22 December 2010

If there is anything. . .

". . . virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."
Articles of Faith: 13

I saw Tangled with my family tonight. It's the second time I've seen it and I thoroughly enjoyed myself both times. It's a clever movie that I wasn't expecting to do much more with other than a mental pat on the head - a "awww. . . you're such a cute Disney movie!" sort of gesture. Instead it struck a pretty big chord with me that I haven't been able to stop thinking about since. Probably because I think it's a hugely important film for the families of students I teach.

Let me give you a bit of background. I teach in one of the most conservative communities in the country. My students almost entirely come from the same family and religious background. Nearly all of them come from families where the parents are very involved in their lives in all aspects - and very concerned about each of those aspects. To these families, the world is often seen as a dark, scary place that needs to be constantly censored and filtered before reaching their children. Above all, the family is the most important thing, and keeping kids home as often as possible is important. Many of these students don't attend school full time so that they can be at home. In some cases, students are actually pulled out of class if it is seen as an environment that might be stressful. Most of these students are wary of what is new or different because they have been taught (either directly or indirectly) their entire lives to be cautious about the unknown.

Now, to be clear, this post is not meant to totally discount that method of parenting/raising a family. The world is often scary and certainly filled with darkness. It's not a hidden fact that the pornography rate in Utah is higher than any other state in the Union, for example. And families are very important - they are central to the Lord's plan, after all, and should be valued and strong.

What I do fear is the censorship. Typically the goal of censorship is to keep a child (or a person) innocent - but what censorship typically breeds is not innocence, but ignorance - and those are not parallel virtues. Ignorance breeds naivety - and those who are naive have no means with which to change the world for the better. The answer to evil is not hiding from it and pretending that it doesn't exist.

This is why I bring up Tangled, which was brilliant and beautiful in many respects, but mostly in the message that it gave of the dangers and problems of what happens when you shelter someone from the bad things. In the movie, Rapunzel is kept away in a tower (as per tradition) by a woman claiming to be her mother. Under the guise of "protection", Rapunzel is kept in this tower for the first eighteen years of her life until an arrogant (and hilarious) thief makes his way up her tower to escape a horse that thinks it's a dog/general.

So - as with the traditional story - Rapunzel leaves. And she discovers that her mother was right - the world is full of scary, frightening creatures. Not everyone wants what is best for you. Not every creature or place is safe. But she also sees and experiences beauty and fun and joy that she never would have had if she hadn't left the tower. If you can't have the bitter, you can't have the sweet.

And that is why I ache for so many of my students. For so many people I see around me who live their lives in constant fear. I think they see their life as a boat in the middle of the ocean that keeps springing leaks. They've used all their fingers and toes and elbows and any other resources they can to try and plug the leaks, but they keep breaking through. I would be absolutely miserable if I lived my life in constant fear. Fear is a disabler - it keeps you from moving forward. And it is not the way the Lord wants us to live. We are meant to progress, not hide away. We are meant to influence the whole world - not just the walls of our homes. And if we are going to influence the world, we need to be in it - aware of it, and we need to love it as God does. And he does love it - because he gave his son for it. Mormons (particularly those in Utah Valley, where the gospel of the church and culture of the church mix so crazily at times) are fools if they think they have a corner on God's love for the world. And I think it's about time they owned up to this and started becoming a more powerful people.


A. Bailey said...

Brilliant. As usual. And thanks for everything Joni.

Sarah Moeck said...

THANK YOU. EXACTLY my feelings. I may re-post this on my blog. Giving you all of the credit of course :) I love it.

Me said...

Sarah -

You'd be welcome to do so. Thanks for reading!