|"Prepare the Nest Below"** by Scott Ketcham|
And still, there's a happy ending. Hope, though perhaps more for us as individuals than as a whole society. I could go on and on about how personally and deeply I was drawn into the protagonist's agonizing journey toward a happy enough place at the end of the novel--really, a place from which to take flight into the rest of her life--but that deserves its own blog post, one which might take a while to write.
The real issue is how one lives, works, and raises children when "Happy Days Are Here Again" is the mandated soundtrack of an era, despite not only the realities of the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Space Race, but the evidence of past realities, in this novel best represented by the tattooed numbers on a German-speaking neighbor's forearm. How dare anything require explanations that might require telling a story that's so disturbing?
The problem is we become untethered when we fail to tell the deeply disturbing stories that actually make things make sense, especially if we bury them so that even we ourselves cannot find them. And we become monstrous if we rewrite the stories to make ourselves the good guys--when, in fact, we let, made, or helped to make the "bad thing" happen.
|Photo from the Hawaiian Army Weekly, December 14, 2012****|
Meanwhile, those who either lived or otherwise know a narrative that was hardly just heroic are often conflicted about how much to recollect, how much to feel obligated to recollect, and how much to share with others in order to make them understand. "Never again" can be a call to action, a statement of committed vigilance; or it can mean, "Don't ask me to go there again. Let me forget this. As far as we're concerned, this is over and done with." And who doesn't want to say "Don't worry" to those whose happiness and peace of mind are terribly important to us--such as one's children?
Ann-Marie MacDonald talks about this directly:
"When stories are not told, we risk losing our way. Lies trip us up, lacunae gape like blanks in a footbridge. Time shatters and, though we strain to follow the pieces like pebbles through the forest, we are led farther and farther astray. Stories are replaced by evidence. Moments disconnected from eras. Exhibits plucked from experience. We forget the consolation of the common thread--the way events are stained with the dye of the stories older than the facts themselves. We lose our memory. This can make a person ill. This can make a world ill.It's hard enough when an individual character tries to do what it takes to reclaim her shadow. The problem is that a society can only "get well" when a critical mass of its members are willing to engage their shadows and to delve deeply and earnestly into the stories they've "put from our minds."
"In 1969 a rocket piloted by men reached the moon. Men walked there. They were changed by the sight of the milky blue jewel of Earth across that vast darkness. But we were not changed. . . .
Postage Stamp Photo on Wikipedia*****
"We were all supposed to think it all began with NASA. But it began with the Nazis. We knew this, half remembered it, but a great deal was at stake and we put it from our minds. Events without memory. Bones without flesh, Half a story--like a face gazing into an empty mirror, like a man without a shadow.
"What do shadows do? They catch up" (pp. 590-591).
If as a whole society, we don't tell the stories that make the world make sense, or we revise or let others to revise them so that they omit, conceal, or minimize difficult but essential truths, we intentionally or unintentionally condone deception and irresponsibility, demonstrate the hollowness of our professed values and principles, and approve the use of ignorance as a means to an end. Though we ourselves may not be the "coarse and brutish and callous" problem, we're also not part of the solution. And so the iron age takes hold and persists.
An iron age in a velvet glove puts at risk souls and lives, our own and those of children. Nor does the velvet fool children, at least not for very long--which doesn't mean their road is easy. MacDonald's protagonist's certainly isn't. Still, the novel ends with flecks of silver and gold, and with reconciliation and peace that feel genuine and genuinely achieved to me. I recommend The Way the Crow Flies enthusiastically.
* MacDonald, A. (2004). The way the crow flies: A novel. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.
** "Prepare the Nest Below" http://www.scottketcham.com/post/152229929832/528-prepare-the-nest-below-2016-30-x-40-oil
*** Gula, R. J., & Carpenter, T. H. (1977). Mythology, Greek and Roman. Wellesley Hills, MA: Independent School Press. This book was the backbone of the "Greek Mythology" course I taught for years at the Pilot School at Cambridge Rindge and Latin.
**** Screen shot of photo on this link: http://www.hawaiiarmyweekly.com/2012/12/14/the-greatest-generation-remembers-dec-7-1941/