"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."

Sunday, April 29, 2012

I'm Tara... and I'm a Mormon

(Disclaimer: I started this blog post the last day of finals, but I am just getting around to finishing it up, so just go with it and the fact that I talk about things that happened "today" but they really didn't happen "today." They did happen the "today" of the time, but that is now the "today" of yesterday. Ponder on that for a second and then proceed.)

I had this moment today when I walked out of the library, final paper in hand, last test behind me, light rain coming down, and it hit me that I will not be studying in that library again for the next twenty months. I will not have to duke it out with the dude for my table, I will not have to suffer through the frustration of finals week when people who have never stepped foot in the library decide to start commandeering my table (and really all of the tables in the vicinity, but I could rant for days on this subject, so I am going to stop myself before things get crazy), I will not experience that awkwardness when you realize you might have drooled a little bit when you accidentally fell asleep, I will not have that moment when you get all excited that library hours have been extended and then you realize that you got excited over being able to spend more time at the library. I will not have to write another paper, except maybe for fun, for twenty months.

I thought that this parting with the library, and all that the library symbolizes, would fill me with deep joy and satisfaction, but I felt nothing. And I tried to attribute this lack of emotion to my utter weariness and exhaustion, but as I got home and realized that my to-do list was now reduced to things like "pack" and "move out," and this time I did feel a little something- I actually felt a little sad. I am taking a little break from this stage of my life, for the time being, and though I have had my little tiffs and moments of frustration with my major and courses (Ok, Ok, maybe they weren't such "little" tiffs...), when it comes down to it, I love being an English major and I love learning and I kind of just really love the whole school scene. And I can actually say that and mean it now that I have written all those blasted papers.

There is a reason that I love the learning and the books and all the nonsense, and I know I have gushed about this before, but it is good for me to remember and to remind myself of why I am doing what I am. Because sometimes I get frustrated or just plain forget in the craziness of due dates and disappointing scores.

In one such instance of frustration, I had spent two or three hours pouring over the lines of a Shakespeare play (The Winter's Tale), trying to decide if Hermione was really dead or just pretending to be dead (mostly dead, if you will). Most scholars treat the play as if she were just hiding, but I just didn't like that and Shakespeare himself left it pretty dang ambiguous. So, after going line by line through the play, I got to the final scene and I was still no closer to knowing for sure, I was about to give up. I felt utterly disgusted that I had just wasted those precious hours over this seemingly insignificant detail. I started asking myself questions like: "Who really cares if she is dead or not?!" and "How in the heck did I think that I would be able to determine what some dude 400 years ago meant when he left it so open for interpretation?!" and "How did I get to this pathetic point in my life where one of my biggest stresses is trying to decide if she is fake dead or real dead?!" and the recurring question of "Why does this even matter?!"

Though the last question was uttered in frustration (uttered in my head, I clarify just in case some of you were worrying about my library etiquette), I treated the question seriously and started thinking about why it DOES actually matter. And I found my answer. It doesn't necessarily matter if she is dead or fake dead, but it does matter that she comes back. It matters that as a reader we see Hermione come back and be reunited with Leontes and that Leontes, who feels the anguish of causing the deaths of his wife and son, is relieved of some of that anguish. It is important that Leontes can be forgiven, despite his mistakes that had very serious consequences, and it is important that we readers can experience the joy of redemption, just as he does. But this redemption doesn't come from anything Leontes did for himself, it was an intervention, a divine intervention.

I might never know what Shakespeare really meant or if Hermione was really dead, but this was still an important moment in the play for me because it reminded me of my own need for a Savior and for the atonement and also of the joy that comes with being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the knowledge that comes with that membership. Leontes made some mistakes, one might say that he felt "godly sorrow" and that he really did repent, and he became a different person. But through all of this, he could not bring his wife back (he also probably did not bring sexy back, but luckily, Justin Timberlake did). He had to "awake his faith" and only then could his wife be restored. Though I try to live my life in such a way that I hopefully will not cause the death of my wife and child, or lead anyone to be eaten by a bear (best Shakespeare stage direction ever: "Exit pursued by bear", end of Act 3), I am grateful for the knowledge that when I do mess up and make mistakes, I can be forgiven of them and that there is hope for the future.

Unlike Lear who laments over Cordelia, "She's gone forever....Thou'lt come no more, Never, never...," through the gospel we know that there is life after death and we can have the J.M Barrie view that instead, "To die would be an awfully big adventure." Or I guess as Albus Dumbledore says, "To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." Now, I am not advocating death here, I am just expressing my gratitude that I know that life doesn't just end at death. Because without that knowledge, we would have the same bleak outlook as Lear and Hermione would be really dead. No chocolate-coated pill from Miracle Max would fix that either.

Instead, I know that I have a Savior who died for us so that we can live again and have forever families. We can think of death like C.S. Lewis depicts it in his last book of the Narnia series. Not to ruin any endings for anyone (so if you don't want the end of the seventh book ruined, stop reading, or don't say I didn't warn you), but in the end when the children die in the railway accident and they are back in the real Narnia and they meet Aslan, they are afraid at being sent away, but Aslan tells them, "The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning" and "this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

I love being able to study inspired writers who write about eternal truths and principles, and sometimes really depressing, hopeless writers who show me my need for those eternal truths, but I am excited for the opportunity to take a little break from the school scene and share the joys of the gospel, that many of these authors so brilliantly portray, with the people of Italy. Studying literature is important to me because it reminds me of what I believe and why I believe it. And now this sounds a little bit like one of those "I'm a Mormon" videos, so just to finish: I'm Tara. I'm an English teaching major, future missionary to the Italy Milan Mission, and I am a Mormon!