Believing in Fairy Tales

I was chatting on the phone with a friend on Friday and he asked me if I believed in fairy tales. I deflected the question onto, “What do you mean by ‘believe in fairy tales’?” Because it really is a deeper, more complex question than it seems on the surface. Usually, people think of believing in fairy tales as romantic daydreams all day long and a “happily ever after” at the end of every story.

But I’ve read fairy tales. In most of  them, you go through hell several times over before getting to a happy ending (see the Handless Princess tales for one example). And sometimes there is no happy ending at all and they end with death or maiming or losing everything you love (such as when The Little Mermaid dissolves into sea foam).Believing in Fairy Tales | marissabaker.wordpress.com

So I’m not sure what to answer when asked if I believe in fairy tales (though I did have a good laugh after our conversion, when I realized I’d been wearing a shirt that says “I believe in fairy tales”). However, I suppose the short version would be to simply answer “yes” to any version of the question.

  • Do I believe in happily ever afters? yes, but only if 1) you work to make it happen and stay committed to falling in love with that person the rest of your life, or 2) if we’re talking about the Christian hope of spending eternity with God as Jesus’ bride.
  • Do you believe life can be cruel and horrible before you get a happy ending? Certainly. In fact, I’d say it’s much more rare to get happiness without having some kind of trial first. And without the contrast of highs and lows, I doubt we could truly appreciate the good things.
  • Do you believe happy endings aren’t guaranteed and life can feel senseless and hopeless? Yes. I’ve lost two friends close to my age to suicide, one to a car accident, and one to an illness. In my local church group, several families have lost young children or have kids and grandkids battling horrible illnesses. Sometimes there’s just no good explanation for why things turn out the way they do.

All too often, people dismiss fairy tales as out-dated children’s tales that teach things irrelevant to the modern world. I’ve heard the heroines are too passive, the dark tales too dark, the happy tales too unrealistic, the messages outdated. But I would argue the complicated nature of fairy tales is the aspect most relevant today.

Taken as a whole, fairy tales refuse to see life as easily explained. They present the strangeness, complexity, and downright cruelty of life in a stripped-down story form that refuses to be brushed aside. And many do earn their reputation for ending “happily ever after” because even after all the terrible things that happen they insist on hope. And that’s why I believe in fairy tales. I believe in the magic of storytelling, it’s power to hold a mirror up to our world, and our deep need for fantasy that illuminates reality. And I believe that in a world which refuses to make sense we need a hope that defies logic just as persistently.

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A Little Celtic Culture

My family and I have been wanting to see Riverdance for years, so when we realized they were coming into Columbus Mother’s Day weekend we snatched up some tickets. And I’m so glad we did. Just watching the videos on YouTube is impressive, but seeing the entire show live was fantastic. I’m still in awe of how fast their feet were moving. And it’s so precise! I can’t even reliably walk down stairs without tripping over my own feet

A Little Celtic Culture | marissabaker.wordpress.com

  • Amusing side-note: since I started dancing at church, people compliment me about how graceful I am. But a couple months ago, I’m walking downstairs to where we practice before Shabbat services and managed to trip down the stairs hard enough to create an enormous, instantly purple bruise on my shin. Any gracefulness I display while dancing is a genuine miracle.

One thing I hadn’t expected from Riverdance was how much of a Celtic “feel” there was to the show. I supposed I’d expected it to be more “showy” and less cultural, if that makes any sense. The poetic voice-over played a big role in setting that tone, as well as the musicians (have I ever told you how much I adore Irish fiddlers and bodhran players?), and a singer who made me wonder if I’d wandered back into a Celtic Woman concert. The whole thing was fantastic.A Little Celtic Culture | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Riverdance is actually the second Celtic show I’ve gone to this year. Emmet Cahill was on his first solo tour with his new album (if you don’t know who he is, drop everything and click here. You’ll thank me when he’s the biggest name in Irish music a few years from now). And I’m hoping to get to Dublin, Ohio’s Irish Festival this year, too. And see Albannach (a Scottish pipes and drums band) at the Renaissance festival. One can never get too much Celtic music!

  • Random thought: none of the people currently in Riverdance have red hair. This does not fit my assumtion that there must be tons of Irish redheads out there since everyone automatically assumes I’m Irish because of my hair.
A Little Celtic Culture | marissabaker.wordpress.com

the Celtic section of my bookshelf

I can’t really pin-point a reason I love Celtic things so much. I do have some Celtic ancestors in my background (we’re English and Scottish on my dad’s side of the family and English, Scottish, and German on my mom’s side), but it’s so many generations back that I doubt we can say genetics play a role. But since my hair has been reminding me of my Scottish heritage my whole life, we’re going to say it still had some influence on how much I love Celtic culture, music, and dance.

Are any of you obsessed/in love with a culture that’s not the one you grew up in?

 

 

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The Promise

Exactly 102 years ago today, Ottoman authorities arrested and executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals and community leaders from Constantinople. April 24, 1915 became the start date for what the relatively few people who even know about it now call the Armenian Genocide. When the massacres and deportations finally ended in the early 1920s, about 1.5 million of Turkey’s 2 million Armenians were dead. That’s 3/4 of the entire population.

I wasn’t planning on writing about The Promise. After first seeing the trailers, I hadn’t even planned on seeing it until it was out on DVD. Then I found out that there were tens of thousands of negative reviews for the film online when it hadn’t even been released yet. That caught my attention, because often the stories people work hardest to silence are the ones it’s most important to tell.sometimes the stories people work hardest to silence are the ones it's most important to tell | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Having seen the film now I’d say that’s definitely the case here. And not only is it an important story, it’s a well done film despite what critics are saying. Continue reading

Don’t Hate Me For Rejecting Your Holiday

The season touted as “the most wonderful time of the year” is my least favorite. I’ve found a few things I can appreciate about December (BBC specials, Star Wars film releases, Hanukkah, sales on baking ingredients). But mostly the unrelenting holiday cheer blaring from radios and dripping from public locations tries my soul.

Even though I don’t keep Christmas I try not to be a Grinch about it (which, by definition, means a person “who is mean-spirited and unfriendly” and “spoils or dampens the pleasure of others”). If you wish me a “Merry Christmas” I’ll just smile and thank you. I might even appreciate it because I understand the sentiment behind your greeting. I’m certainly not going to launch into a rant about how much Christmas offends me or how insensitive you are to assume everyone keeps Christmas.

But for some reason, not enjoying/keeping Christmas  horrifies some people. In an age where people go nuts if someone tries to “cram your religion down my throat,” you can still be shamed for not keeping Christmas. And I think that’s weird. Don't Hate Me For Rejecting Your Holiday | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Here’s one example of people “grinch-ing” someone for not being Christmassy enough. Yesterday I saw an article from Young Conservatives critiquing the fact that the Obama’s final White House Christmas card doesn’t feature the White House and wasn’t explicitly Christmas related. “It’s basically a ‘Holiday’ card,” they wined, “because writing the word ‘Christmas’ would hurt too many feelings.” Apparently, their feelings were hurt by the leader of a very diverse country trying to cover all the winter holidays observed by the people he’s leading.

It’s not just articles from biased political sites about public figures. It’s the unrelenting Christmas music for a full month on the radio. It’s the pressure to enjoy the decorations and participate in the “spirit of Christmas.” It’s when you say don’t keep Christmas and someone shoots back “Couldn’t you just go caroling?” or “Don’t you love Jesus?”

I don’t really deal with much pressure to keep Christmas. Most of the people I attend church with don’t keep Christmas either (a few Messianics do, but most people I know gave up Christmas when they discovered God’s holy days). When people ask, I’ll explain why I don’t keep Christmas. Mostly, though, I just try to ignore it. But I still see people, mostly online, talking about Christmas and shaming those who don’t get into the seasonal spirit. I don’t care if you want to keep Christmas. I’d just like a little space peacefully not keep it without being bombarded with holiday cheer that makes me feel anything but merry.

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It Doesn’t Matter Who’s President. What Matters Is How You Act

So the election happened a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately, one of our candidates won. We all knew it was going to happen. Most of us wouldn’t have been all that happy either way, plenty of people would have been scared and upset with either outcome, and some few would have been dancing for joy when their candidate won because they honestly thought they’d be a good president.

My title is a bit misleading, I suppose. It does matter who the president is because that impacts the future course of our nation, how other nations see us, and the policy that affects every day life for many people. But now that Donald Trump is president, we have to live with it. He won fairly according to the rules set up in our country. If Hillary Clinton had won, I’d be writing pretty much the exact same thing.

But though it does matter who’s president, it is shocking to see how many people are taking their candidate’s loss as a personal affront and the way they’re vilifying other Americans who disagreed with them. If you supported Trump, you’re therefore a racist misogynist who hates Muslims and women. If you supported Clinton, you’re therefore an air-head liberal not in touch with reality and careless of society’s moral decline. And on and on we go, painting people we don’t know with broad bush strokes according to how we view the candidate they supported.

That has to stop. We are not our political parties. We don’t always vote for someone because we agree with all their actions or every view they hold. (Just in case you’re wondering, I voted 3rd party because I couldn’t in good conscience choose either Clinton or Trump. My alternate plan was not voting at all.) Some people who voted for Trump did so because they preferred his policies even though they couldn’t stand his personal morals and don’t share the bigoted views that have been associated with his campaign. Some people who voted for Clinton did so because they thought she was the less-terrifying option or agreed with her policies, not because they wanted a female president at any cost or permission to slaughter babies.

But if you go out and use Trump’s election as an excuse to harass a young black woman walking at her college or suggest a Muslim woman hang herself with her headscarf, then you become exactly the type of bigot that scares non-Trump supporters. And if you sit in your dorm room sobbing until you vomit or march around shouting that he’s not your president because you didn’t get your way in the election, you become the self-entitled liberal that disgusts non-Clinton supporters.

How you and I choose to act in response to the election results has become so much more important than who won and who lost. If we want to hold our country and the new president to a higher standard, we must first start by holding ourselves to a higher standard. Don’t want to live in a country where people are harassed for how they look, think, or worship? Then don’t go around harassing people who disagree with you and stand up against such harrasment whenever you can. Dislike the idea of someone being thrown out of your country for speaking their mind or living life how they choose? Don’t threaten someone else’s liberties of expression and belief.

It’s become startlingly obvious to people throughout America that there are plenty of Americans who don’t agree with us. Yet we still have to live together. We need to find a way to disagree without attacking each other. We need to figure out how to work together for a more united society while still respecting others’ differences. And we need to give our new president a chance to live up to his promises to “bind the wounds of division,” “work together and unify our great country,” and “deal fairly with everyone, with everyone — all people and all other nations” as we “seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.”

Whether or not you believe him is moot at this point. Encourage him to actually do it instead of pretending he’s not president. And meanwhile, remember to be the change you want to see in the world. Or, to quote Gandhi more directly, “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” Instead of adapting to the growing culture of hate, let’s dig deep inside ourselves and stand for goodness.

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Wanting Children While Single

You snuggle babies every chance you get, longing for the day when you might hold your own child. Or perhaps you don’t hold babies any more because the ache of wishing they were yours is just too much. That’s the kind of grief and longing we associate with women in relationships who want to have a child and can’t get pregnant. Yet this desire isn’t confined to women with a man in their lives whom they love.

I’ve always felt guilty for how much I sympathize with the barren women of the Bible. As far as I know, I could have children if I found the right guy to marry and it seems rude to compare myself with women who are physically unable to have children. It also seems out-of-order to long for children before meeting the man I’d want to be their father.

I’m not alone, though. A woman I met through this blog while working on The INFJ Handbook shared her desire for children by asking why so many children are born into broken families while we, who would make good moms, are left barren. Since then, I’ve come across other women who feel the same way. If you’re committed to not having sex before marriage and/or not having children without a man in your life, then single women can know the pain of empty arms that long to hold a child.

Cultural Back-lash

Longing for children is unpopular in today’s society. We’ve become so obsessed with the fact that women are more than “baby producing machines” that the notion of being a mother has becomes synonymous with female oppression. Instead of seeing motherhood as a beautiful thing that many women desire, we’re told kids should take a back-seat to your career, your other desires, and your empowerment as a woman. And if having kids is actually one of your top life goals? well, clearly you’re still living in the pre-feminism dark ages. Continue reading