Religion and war, and childhood things

November 30, 2009

One of my friends is working as a teaching assistant in a course I TA’d a couple years ago: Literature of Trauma and Recovery.  And when the course was starting out she and I talked about issues surrounding religion and war – to make it more plain, the way everyone involved in a conflict thinks God is on their side.

I thought of this again when I went to see Gone with the Wind.  I was very impressed by the movie’s complex treatment of war and the way it enters the lives of individuals, even though at first mention of war the characters do mostly subscribe to the idea of God being on their side. (When the events turn against the south, they change their minds).

We saw Verdi’s Aida the next weekend during the broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera. The first act concludes with the beautiful piece Nume, custode e vindice, a prayer for the protection, and of course victory, of the Egyptian army. But the opera, too, complicates straightforward ideas of religion and war because of personal loyalties that go beyond national concerns.

The other theme to my reading / watching recently seems to be revisiting things from childhood (mine or others).  I’ve ordered one of my favourite Christmas programs, Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, which is a fantastic animated piece set to music.  I hope it’s as evocative to me now as it always has been.

Sesame Street’s 40th anniversary got me thinking about the movies that went along with the show. We always loved Sesame Street’s Christmas special, with Bert and Ernie playing out O’Henry’s Gift of the Magi and Big Bird waiting for Santa, but I was especially thinking of Follow that Bird (1985), where Big Bird is adopted, runs away, is kidnapped (birdnapped?) by a carnival, and finally returns home. It was funnier for adults than I had thought it might be (the family Big Bird goes to live with lives on Canary Row, and their children are Donny and Marie), but not as much fun now as I’m sure it was then.

My friend had been encouraging me to read a book she loves: Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It was a beautiful book, but it got me thinking about some of the things I love from my childhood, like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books…I don’t know that they can ever be as effective if we come to them as adults as if we have loved them from the time we could read.

I’m very much enjoying the new L.M. Montgomery book, The Blythes are Quoted. As has been mentioned everywhere, some Montgomery fans won’t enjoy this darker book as much. I’ve always loved the books, but found their consistent cheeriness a bit grating, and the stories and vignettes are wonderful.

And now I’m watching a midday rerun of an early episode of Dawson’s Creek, and the soundtrack’s made up of Chantal Kreviazuk and Ben Folds Five tunes. Very 90s.

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2 Responses to “Religion and war, and childhood things”

  1. G said

    I don’t know that they can ever be as effective if we come to them as adults as if we have loved them from the time we could read.

    I think that what you say is true and as much as we see things in a different light the second, third, or fourth time we revisit something from our childhood, in my opinion we’re simply trying to grasp at that initial wonder/feeling.

    I love the nuance of discovering something new in something old, realizing that a certain character or symbol has added meaning because of our ability to think critically.

    And yet the exact opposite is true as well. Sometimes when revisiting an older work we tend to over-think and complicate stories that are best left as simple battles of good versus evil.

    Your thoughts?

  2. Amy said

    Some books, I think, are meant to be re-read as we grow and gain experience. When I was given A. M. Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea for high school graduation, the giver asked me to please re-read it every ten years, as it would hold new meaning each decade. I know that many people never re-read a book, but revisiting many books or poems has proven a worthwhile (or sometimes simply a comforting) experience for me.

    Of religion and war: Mark Twain’s War Prayer–a moving representation of the vanity of believing God supports one force in a conflict against another.

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