May 11, 2015

Favorite "Emma" Quotes

"Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives.”

“I may have lost my heart, but not my self-control. ” 

“Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised or a little mistaken.” 
― Jane AustenEmma

May 5, 2015

Treasures Found in Treasure Island by Sara Sweet

When Treasure Island was assigned as our book of the month, I groaned (silently to myself) about reading it. Isn’t it just when we think we won’t enjoy something that it has room to pleasantly surprise us?

I enjoyed my time spent in the imagination of Robert Louis Stevenson reading this book. I was attracted to the ideas of growing into our true selves, discovering our real purpose and inner character in the crucible of trials, and defining our allegiance to principles and people as our story takes shape. That was just what happened to our unlikely boy hero in Treasure Island. Young Jim embarks on a treasure hunt and is presented with the most alluring and well polished specimens of men from two opposed walks of life. Who would be his mentor? One is the pirate Long John Silver, and the other a gentleman and physician named Dr. Livesey. A gentleman might be what every responsible parent guides their boys to become; polished, articulate, accomplished, knowledgeable, well-to-do, influential, refined. A pirate might be what every young boy would like to be (just ask Tom Sawyer and his gang); tough, mean, powerful, indulgent, rich and lazy, commanding, terrifying. When confronted face-to-face with both icons of the “perfect man,” will Jim’s fantasies prevail, or will he be convinced of the value and advantage of a gentleman?  Can Dr. Livesey fight and win against the principal pirate? is his strength and ability sufficient? or is a pirate as invincible as his reputation purports? On the other hand, is Long John capable of kindness, concern, and domineering power? Can as person, perhaps, have it all wrapped up into one hero? How can Jim, in his naivety, tell if the men he’s associating with are manipulating, scheming, honorable, or trustworthy?

Through the persuasions of flattery, in-your-face brutality, personal endangerment, and real-life adventure, Jim must take sides in order to survive. He must choose his allegiance, and is forced to abandon his objective perch on the fence of indecision about who he is, and what he wants to become – a perch that all adolescents find themselves upon.

What I believe Jim learns is that the world isn’t black and white. The Yin and Yang of the universe are intertwined, and we can often see the drawbacks of choosing “good” as well as the benefits of choosing “evil.” What guides us, then, are our principles and our allegiance to what we honor. It is why women endure childbirth in order to hold and raise that precious baby, why we toil in the soil that we may reap the bounty and feed ourselves, why we are loyal to our spouse and choose to be old and gray together instead of to pursue forbidden pleasures.

Not only do principles rightly guide our judgment, but outcomes do not prove the value of a principle-driven life. (you might want to read that again…) If Dr. Livesey had failed in this adventure, if he had been marooned on the island instead of pirates, would we say Jim had chosen poorly to place his allegiance in a gentleman over a pirate? Would we then wish Jim had sided with the brutal Long John and lived (if the gentlemen had all died on the island)? It’s easy to be proud of the boy for siding with justice when justice is served, but what about when it isn’t? What about when the tables are turned, and evil prevails as it did in the stories of the prophet Abinidai or the slaughter of the people of Ammon in the Book of Mormon, or the early Church’s temple builders in Kirtland, Ohio? Do we labor, as did Moses, for the welfare of our people, our families, only because we know we will find success in this life? And if we never realize the fruit of our earthly pursuits, as Moses who never himself reached the promised land, do we conclude that we have failed and our trust misplaced?

When our faith, or in other words our action, is rooted in eternal principles, the temporal outcomes and whether we “succeed” or “fail” in them is largely irrelevant. Because our goal is eternal, we may look past the present and the temporary to what we cannot see, which is true. We may look on to eternal accomplishments. On the tropical Treasure Island, Jim chose sides before he knew the outcome of that choice. He didn’t know that the gentlemen with whom he sided would have the physical and mental capacity and stamina to prevail over the band of rugged pirates. Perhaps in “real life” they wouldn’t have. But what Jim did know was that he didn’t want to be used or manipulated, and he didn’t want to perform the atrocities he witnessed firsthand. I’m sure as he watched the brutal murder performed by Long John and witnessed that betrayal, the boyish allure of ultimate and unrestrained power and force quickly withered to give place for the growth of the reason and understanding that supports instead justice, compassion, and mercy. Dr. Livesey, on the other hand, exemplified mercy as he aided injured men from both camps with compassion.

Treasure Island was a great tale of the process of forming one’s own principles over time through experience and understanding, which is vital to establishing good character and allegiance to those principles. It is definitely a story that can help a reader of any age consider his or her own character and determine which practices and pursuits reflect his or her principles. Thanks for choosing it!