Open Wounds

Z is for Zeus

Do you believe in God(s) ? It’s an interesting question and one I find in my reading that few authors deal with. Maybe it’s just the books I’m choosing.

Recently I read Gone, by Michael Grant and although it’s a real page turner one of the things that struck me (besides being a bit scared of the darkness inside, I’m not afraid to admit it!) was how several of the characters had faith in God (a male it seemed and organized Christian God). It wasn’t a large part of the book but it was part of the fabric of the universe for the main characters. What happened to them challenged some of their faith in a God. It made sense for that town and those characters but I am so unused to a discussion of God that it stood out for me.

My son wants to read Gone (after reading The Magnificent Twelve he thinks Michael Grant is the funniest writer in the universe) but we won’t let him. He’s very upset about this as he’s turning 10 in three days and has read Ship Breaker (my fault), The Hunger Games (my fault – I’m a bad Daddy), and all the Harry Potter books (okay – now he earned the right to read them so back off!). My wife, who is infinitely more wise than me, is the one who put her foot down and said no, not now, to Gone.

You see in our community a boy recently died. He was thirteen years old. The whole story is not known as we do not know the family well, but we had been to their home a couple of times with other families for school social events. The boy got an infection that turned into meningitis and he died. It all happened in one week and I am still shaking a bit about it because, as a parent, my first thought was – what if this happened to my son? These kinds of things make you question God(s)/Goddess(es) and faith. My son barely remembered the boy as it had been a few years since they’d last seen each other and the boy was three years older. My son seemed okay with the news. It seemed to pass by him and through him with only a small ripple. He was more concerned for us then himself, it seemed.

So in Gone (this is not a spoiler as it happens on page one) everyone over the age of 14 poofs – disappears and the world that Michael Grant creates is scary and fascinating. But not right now for my son. No poofs. Maybe next year or in the fall with some time and perspective. It is impossible to answer the question, why did a child die? How do you find a reason for that?

The book I’m working on now is about God, tangentially. It is about loss of faith and maybe (I don’t know yet how it will work out) gaining of faith back. It’s a real challenge for me as I was born a Jew, brought up Methodist, tried some Catholicism (youth groups have girls in them and I was a teenager but I really did go on that retreat to ask some questions of the priest – which I did. For example: Why do you say there’s only one God if there’s a father, son, and holy ghost? Isn’t that three? And what about the virgin Mary? What’s up with that? I was not popular and I did not get a concrete answer. I digress.), wandered into paganism, studied Buddhism and Hinduism and presently believe in a higher cosmic spirit of the feminine kind.

What I love about Greek mythology and all polytheistic practices is the ability to have all these different aspects of the great cosmic soul. Zeus of the lightning bolts needs all the other Gods and Goddesses to balance him out. They balance each other, yin and yang, water and fire, a satvic existence on the higher plane. without balance there is chaos. And yet in our lives, there is chaos. It seems in one way or another, in one corner of the world or another, with violence and death there is chaos. There are plateaus of balance and seemingly random acts of chaos. It makes me wonder as a parent and it makes me wonder as a human and it makes me wonder as a writer.

This is my last post on the A-Z challenge and I’ve made it through 26 posts relating to or pertaining to things that are Greek, at least from my perspective. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey even half as much as I have.

22 responses

  1. First – congrats on making it through the challenge, Joe! I think I read every one of your posts, and I know I enjoyed every one I did read.

    Now – I don’t think I ever had a problem with god, but I always had a problem with religion. Probably because from a young age I learned that I didn’t like other people telling me what to do or how to think. For me, I feel closest to the creator on the top of a mountain, drinking in the wonders of nature, miles and miles away from anyone or anything.

    April 30, 2012 at 10:45 am

    • Yes. I find that the more organized religion is the less I like it. I still have vivid memories of the missionaries I met in Honduras (they were scary) and the impact of the Catholic church on the Mayan culture. And lets’ not even talk about the Spanish Inquisition. Though the Monty Python skit does pop into my head there to lighten it a bit.

      April 30, 2012 at 10:58 am

      • Have you seen Mel Brooks’ History of the World?

        April 30, 2012 at 11:01 am

      • It’s good to be the king.

        April 30, 2012 at 11:58 am

      • Hey Torquemada, whattya say?

        April 30, 2012 at 11:59 am

      • Hah! It’s funny but as a movie it didn’t really have much narrative, but as a series of scenes with funny lines it’s a Brooks classic. Max has seen Men in Tights only so far but he has some laughs coming.

        April 30, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      • It’s definitely not a cohesive story. It’s almost like a variety show. We’ve watched Spaceballs, but had to gloss over some innapropriate jokes.

        April 30, 2012 at 2:06 pm

      • Yup. I so want Max to see Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstien, and Spaceballs, but I’m not sure he’s ready for it. Of course I could be wrong (according to Max since he read Hunger Games he can see/read anything – he’s good a using leverage but nobody ourfoxes him mom). And, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail of course. Only I’m not ready to explain oral sex to him even if it is only mentioned in that one hilarious scene. Patience…

        April 30, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      • When she was 12, my eldest wanted to know if oral sex meant french kissing. “Yep, that’s exactly what it means,” I told her. I’m not sure that’s the kind of thing she needs to discover from her dad, you know? Not at that age. I mean sure, if she asks me a direct question now about sex or drugs or whatever, I always try to answer truthfully (she’s 16 now), but at 12? Yeah, I don’t think so.

        April 30, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      • Having girls is a whole nother conversation. Fortunately Max is not interested in these things yet. He still hides his head and walks around waiting for it to end when two characters kiss. Whew. But it’s coming…

        April 30, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      • Eh, I’m a grown man, and I still get uncomfortable watching kissing scenes.

        April 30, 2012 at 2:46 pm

  2. I’m not one for organised religion, and neither am I convinced about the existence of some higher being, at least not a cognizant one. Like you said, there seems to be a yin to every yang: peace in one part of the world, war in another; people who live to 100, and parents who have to bury their children. I have long given up on trying to understand the why’s, and instead concentrate on living my own life. Does that make me selfish? Perhaps, but it saves me from unnecessary worry and stress.

    Well done on completing the A to Z Challenge!

    J.C. Martin
    A to Z Blogger

    May 1, 2012 at 6:18 am

    • Selfish and self-preserving are close but different. Your take on this huge unfathomable issue of balance gave me a more succinct perspective also. I’m all for less worry and stress, especially about things that are beyond our limited control. All the best – Joe

      May 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm

  3. I think it was Mark Twain who said it, but if Jesus was alive today, he wouldn’t be a Christian. That maxim was very powerful when it was first introduced to me at the age 8 while going to Catholic school. Unlike most people who were forced into liturgy, I had a very positive experience (due to very great parents) of learning my religion, but did not begin to doubt or see the flawed institution it turned out to be. I really hate it when I see people over the internet mock those who are “not of religion, but of faith” and use it as a fad to ride on because being atheist or Christian is too cliched. It discredits my true belief: that there is a higher being. Maybe he is not the patriarchal Christian God. Maybe it isn’t a he.

    I’m glad to see another person who loves Greek/Classical Mythology. Its significance in terms of understanding what it’s like to be human speaks wonders and it SHOULD be read by every children.

    I’m a college student right now, so I cannot relate to your fears of overexposing your child. I do think it could rob him of experience though. I read Tolkien’s LOTR at age 7, 14, and 19 years old, each time I learn something new and gain a profound experience. The same goes for To Kill a Mockingbird, which I also read at age 7 (which kind of scared my parents due to the language and themes of sexual abuse towards the end) but I wouldn’t give that experience away for anything. Children are wonderful in the sense that they can synthesize something out of what they read, rather than regurgitate which is what a classroom experience of reading a book does nowadays.

    May 8, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I’ve found part of my job as a parent is simply to worry. It’s probably one of the hardest parts – worry. And I’m a worrier. That said, my son recently stopped reading Lord of the Flies and I was proud of him for doing this because it showed the ability to choose not just to read but to stop when he found something to be too much. As he told me. “In the Hunger Games the kids were forced to go after each other by adults. In Lord of the Flies the kids choose to kill each other.” It is a deeply disturbing story – a great one too. My son hasn’t touched LOTR yet and he’s tried The HOBBIT (one of my favorites) a couple of times but hasn’t connected fully to it yet. He wants to but just hasn’t. On the other hand he loves Paolini’s Inheritance books. In any case I’m glad you liked the Greek take on life and writing. I’ll be back later this week with another post and start regularly again next week. – Best – Joe

      May 8, 2012 at 10:48 pm

      • Have you read the Paolini’s, Joe? I’ve yet to finish the fourth. I know people say they’re derivative of Star Wars and LOTR, and maybe they are, but I enjoyed them, and think they’re a great intro for younger readers into the epic tale of good versus evil. I wonder if they’ll leave the Hobbit film tame enough? Surely only PG-13 makes billions of dollars profit these days, yeah?

        May 8, 2012 at 10:55 pm

      • I read half of the first book and put it down. I was in a bad place, feeling sorry for myself about not getting published and struggling with my writing. Watching a 17-year old succeed while I failed was challenging to say the least. At the time I told myself the LOTR references were just too many and too frequent. Max loves the books (he’s on the third now) and though they are slower reading for him he has recommended them to me highly. I think I will go back and try again. I saw your review of the Fantasy novel The winds of Khalakovo on your review site and that looks fascinating also. Right now I’m in the depths of Drowned Cities (bruuutaaal) and enjoying it. As for the Hobbit – Max has to finishe the book so we can see the movie together come christmas. I’m excited and really love the preview with the deep voiced singing and the dwarves, one and all. Can’t wait to see smaug.

        May 8, 2012 at 11:11 pm

      • My daughter is super excited about Smaug, because she’s a huge Benedict Cumberbatch fan, due to his role as Sherlock on Masterpiece Theater. I’ve read the first three Eragon books, and I think they’re worth reading. Not worth interrupting Bacigalupi for, but worth reading. Paolini’s publishing journey was part of what made me think I should give it a shot. I’ve even been rejected by his agent, on real paper.

        May 9, 2012 at 6:17 am

      • A real paper rejection is a very cool thing – no matter what is written on it. I’m decided then. Paolini it is. In line. Max’s trade paperback (that’s a selling point as I’ve been reading ibooks a lot lately and miss the feel of paper…). Hey, just finished Escape from Furnace (1) by Alexander Gordon Smith. Have you read it? I’m curious what you thought if you did…

        May 9, 2012 at 8:02 am

      • No. It sounds like MG. Is it?

        May 9, 2012 at 8:05 am

      • No. Way to brutal. At least I think it is. Kids killed in opening scene. other torn apart later. Bad, bad cliffhanger ending that makes you pick up the next book. Still …

        May 9, 2012 at 8:38 am

      • I’ll have to check it out. I wonder what about that title made me think MG?

        May 9, 2012 at 8:40 am

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