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Isn't it pretty?

Friday, January 02, 2004

The Giver

Over New Year's, I read the book The Giver by Lois Lowry. It is a book written for the "young adult" crowd, meaning 10-12 year olds, but it embodied a message that I think anyone could learn from. The book is about a boy named Jonas who grows up in a community who enforced a doctrine of "Sameness." In making everyone the same, they substitute emotion and free will with security. It is an interesting trade-off. Family units are constructed by "The Elders," spouses are assigned to each other, occupation is assigned by careful observation. Development is carefully engineered year by year. Death is blocked out of consciousness by the concept of "release." No one feels emotion for anyone else. Once you are old enough, you have your own home, your parents are no longer a part of your life. The concept of love is completely alien. Language is to be used precisely, though that precise language is a pale substitute for what normal human emotion is all about. Jonas is chosen as the "Receiver of Memories." His responsibility is to bear the memories of before "Sameness" - memories of love, fear, pleasure, pain. He is allowed to read books, books which describe all these memories, which no one else is allowed access to. It is a world of loneliness, because the rest of the community has no interest and no capacity to handle all these emotions. When Jonas described feeling love for the first time, and realizing what he has been missing, it brought tears to my eyes. I realized that even though life is hard, I wouldn't give up the pain that it brings for a world with no choices, no emotions, no real connection to others. It is so hard to let yourself connect emotionally with another person, because there is a risk of being hurt, but in lieu of living a life like that in The Giver, I would take it any day of the week. So I am now determined to appreciate everything as it is given to me, the pain and pleasure, the love and hurt, the ability to feel. And maybe I will need to re-read the book when I forget what a great treasure we do have in the capacity to choose.

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