Epic tale


Stand in the place where you live

Now face north

Think about direction

Wonder why you haven’t before, “Stand” by R.E.M.

I have been intrigued by the apocalypse for quite some time.  In recent times, doomsday has been expected in 1999, 2000, 2012(And I feel fine!) the alleged Mayan apocalypse(Baktun to the future), and the various predictions about when the world is going to end (Embracing the end times).  As an avid reader and later as a teacher, I became a dystopian novels enthusiast. Despite being a longtime Stephen King fan, I had not read his post-apocalyptic epic,novel,  The Stand.  I chose it as an audiobook to follow the Game of Thrones Series. Because it is quite long, I knew I would be reading it as Lent began. I did find The Stand to be enjoyable as a counterpoint to Game of Thrones, as a post- apocalyptic novel, and even as a Lenten read.  

The Stand was a good follow-up to Game of Thrones. Like GoT, The Stand has an intriguing cast of characters.The Stand’s antagonist, Randall Flagg, is despicable yet I found myself engaged by his personality quirks.  Some GoT fans might say the same about Cersei Lannister. I also thought that there was a level of camp that I noticed in the Game of Throne books. Call me a weirdo but sometimes the scenes are hilarious.  I would cackle at the shade being thrown between characters. On a more serious note, The Stand included themes of betrayal, conspiracy,infighting and people preying on others’  insecurities. The behind-the-scenes political power plays that plague humanity are still in full effect post humanity. According to King, even when there very few people left on earth, they are still going to engage in the game of thrones.

I have read and done a lot of work as an English teacher with classic dystopian novels like Brave New World and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.  The young adult fiction market has generated several popular dystopian novel series in the last decade including The Hunger Games, the Divergent series, the Uglies series, Delirium, and The Girl with All the Gifts. These are only the ones I have read; there are many more. It would seem young adults are being marketed a fascination with the end of the world. The Stand, however, predates this trend in fiction.  The Stand debuted in the late 70s before it was remixed in 1990 with the uncut full length version. The Stand differs from  other post-apocalyptic novels in that it is grounded in realism. The characters are real people in contemporary America.  The novel is not sci-fi in terms of how who the characters are before, during, and after the apocalypse. A lot of similar books are set in a distant future that is in many ways very removed from our current reality. King places his story, if not in this world, in a world that’s similar and therefore relatable. Rather than focus on terrifying the audience, the book puts more focus on the relationships that build between characters, their Interactions, and personal dynamics between the opposing sides. King is making a statement about society and  its values by imagining a world where there’s an opportunity to get away from where society is today and its failings. It’s not about a failed future society; it ponders whether or not we would pick up where we left off in the event of of an apocalyptic event. If I were still teaching Advanced Placement literature and still teaching a unit on dystopian novels, I might recommend the book as a contrast with other books or in tandem with the Bible. While there’s certainly some allusions to the Bible, it’s not at all like the Left Behind series which is definitely a faith-based apocalyptic read. (don’t get me started on that topic. That is another blog for another day.)  I did enjoy the social commentary present in The Stand.  

I started The Stand before Lent and finished it during the first week of Lent.  I had mixed feelings about continuing to read this book as I was going into a time that is personally important to me. Lent is a time of reflection and reconnection with spiritual discipline. I work on putting myself in a serene and focused state of mind. I wondered if reading about the end of the world and a demonic character made sense.  As we progressed into Lent, the scripture readings did tell about Christ battling evil. The Stand is a story about battling evil, both the evil with a capital E and also the evil of our own ways of thinking, our ambitions, our failings and flaws as people. I finished this book as I transitioned into a different time in the year and in my thinking.

There were parts of The Stand that I could have done without; there was gratuitous gore and sexual violence.  I sometimes question King’s language, specifically his use of the n-word, other slurs and profanity.  Overall it was an entertaining read, especially as an audiobook.

Embracing the end times

I’m slightly obsessed with the end of the world.  How can you not be with funny tweets(including my brother’s  Bro’s Pope tweet)and three possible dates in the last two years(check out my musings on the last two finales-that-never-were,And I feel fine! and Baktun to the Future)The third date, you wonder?  It’s one of my own pondering during this wild week of Pope Benedict’s resignation followed by the meteorite disaster in Russia.  I don’t know that I actually believe the end times have arrived.  Perhaps it is more inspired by the fact that my days in teaching are numbered, though that is by choice.  The world, as I know it, is ending.

After months of agonizing over my unhappiness about my work situation, my dream job opened.  Ironically, the application was due on what should have been the end of the world, version 2012, December 21st.  It was an opportunity for a new beginning that I could not ignore.  I am proud and happy that I was offered the job.

In the weeks to follow, I will wrap up this hectic transition period and move into my new position, leaving behind a school district in which I have been a student, teacher, administrator, and teacher.   There will be tears, doubts, and moments of fear.  But as with all endings, both real and imagined, I will let it happen, then venture forth into my new life.

Baktun to the future

With indigenous peoples once again relegated back to relative invisibility in mainstream media/pop culture (when are folks going to realize wisdom is wisdom?) many are collectively heaving a sigh of relief and pretending like they weren’t scurred.  I will be the first to admit that I was a little nervous, not because I believed the specific date was on the Mayan glyphs, but because my own universe is undergoing major changes.  This is good yet still intimidating. 

For a greater part of my life, I feared change.  So I tried to control situations in unhealthy ways, through poor choices and actions fueled by fear, anger, or insecurity.  To live I needed to embrace change.  Rather than focus on the end of things/relationships/situations, I learned to be more mindful, to value the moments.  I learned that it was all right for worlds to end. 

As with the Harold Camping Rapture debacle last year(my thoughts on 2011 Rapture), there was an emphasis on destruction, cataclysm, and chaos in many of the conversations I heard.  Perhaps, as Rigoberta Menchu observed recently, in times of change, we need to consider “lo esencial, lo humano y lo spiritual” (the essential, the human, and the spiritual.) We don’t need cataclysm to do so.  We also don’t need a predicted end of world date to realize there’s so much about our current society/times that could be changed or destroyed. Every one of us can take time to evaluate on our contribution (or lack thereof) to our community, both immediate and extended, and work to create the kind of world we want to give our children as legacy. 

I, for one, am ready for certain aspects of my world to start anew. Pase lo que pase (come what may), I accept the challenge.  

Another door

“Remember wherever you go,
there you are”
“Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland,” B-52s

As I grapple with the complications of social networking miscommunication and weighing whether or not to invest in fledgling friendships, I was surprised by the unexpected reappearance of an old friend. After a separation of nearly twenty-four years(two of those brought about by drama, not distance), my former best friend, Warrior, has reconnected with me. It is a happy coincidence as I have been questioning the very nature of friendships and our particular friendship had a powerful impact. Only great things can happen once we bring our two families together.
 Let the 2012 indigenous people’s alliance building and world takeover begin!

And I feel fine!

For the last two days, I have been up around four in the morning. I put the covers back on my toddler(she wriggles free of blankets, just like her dad does), pop in a workout DVD, wash the sinkful of dishes, feed the dog, shower, do some work-related tasks. I am being more productive than I’ve been in months. What has prompted this sudden resurgence of Type A morning person zeal? Hmm…could it be…the Rapture?

M and I make it to Mass at least two Sundays out of the month. We say the Prayer of Jabez on the drive to Grandma’s. I recite the blessing over meals when I remember. M always says Amen. And loudly, too. She sings along with the children’s gospel CD her Nana loaned us. But we’re not exactly counting down the hours to the alleged Judgment Day happening tomorrow. Or am I?

I went from minister to unwed mommy. I don’t quite fit the criteria of the saved as preached by evangelists. No, those billboards on the 880 remind me that, if the Rapture is a reality, this particular liberal Catholic fag hag who’s lived in sin with her babydaddy for four years will likely be left behind. As I’ve joked with some of my students, I’ll be right here for the six months of end of the world madness.

I’ve always believed that I should live my life as if it could end at any moment. Sleep deprivation and work frustration often drains me of that strength of character. I may not be ready to say goodbye tomorrow. But I think I’m living again.