Divergent: A Mirror to the Soul

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My teenage daughter and I have read several books together in recent years. A while back, I handed her a copy of Divergent by Veronica Roth. We both enjoy books with a fantastical element, dystopian world views, and strong young women. My child believes that women are naturally strong, insightful, and independent. I am always thrilled to find books, movies, and television shows that encourage this belief.

A great deal has been written about this trilogy (the last book was published in recent weeks), and the first movie made a big splash over the weekend, starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James. Ava and I were part of the throngs who filled the theater seats Friday night. The basic story concerns a futuristic Chicago where society is divided into 5 factions – Abnegation (focused on serving others), Candor (valuing honesty above all else), Amity (where peace and happiness prevail), Erudite (the scholars who believe knowledge is most important), and Dauntless (the fearless, who are the soldiers of the society). At age 16, each member must choose a faction in which to live. Protagonist Tris Prior comes from Abnegation, but learns that she is actually Divergent – a hidden group who belong in more than one faction. The Divergent are a threat to society, and must cover who they are in order to survive. Tris chooses Dauntless, one of the factions for which she is most suited. As with many dystopian stories, there are people in power who abuse that responsibility, and seek to harm society. Tris is the young woman who fights for justice.

Ava and I had a good discussion about the changes from page to screen. They always necessarily exist, and sometimes those alterations are effective, and sometimes not. For the most part, I felt like the movie did a good job in this area. The differences maintained the essential story and the focus Roth created in her writing. One change in the movie actually struck me as far more effective than in the book.

Both the book and the movie begin with Tris and her mother, who is cutting her daughter’s dishwater hair in preparation for the choosing ceremony. Abnegation members keep mirrors hidden, only using them for special occasions, and then only briefly. They believe vanity is a trait which inhibits helping others. That, in and of itself, makes a vast statement in the age of the selfie.

Yet, the movie beautifully incorporates Tris’ reflection as an important symbol. Throughout the film, when Tris sees her own face (in a mirror, water, the back of a spoon), that is when she sees inside herself. She comes to know herself more fully, understands her capabilities, strengths, potential and power. She sees a mirror to her soul. This self-realization enables her to stand up against the powers that be, and to fight for the victims of this society.

God’s light shines in each one of us. Too many young women doubt their own intuition, what their soul is telling them. Instead of looking at themselves, they look to others (society, the media, boyfriends, fathers, the world of entertainment) to tell them who they are and how they can or should function in society. Tris is an example of trusting that light of God in the soul of each young woman, and knowing that great things will happen when they do.

Read the books. Go see the movie. Take a girl with you, and then have a good conversation.

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Why I Need Winter

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Winter is not my favorite season – not by a long shot. That honor belongs to Autumn. Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, it would have been a sin not to love the Fall season. Our local economy certainly depended on a good leaf season when the mountains were covered in shades of gold, russet, mauve, canary, burnished copper and every shade in between. As a child, I collected large oak leaves that had softly wafted to the ground, gently carried them to my house, and pressed them in between the pages of a very large book. When I was in 3rd grade, one of Mom’s co-workers gave me the collected works of Shakespeare from her old college days. That book was perfect. As I grew older and opened the book for pleasure reading, I would often find some long forgotten leaf.

 

Once I became a parent, I continued to use that same book for my children to press their own treasured discoveries. Sunny days, cool nights, large harvest moons – what time of year could be better?

 

So while Autumn is my favorite, I have discovered over the years that Winter is a necessity. We usually had a scattered amount of smaller snowfalls throughout the season around Asheville. Occasionally a good foot or more might cover the land, enabling me to forgo school, drink hot chocolate, and read my latest books from the tiny West Asheville library. I loved snow days – what kid doesn’t? And yes, I still long for snow days as an adult. Since I have the pleasure of working at an institution of higher education, those days are not out of the realm of my existence.

 

My family and I moved to the Piedmont of North Carolina a few years back. Snow has been non-existent in recent years. Except for the recent arctic snap, which covered most of the country, even cold weather has been relatively sparse. While this has been great for my heating bill, it’s not been good for my soul. Each spirit needs winter – a time to retreat, to contemplate, to regroup, to break from the headiness of springtime, the heat of the summer, and the joy of autumn. The British artist Sting produced a near perfect CD a couple years ago – If On A Winter’s Night. The songs are a collection of English winter songs. Yes, that does include some Christmas music, but it’s more about the short, dark and dreary days of winter. When interviewed about the music, Sting stated that music was his church. He continued to explain that the soul needs to experience all the seasons – it’s hard to appreciate and truly live the other seasons if we skip over winter.

 

That’s why I need winter. My soul cries out for winter, for the quiet, for the dark, for the stillness. We all need our snow days.