing his rabbi to get to know him.

FaithThe journey that Albom inevitably found himself on was exploring our changing perceptions of God and the people who lead us there, our pastors, imams, rabbis, and yogis.  If you’re rasied in a religious culture, as Albom was, it’s hard to see a role model such as his rabbi as an equal, as a man.  Instead, we tend to put them on a pedestal.

Throughout his interviews with the rabbi, Albom went through the rough process of seeing someone who is a role model as a human being; someone with faults.  It’s hard enough to see the faults in your parents as we get older, but to see them in some one we deem “perfect” is difficult to say the least.

What was touching about this memoir, was that Albom was so honest.  Sometimes, in some memoirs, everything seems so touched up it’s hard to take the author honestly.  With Albom, we get his raw feelings.  His questions, his doubts, his confusions, his hurts, his epiphanies.  Seeing his journey and his ultimate epiphanies after his eulogy was delivered was intriguing and inspiring.  Albom is very self-aware which helps since this is a book about self-analysis and faith.

What’s sometimes complicated about faith is that our perspective on the matter changes as we get older.  As children, we tend to take the faith of our parents, as teenagers we tend to rebel against it, as young adults we tend to question, and as adults we start to put the pieces all back together.  This is what makes our faith-walk so unique to others, even of the same religion.

I think this is the universal application that anyone who is on the faith journey can relate to.  Many times people give up along the way for reasons valid and not.  But Albom seems to argue that it comes down to us and the god we chose to believe in.  Too often we project, assume, and feel peer-pressure.  But what it comes down to is what we, the individual believe and how we want to express those beliefs.  I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in another perspective on faith.

Much Ado About Nothing

Finally!  A comedy I actually thought was funny (I’m looking at you, As You Like It)!  After many years of only teaching Shakespeare’s tragedies, I couldn’t face the prospect of teaching Julius Caesar one more time to sophomores.  Shakespeare is a bit of a tough sell alone, but Julius Caesar is just so dry.  It doesn’t go over well.  So I’ve been on a search for a good comedy to teach.  Much Ado is shocked me.  In a good way.

MuchI had never read Much Ado until this summer.  I read it in two days, and I enjoyed it.  Which isn’t always easy when it’s summer and you don’t want to be reading things to teach.  Luckily, there are several movie adaptations, which always encourages teachers and students to read a work (sad, but true).  What I liked about Much Ado is that it isn’t quite as complex as Twelfth Night, but not as odd as As You Like It.  Frankly, I really liked Beatrice.  For once I felt that we saw a smart, witty young woman who isn’t quite made into a shrew.  Although I was troubled by how she treated in the end.

What is intriguing about Much Ado is that the couple who is supposedly in love, Hero and Claudio, turn out to be very superficial.  Yet the couple that doth protest too much, Beatrice and Benedickt, end up being more deeply in love.  Or at least Benedickt actually show she loves Beatrice in action rather than in just words.  Claudio just reminds me as another Romeo-type.  What wasn’t so cool is that in the end Beatrice is “silenced” with a kiss and we never actually here whether she consents to marry Benedickt.  I don’t know if Shakespeare meant it, but it seems that he’s saying that because she’s witty, smart, and sarcastic, she needs to know her place and submit to Benedickt.  Compared to Hero, though, Beatrice is a regular Betty Friedan.

Beatrice knows what she wants and she’s not going to settle.  She hints she have had her heart-broken which, understandably, makes her cynical towards marriage.  But when Benedickt shows that he is willing to duel his friend for her, I think it shows that love is more than just saying words or writing poems; it takes action, it’s not always pretty.  Hopefully my students pick up on this too.

Antigone

I’m not a huge fan of Greek tragedies, but I do appreciate works like Oedipus and now Antigone.  Of the two, I’m definitely team Antigone.  The “sequel” to Oedipus, the action is much more condensed and the theme is much clearer.  That being said, there is a lot lost.  Antigone is the daughter of Oedipus and the niece of the current king.  She gets herself into some trouble by wanting to bury her brother, who tried to cause a civil war in Thebes.  Being a Greek tragedy there’s a prophesy given to the king warning him.  He of course ignores it, which just feeds into prophecy, and the suicides commence.

AntigoneThis is where I feel some of the artistry of Oedipus is sacrificed.  While Oedipus is complex and layered, I felt that Antigone was more raw.  That’s not a bad thing, but without the layers and complexity, Antigone is very raw and blunt.  On the other hand, that might be what Sophocles intended.  He may have wanted the complex world that Oedipus was set in to have crumbled into this raw, ugly, depressed city.  All I know is, why do the Greeks seem to think suicide is the answer to all of their problems?

Either it’s just an over dramatization of the Greek culture, or their lives were really that bleak that suicide was their only option.  I pity them if it was the later.  Having read several Greek tragedies (and let’s face it, Shakespeare borrows the tragic trope A LOT!), it’s almost expected that the body count starts rising as soon as the first person dies.  The important point I took from Antigone was that sometimes fear makes older generations too harsh of young people.  And that without young people, society can’t advance.