Veronica Mars: Looking East For Sunsets

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Dear 14 Year Olds Just Discovering Veronica Mars:

I am eleven years late for this conversation, but that’s about where I lag behind pop-culture.  And if you are 14 now then you were three when Veronica made her debut in 2004 and just now old enough to have her on your radar.

So here we both are, ready to talk.

Andrew and I watched the first three episodes last night and after sober meditation, Veronica joined the other cutting edge series that we cut off in its prime – Breaking Bad.

The fact is it was hard to stop watching.  Both Breaking Bad and Veronica were engaging stories, good acting, effective musical score, pretty people, interesting video work.  Both had characters with some complexity to them.  They hooked us and drew us in quickly.

So to stop watching required an actual decision, a push-back against inertia and the suction of the couch.  Once done, the real work began of articulating why Veronica Mars was so disturbing to us.

I watch anything as a parent.  I can’t help it.  What world are my children getting from me to work with and give to their children?  Veronica’s world was breathtakingly immoral. There was loyalty, I guess.  And sacrifice of a sort.  But her high school world was more like the seedy and pornographic world of adults who die of violence and disease.  The dialogue was vulgar and aberrant. It hurt me for your sakes that this was depicted for you as normal life.

Perhaps you would protest that this is the real world of a typical high school campus and I am in a bubble.  No doubt.  But if it is the real world and the show’s noble goal is to expose and condemn dark topics like rape and abuse of authority, it certainly takes its glamorous, lucrative time doing it.  By the end of the series are the fans indignant about injustice?  I doubt it.

Or you might tell me it is noir on purpose, some people like it, and to just turn it off and don’t watch.  I did and I don’t.  But it is still out there for you to have to deal with and I am pointing out some flaws in its message.

Andrew asked me who I thought the target audience was for this series.  I decided that it was aimed at 14 year olds who had suffered abuse or neglect at the hands of people who should have cared for them, vulnerable 14 year olds who would be tempted to follow a hero like Veronica into the moral void.

In episode three, the “moral” that came out of the void was “Be true to yourself!”  In that episode a man disappeared early from his son’s life.  When the son found his father, the man was being true to himself and was now doe-eyed, long haired, and wearing a dress.  A creepy moment indeed when the boy said, “Dad?” to a woman.

And that was the moment I realized my soul couldn’t take Veronica Mars.  My soul cannot embrace a story, compelling as it is, that is empty in the middle.  “Be true to yourself” is an empty message.  It is a false one.  Children cannot call a woman “Dad.” Dad cannot call himself “woman.”  You cannot look east and call it west and still live in reality.  Veronica wants you to believe you can, that your west is whatever you want it to be.  And that’s fine until you are looking for sunsets. Then you better find real west.

Our life story doesn’t have to be empty in the middle.  Emptiness is a choice.  It may be the popular one, but it’s not the only one.  Fullness is available even in the midst of this real life.  It is possible to be fully known and still fully loved.  That is what is missing from Veronica’s world that pierces when I watch. No one there knows the filling love I know and they careen from emptiness to emptiness.  It’s hard to watch people die of thirst.  It is certainly their right to do it, and to make TV about it.  But it is my privilege to say, “Hey!  There’s water over here.”

Because I am human, there are times that I experience the emptiness of the void.  I feel it behind me, gaping.  And as I teeter there, held only by the steadfast love of God, I wonder how it feels to be standing on that edge without the saving love of Jesus.  How does anyone even stay sane?

I am sorry that you’ve been fed the ‘be true to yourself’ lie.  You can’t be your own answer.  It doesn’t work that way.

I can’t be both myself and the one who saves me.

When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.”
Psalm 94:18

~

Honey Rock Farm

I grew up in Louisiana in a house with a name.  The McClendons built the house under a canopy of Spanish moss and named it Honey Rock Farm.  When they moved up the hill and built farther back in the woods, we bought Honey Rock, chickens and all.

We were not farmers of any kind.  In fact most of our time was spent passing one another on the six miles of Lee Road heading into town to our fast-food jobs or to Campus Life events or to endless school days in the portable trailers on Three Rivers Road.

But if a farmer is one who loves his land, then we were farmers of a sort.  Every one of us looks back at Honey Rock days with a sigh.  They were 13 acres of beautiful. This poem was written in 1991 shortly after we left Honey Rock:

Around Honey Rock Farm

The gravel track
Runs past the barn and scrabbling chickens,
Just past the oaks along a bygone fence,
And forms an ellipsis.

The brown house, though on stilts
Against the rain, rocks low
Under an arch of oak and pine.

Brown boards on the walkway, gone
A permanent dust-yellow from pollen,
Lead on around the house.

Tall pines ring the pond
And hide the scrubby island
And the square, wooden duck house.

Sweet olive scent slips around
The back porch and relaxes, crepe-swathed
On a wrought-iron chair.

The green swing on its oak-driven pegs
Brushes the wood pile
And sways in an azalea breeze.

And the gravel track
Runs past the barn and scrabbling chickens,
Just past the mailboxes,
And joins with the blacktop.

Memory teaches.  The Word teaches.  Honey Rock got its name from this morning’s reading:

And with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”  Psalm 81:16

If I let Him, He would satisfy me, fill me, with the honeyest of honeys.  He is the honey-giver, the mead-maker, and He sighs, “Oh, that you would believe me!”  I try other honeys.  They do not satisfy.  The honey that satisfies, the honey He offers, is His voice in my ear:

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth”  
Psalm 119:103.

Lord, today I open wide my mouth for honey from the rock.  By your Spirit let this prayer cover me until this day’s sun sets.

I believe You.

~

 

Low And On The Ground

Back porch early and Psalm 71.

The Psalmist who has seen many troubles and calamities proclaims God’s wondrous deeds, and mighty deeds, and deeds of salvation all day and to the next generation.  I am compelled to join in.

But first I must learn.

Seven tiny wonderballs of writhing gray-black fur under the heavy cathedral arch of hydrangea limbs seem like the farthest thing from a mighty deed.  But the scripture and the kittens came to me on the same morning, so for him who has ears to hear, let him hear.

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Andrew and I knew the kittens were coming.  I won’t describe the tell-tale signs, but even non-animal people like us could put two and two together.  We ran around like first time parents-to-be:  On the porch or off the porch?  In a box or not?  Could she make it up the ladder to the place she had the last litter indecently recently?

Finally the event started and I saw stars and had to go inside and drink some lemon water.

My heart went out to her as to any mother in birth pangs, but Andrew said that the only animal in the animal world that feels pain in childbirth is the human.  He read it in an article and it carried some theological sense too.  It certainly seemed fair.  But I still couldn’t really believe it.  The marquise-shaped pupils of Midge’s wild eyes were dilated wide, and she paced.  Maybe she felt no technical pain, but make no mistake, she was affected by Adam and Eve’s fall.  This was no average day, no walk in the park, and she knew it.

And the next six weeks won’t be average days either.  In addition to being all and only a milk jug to the seven in the panting summer heat – we paused to wonder if she has enough “outlets” for seven milk drinkers – she also has three other offspring four months old who think they get to live here permanently too.

And yes, I feel terrible that she must have been back in the family way before those three were even a month old.  But, I ask, what could I have done?  The orange hooligan Tom that I am constantly scatting off looks like a bad boy, but couldn’t have contributed any DNA to this monochrome group.  This litter’s sire is straight out of Brontё – dark, brooding, and gone by morning.

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So the seven join their muted squeak-toy solos to the bird chorus of the morning and I learn.

I am as blind and helpless as they are. In a shady Alabama pine straw wallow revival  begins low and on the ground.

When I am low and on the ground I search out His mighty deeds and join the Psalmist’s song.  And so against reason and emotion, I choose to be glad for the things that keep me low because those are the things that force me to the rock of refuge where my lips can shout for joy.

~