I've been thinking ~ I know! So dangerous! Anyway I've been thinking because I find it so odd that people seem to find certain books dangerous or something & I have been wondering [as Professor Sumner Miller so aptly put it ~ remember him? My brother wanted to be him] Why is it so?
I have reached a conclusion ~ that may or may not be correct. See I own several very literal thinkers. They drive me bonkers. You ask them what a book is about & they will give you a synopsis of the plot. At least one will begin at the beginning & list every event until he reaches the end. [Um, yeah, but what was the book about? I just told you!] Circular conversation going nowhere fast.
Then a very dear & godly man confessed to me that Revelation made no sense to him at all. Nor did the prophets, the psalms [the psalms?!], the gospel of John & it occurred to me [ok, I'm slow, you know] that he too was a literal thinker & did not do well with metaphor, simile & symbolism whereas I, who do not do well with the literal, sail through the morass of symbolism, metaphor & simile with the greatest of ease. By nature & training I assume there is more to the text than meets the eye.
Everything, & I do mean everything, is read on at least 2 levels: the obvious & ~ the not so obvious. It is a habit I suspect began very young. I know I wrote my first poem at about age 7 or 8 because I needed one for a Brownie badge & even then I was aware words could be used to manipulate ideas, paint pictures, say the unsayable. A child of the cold war I discovered Yevgeny Evtushenko's Baby Yar ~ such beautiful, beautiful language~ Dostoevsky, then T.S. Eliot & Helene Hanff. Without reading anything else at all, reading either Hanff or Eliot will give you a nodding acquaintance with every writer who even nominally influenced English literature! And you certainly will be in trouble if you try reading Eliot literally!
I have tutored a lot of kids in English over the years & heard more times than I care, But why doesn't poetry ever say what it means?! It does! Always. It uses symbol, metaphor & simile & once you understand that there are no difficulties at all. Those are the keys that unlock the mysteries. We teach our children to look for these things when we read Shakespeare, or Donne, Dante, or Jane Eyre but even really bad writers use these things: they are the tools of a writer's trade ~ which means that all literature can be read on multiple levels. It may not be what the writer meant; It may not be what the writer intended ~ but it can certainly be read on multiple levels. It is not conscious ~ & I should probably be hard put with some texts to explain how that works; I only know it does.
I also have a very solid Christian world view. Can you see how this starts to work? Whatever the writer meant or intended that is filtered through the prism of Christianity & strangely transmuted. It is why I can read something like A Clockwork Orange, say it is absolutely brilliant, deeply disturbing, completely worthwhile because it is read & interpreted through my understanding of Judeo~Christian ethics.
There are things I can't read ~ not because I consider the books themselves to be bad, or even evil, but because as a visual learner I know there are certain images that will lodge in my subconscious & give me nightmares & so I avoid those things. I cannot say how they will affect someone else.
My opinion is that it is the bland, the ho~hum, the indifferent that may be religiously or politically correct but unchallenging that is dangerous & I am sooo tired of bland Christian literature! It is that literature that lulls people into a morass of complacency & complacency is fatal! Don't believe me? Read your bible. Here God confronts people in the midst of their passions. Take just one example, a man after God's own heart, whose household was torn apart by incest, rape, fratricide, rebellion, murder, adultery....hardly a pretty picture of David. The Israelites spent 40 years paddling about in the wilderness instead of an 11 day journey because they were willing to settle for complacency rather than tackle the difficult issues & deal with them. If we want to run a marathon we train for it. If we want to compete physically we build muscle & stamina. Why do we somehow think it is different with the Arts or the Spirit?
You can only build muscle by pitting your strength again an opposing force. Christians have begun addressing this issue with the sciences & there are many very good websites around to help those of us who are scientifically inept understand the arguments involved. There are very few people addressing the problems Christians have with the Arts but the principle remains the same. If we refuse to address the issues & simply walk away we cede a whole area of life to the devil. How foolish is that? Better by far to look at the problems & work out how best to address them because there is nothing more foolish than someone who has never read a work tell someone who has that it is wrong, bad, evil or whatever else. It really is the height of stupidity. It destroys our witness. Others write us off as ignorant fools. In order to argue effectively, point by point, you must at least know the work in question, have read it, listened to it, analysed it. Which means providing ourselves & our children with the tools to do this. Herein ends Ganeida's rant.