Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Must Be Fertile Ground

Parable of the Sower is still haunting my dreams. I'm about halfway through the book, and the little walled cul-de-sac has been raided and destroyed by desperate, starving, drugged-out invaders. Our hero is on the road now with the go-bag she had packed for herself. The road is a horrible place, like a scene of miserable, plodding refugees meets a scene from Dawn of the Dead.

I think what makes this story so powerfully disturbing is that it takes place on the most familiar ground, 21st century California. The refugees are heading north from a suburb of LA to Oregon or Washington, if they can get past the heavily guarded border. Places where water is plentiful, like right here where I am while I write this. Fleeing refugees is not a rarity in this world at all. When I Googled in search of the above image, I had hundreds to choose from. Try it: Google "refugee." We Americans are so unbelievably insulated and caught up in our otherness philosophy. We think, we firmly believe, such things could never, ever happen here in the magical land of America. Things like that only happen to Other people. Even after Hurrican Katrina, there was a sense of otherness to the refugees, they were poor, black, they didn't behave well in their shelters. Making them easier to dismiss.

Here's a scene from Dawn of the Dead. In Parable of the Sower, there are wacked out people on drugs that would kill you if you have a bottle of water or even a pair of shoes they want. These people in this illustration kind of remind me of some Eureka residents. No kidding. I can't help but wonder if our apocalyptic fear might lie at the heart of the contemporary fascination with zombies.

I predict that Parable of the Sower and its sequel Parable of the Talents will be blended and made into a movie for our thrills and entertainment in the near future. Another dreary apoclyptic book has recently been made into a movie, Cormac McCarthy's The Road. The film is set to release in November, but the Parable stories have more hope. As I have mentioned before, hope is everything.

Anyway, in my dream I was on the road and scoping out a grim little brick house for possible shelter. It didn't have many windows and that seemed like a good point. Wandering through it, I scavenged odds and ends I thought might be useful, stuffing into my pocket some not-very-convincing counterfeit bills I found wadded up on the floor. As we were leaving, an armed neighbor came out of his house to investigate. My friend and I quickly pulled ome giant sunflowers down over us and hid behind them, holding very still until the neighbor walked across the patio and into the house. Then we ran around the outside of his house into the adjacent woods. There was a hole that went down into the shrubs and underbrush, obviously where people escape. We had no choice but to go into it, in spite of our terror of what might be down there in the darkness.

Like this but darker.

Anyway, the dreams I wish I had:

Before I sign off and get started on my day, I want to find out what the Parable of the Sower is. Biblical imagery is rampant through this novel. If I was teaching it I would be having to lead discussion on who is Job (a guy whose faith God and Satan tested in a game using horrible tragedies), what is "to sow" (to plant seeds), and what's a parable, etc. Parables were like fables that Jesus was fond of telling, stories with morals. This one goes:

Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some a hundred. And he said unto them, He that has ears to hear, let him hear (KSV Bible, Mark 4:1-20).

Meaning: we shouldn't waste our creative efforts on things that will waste them, but if we work hard on "fertile ground," things that matter and are possible and ready, our efforts will create bounty.

OK food for thought.

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