Monday, December 20, 2010

The Shack

I'm not quite sure where to begin. This was more than just a book, it was an insightful legend to what it means to be a human being. I probably should have taken the religious aspects a little more seriously, but the advice that was given spoke to me in a much different way. And to be honest, the overtly religious aspects more often than not offended me a little bit. Mack, the protagonist of the novel, raised a question during one of the meals he shared with Papa (an African American female, who we know as 'God'). He inquired about which of the three, the Father, Son or the Spirit, were most powerful. He wanted to know if our version of their hierarchy was the reality of their relationship. And what Papa revealed to Mack was nothing he expected. She explained that they are a circle of relationship, not a chain of command.

Jesus chimed in and noted that humans created the hierarchical systems of everyday life. "Once you have a hierarchy, you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or a system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it. You rarely see or experience relationship apart from power. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship..."

So then I started thinking about my relationships, and how I approach them all. In some, it is very evident which role I play in the pair. Whether I'm the strong one, the weak one, the smart one, the chaser, the chased, etc. And others, I find that there is that sense of equality that Papa, Sarayu and Jesus were attempting to teach Mack about throughout his journey. In some of my relationships, I do in fact feel like I am trapped by rules, following whatever the other person orders me to do. And in other relationships, I wonder why I feel like I am the responsible one, trying to hold the two of us together-- when in reality, if we just let each other live and understand we have differences, there would be no need to enforce rules on each other. There wouldn't be a need to fight for understanding or argue against each other's methods of thinking.

Sarayu, the personified spirit of God, further explains, "...broken humans center their lives around things that seem good to them but will neither fill them nor free them. They are addicted to power, or the illusion of security that power offers. When a disaster happens, those same people will turn against the false powers they trusted."

If I constantly live in this illusion of power and weakness, I don't think I'll ever truly be happy. If I continue to live in this world where I think certain people are better than me, while others rest below my 'status', then I will always see people in tiers. This kind of relates to something my Grandmother has been getting me to understand, I think.

She tells me to let go of anything and everything that is not related to Love, Truth, Beauty, & Knowing. It seems so simple in text, but when I try to apply the concepts, the challenge sets in. It's taken me years to figure out just what I find beautiful, and what I usually fall in love with. But knowing and trusting truth, that's a whole other type of game for me to try to play. But something this book has shown me, is that we can trust our gut...after it's been trained. We must train our minds, and our gut instincts to steer away from snap judgments and categorizing habits. Ultimately, it will be my gut who tells me whether or not something is true, but until I can definitively stay away from categorizing people and things, I won't be able to see the beauty and know that something is truly amazing, or truly worth my time. This stagnant routine of judgment I've created for myself closes in on my perception of life and clouds my ability to distinguish good from evil and truth from falsehood.

There were a number of themes brought up in this novel, and many I'm sure I will have to reevaluate for myself, but this one really stuck out to me. This theme of how we treat other humans really swept me away to another world-- a world where I could judge myself and how I judge other people. It seems so normal to shape people into certain types of human beings, to see them in one, maybe two ways, but nothing more. And here I always thought I had a pretty wide open perception of the world.