Thursday, November 26, 2009

Separating Fantasy from Reality

Last year, I posted this blog about my daughter questioning Santa Claus. She's still not convinced, and I heard her ask my husband the other day if Santa was real or if it was just us. He bypassed her question. She's 8 and a half now and this is the age where it's going to come together. I was about this age when my bubble was burst by friends across the street. She had asked last year because Anna on the bus (whose brother is 2-3 years older) said so. My response was, "What do you think?" and she said, "Yes, he's real."

We're at a tricky period of peer influences where her friend F is announcing "princesses are for babies". I know some girls quickly got bored of princesses at 3 or 4, but for my girl, this is a lifestyle. Her whole raison d'etre is to live the royal life, but she's appalled to carry Disney Princess paraphenalia in public. We resort to Hello Kitty now. I've told her that she's allowed to play with dolls as long as she wants. I was actually playing dolls until I was 10-11 years old; I would read books and act out the stories, fashion objects and scraps into houses and wardrobe changes. I definitely felt like doll play challenged my imagination.

Returning to my Santa Claus dilemma, I sought the classic response from the 1897 editorial known as "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." Reading this now, I found it so poignant and so beautiful. It hits the deeper meaning of all these stories we tell our children. There are parents who don't propogate these stories, and tell the children like it is. Like Francis Church said, "You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside," but then we lose the charm of the rattle and it becomes a mere noisemaker. I will share this article with her and hopefully she'll recognize what Santa represents, if he is not real.

Honestly, if she gives up Santa this year, I'll be happy. I've been exhausted holding up pretenses as we shuttle between my house, my house and India, where did he leave gifts, and the whole cookie thing. I even got caught mid-year. I said to a sales person, "Oh, I had gotten her this last Christmas" and she piped up, "No you didn't give it to me. Santa gave it."

Oh. I forgot.

And, the fact that Virginia's father asked her to write to the newspaper proves that parents don't have the answers.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Choir Boats

This book fell unexpectedly into my lap. I wouldn't have picked this book off the shelf since I don't particularly read fantasy genre books. While I loved Harry Potter, I could not get through Tolkien. I decided to read this book based on the website of the author, Daniel Rabuzzi. The site had a strong presence of fairy tales and fine literature, as well as fantasy, so I thought there might be something for me. We have to diversify our reading repetoire, don't we.

"The Choir Boats" is definitely a unique book as it takes place in 1812 London. So right there, my imagination is charmed. By setting the story 200 years ago, the territory is known and unfamiliar at the same time. Also, the time period brings another element to enhance the story - it forces a certain honest sense of time and technology. Our world today is interconnected - we're virtual, we're overnighting, we're tweeting, we're googling, we're just overall faster global community. So, now we're pulled into a quiet era where Atlantic trips take months.. letters get lost and change lives.. letters arrive mysteriously followed by equally mysterious people.. the world you know is the one in your backyard.

The protaganists - two practical British businessmen - are lured into this alternate realm with a key and a promise of gaining their hearts' desire. Sally and Tom, the orphaned neice and nephew, are lured by a subconscious calling that now surfaces. They discover hidden talents, and achieve recognition and acclaim for these unknown skills when they enter Yount. To get your head around Yount, there are special portals to access it, such as the Bermuda Triangle. There's no moon on Yount. Some of its people want to merge with the karket-soomi (our world), while others are hungry for power and domination.

The writing in this book is superb. There's representation of the Yountian language and traditions - the world and culture is well-defined and tight. The language used is poetic, crisp and erudite. I saw the nod to Lord of the Rings (sailors joking about Fred and Sam who had to return a ring to a mountain) and our favorite Hogwartian Professor Dumbledore. I'm sure there were others, which I could identify had I been more aware of the genre. The characters' values and belief are set to represent their own society. However, once out of nineteenth century England, one does loosen up a bit. It's intriguing to see the feminist twist on the characters from 1800 falling into a female dominated society, and reaching to the point with females holding the powers to save others. Rabuzzi also layers the fantasy with love stories, as well as political conspiracies. It's definitely set itself apart.

This is the first book of a trilogy so there are some threads left to tease and carryforth into the next book. There is a certain steadiness to the story and I could have used a glossary at certain times (e.g., exactly how does the fulginator work).

Once you enter the world that Rabuzzi has created, you're pulled into it quite easily and end up being in it for some time; I found myself wondering about different aspects throughout the day.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Five Thousand and One Year

For the past three years, my daughter has been enrolled in an Indian Cultural/Religious program on Sundays. The organization offers instructions for 4 languages and a culture class, which covers religion and India (geography, traditions, history). I like this organization for being professional and well coordinated for a volunteer group. We never had anything like this when I grew up, and I definitely like the results I see. My daughter's language skills are still lacking, but she's got a lot of confidence about her religion and heritage. She has a lot of friends there so it's positive social experience. I've gotten to know more people and enjoy my time there on Sundays. For two years, I've helped design and compile the program brochure for the annual show. It's usually a lot of last minute changes and late nights. This year, I've decided to give more by teaching a Culture 2 class (2nd graders). There is a lead teacher who did this for two years and there is a curriculum already in place. We just have freedom to enhance it.

Our primary topics right now are the 10 incarnations of the Hindu God Vishnu. (Nutshell: Hinduism has a trinity of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Protector/Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. When the earth is in turmoil, Vishnu appears.) I've been a bit panicked because I don't know all 10 incarnations myself. So, I've been cramming before classes and researching online.

So, my research has brought me to this point - in great awe. When debates regarding Darwinism and Intelligent Design arose, I paused to think of what my religion says about this. I didn't give it much thought because there are so many myths and magical events, it didn't even make sense.

Now, looking at the Avatars of Vishnu, I see more here. If ancient Indian scientists determined that evolution of humans did exist, they needed a vehicle to carry forth their theories. Blanketing it in religion probably helped give the history its durability. We have the documented stories, but we also have oral traditions. Ram and Krishna stories are told in the cradle.

The Primordial Human Evolution
"No. Incarnation: Physical — Conscious evolution

1. Matsya-avtar or Fish: Water borne life — amoebae or primeval evolution.
2. Kurmavtar or Turtle: Water/Land borne life — amphibians.
3. Varahavtar or Boar: Land borne life — mammals.
4. Narshinghavtar or Human-lion: Semi-human — primates.
5. Vamanavtar or Dwarf: Homo erectus — primitive human.
6. Parshuram or Divine Seeker: Homo sapiens — conscious human.
7. Ram or Perfect Human: Homo sapiens — God conscious human; outer awareness.
8. Krishna or Supreme Yogi: Homo sapiens — Self-conscious human; inner awareness.
9. Buddha or Consciousness: Homo sapiens — Self-Realization; inner enlightenment.
10. Kalki (Christ) or Spirit Being: Homo spiritus — God-Realization; Resurrection (en masse spiritual evolution.)

For the actual story synopsis, here's one site. It's also fascinating how certain events seem to align with Bible stories, such as the story of the flood. I'm actually excited to learn all this because it hits one of the core points of Hinduism of tolerance. Rather than denouncing separating science from religion, it's actually bridging them. There was a reason and purpose behind every evolutionary advancement.

Five thousand years later, I'm passing the same stories down to a new generation.