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Friday, February 28, 2014

Growing Up Human

It is, of course, essential
but it need not be done
there always is the option-
barbaric as it seems,
you can continue nibbling on the grass;
I am myself reluctant
caught as I am between the lovers' quarrel.
A generation yells the ancient wisdom,
the other waits aloof and unconvinced
The purpose (that which we call education):
protection from the failures of our past.
But then have we not all of us our scars
to hide or else to bare and so to use?
By now we recognize to great degree
that true experience cannot be shared.
Their uniforms are pressed, are clean
are brushed, and shoes are shined.
We send them out to do
as they have been prepared
and they will doubtless suffer
and though we cannot save
their combat boots fit well the prints
of those who walked this way
(for we have shaped them so)
we must then know there is a price to pay
to grow up human. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: Speaker for the Dead

I knew that I loved Ender Wiggin while reading Ender's Game last fall.  That's probably why I had such hesitation about continuing the story in Speaker for the Dead.  I didn't want to spoil the end of the first book.  I didn't want to move away from the special place where the world was utterly wrong, yet exactly what it should have been.  (That's a brilliant paradox that O.S. Card writes about so well.)
But at the urging of a couple friends and after a long procrastination, I reluctantly picked up Speaker for the Dead.
Once again, I must acquiesce to the greater literary wisdom of those friends.  It was even better than Ender's Game (though couldn't have been the same without it), and I'm even more in love (that's right, in love) with Ender than I was.
Framed with the theme of the brutal necessity of truth, Ender's continued story speaks to a very different future than one foretold by many scifi writers.  Instead of a dystopian universe of humans lacking empathy, we find whole worlds where the definition of humanness is drastically different, but I think not inappropriate.  Since Card is the Shakespeare of the science fiction world, it is no surprise that he deals with the hard questions of what it means to be human and answers it by giving us stark contrasts and shocking comparisons.  Only a true artist of a writer could make me relate profoundly to a species of piglet-like creatures whose ingenuity is only surpassed by their apparent brutality.
And though I must reject most of Card's theological premises, (and resist the subtle appeal of his belligerent humanism), the echo of real Christianity is strong.  And Ender as Messiah figure exudes the best of the literary type.
Beyond the sheer delight of imagination and the value of excruciating pain in human relationships, the book emphasizes once again that magnificent theme.  The sacrifices of love are often wrapped in what appears at first to be death.  And it is indeed death.  But it is, as the pequeninos knew so well, such is a death that leads to life.