Sunday, February 18, 2018

Rough Notes on Lila

I’m going to try something different with this post. This post is going to be an unedited version of the notes I made while I read Lila by Marilynne Robinson.  I started this blog to help me remember the books I have read, and I’ve found that I’ve worried too much about perfecting the product and not enough about recording my thoughts about the books. So in this post, I’m going to be less of a perfectionist about the post and more true to my original intent. Following are my unedited notes about Lila by Marilynne Robinson from my journal in the order I wrote them.

Undated:  This books is a balm for the overactive mind and weary soul.

1/23/18:  I’ve just read the scene in Lila where John Ames baptizes Lila. I think these may be five of the most moving, most perfect pages I have ever read. It cracked my hardened heart right open. Love, conciliation, grace, peace, remission. Remission? What does that mean? Remit like payment?  Like a bill has been paid? The remission of sins -- I’ve never really thought about what that means before. Is that true? Is that a thing? Is it even possible? Because if it’s true, it changes everything. If the remission of sin is true, then that changes everything. And if I choose it to be true for me, then maybe it becomes true. I must think on this more. Maybe this is where hope comes from. If the birthplace of hope is in the remission of sin, then not having been acquainted with the concept of the one, no wonder I have been unable to have the other.

1/27/18: Talked some with Ken about the above and about how I feel that if this concept, the concept of the remission of sin, is true, then that pretty much negates anyone’s right to judge another person.  If your bill has been paid without your own participation, then hadn’t you better just be glad for that and keep your nose out of everyone else’s business?

2/11/18: In a world of this kind of grace, there is no place for “the spirit of self-destruction and nonbeing” (Dostoevsky) because that spirit often turns outward into judgement, cruelty, and destruction of others, all of which is antithetical to “salvation” or the “remission of sin.” If your own mistakes are wiped away, then there should never be any place in your heart for judgement of others, because judgment implies superiority.  If you ask people straight up if they think they are better than others, they will say no, then they will proceed to live their daily lives as if they do, in fact, believe this very thing. But really, this “remission” thing is always a choice. You have to choose it to be true for you, first by forgiving yourself, then by accepting forgiveness from others, which changes the way you look at things and gives birth to hope.

When your only experience of life has been of its bleakness and meanness (like Lila), then you are only able to see bleakness and meanness.  What you are unable to realize is that it is possible to forgive yourself. You are unable to see any path to wholeness. Any language of redemption and remission sounds overused and otherworldly, out of your frame of reference, so you just reject outright any exploration of the true meaning of or possibility of those concepts. Conversely, if your only experience of life has been ease and acceptance, you accept those concepts without ever really being able to grasp what they mean, I think.

2/14/18:  This may be one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.

2/18/18: Lila’s rescuer, Doll, is not a Christian but behaves and lives more like Jesus than do most church folk, although Robinson does not make the church folk in her story unlikable or judgmental or ungiving. If anything I would say Robinson is more than fair in her portrayal of church folk. Matter of fact, the entire “gypsy” group Doll and Lila join remind me somewhat of the lives of Jesus and his disciples. These people are outcasts with no knowledge even of religion, yet they live in harmony and care for one another even though they aren’t all blood relatives, at least until the going gets too rough for survival. Doll never puts herself first. She trades any chance she has for her own life to save Lila, who is not even her kin. She is humble and always “turns the other cheek” to hide the burned scar on one side of her face.

Boughton and his beliefs, to me, epitomize one of the main problems with organized religion.  He sits in his safe, warm, comfortable house, out of the weather,well-fed, loved, supported, coddled, and respected. He surrounds himself with a well-worn belief system, applying it to all, regardless of circumstance. He almost alienates Lila completely with his views on the afterlife. My view has always been why would you spend your time worrying about something (the afterlife) which you cannot truly have any certainty of, especially in reference to other people? Particularly if those views are going to hurt and alienate people in your life who need love and acceptance. Maybe I misunderstand Boughton and need to re-read him a little, but he seems to have a pretty rigid, exclusionary interpretation of the scriptures.

The Reverend, on the other hand, seems too good to be true. To have lived his whole life in a small town surrounded by people who both agree with and respect him...well, it’s hard for me to believe he would end up as open-minded as he is. He did suffer a tragic loss as a young man, and tragedy does tend to open one’s mind. But the perfect love, perfect acceptance, perfect understanding that he offers Lila, who has had so little of any of those things in her life, defies belief. It’s a beautiful love story, but in real life, people are never that loving, understanding, or accepting.

2/26/18: After posting this, I realized I had said very little about Lila herself. Ironic, given that part of the reason I loved this book was that I identify so much with Lila. Maybe that needs to be its own blog post. We'll see.


Vintage Reading said...

Reading your notes I think need to read Lila again because I don't think I absorbed all of the nuances. I thought the writing about the dust storms was brilliant but I was more moved by Gilead. I will revisit Lila.

Amy said...

I enjoyed both Lila and Gilead. I think I related more to Lila because she reminds me of myself.

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