Fiction

I’ve never been the greatest fan of fiction, but lately some great fiction has sucked me in and now I’m a bigger fan that I used to be and like to always have some kind of quality fiction to read. My latest read was “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson. I really enjoyed this book because unlike certain fiction of the trashy quality such as “50 Shades of Grey” or “Twilight”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was, in my opinion, a great read! (I know some of my readers may appreciate the other series I mentioned, the views expressed here are merely my own opinions).

There were many things that I appreciated about TGWTDT. The first was, unlike the other above-mentioned titles, the main character, Lisbeth Salander, is a strong woman who stands up for herself and works out her problems by herself. I don’t necessarily agree with her methods, although the scene where she tattooed her rapists belly was pretty funny. Lisbeth Salander isn’t the popular current image of womanhood. She’s unmarried, has a highly intellectual job, and is very much liberal in her beliefs and actions including, of course, her interesting piercings and tattoos.

However, the character of Lisbeth Salander is as much of a real woman as a conservative stay at home, home-schooling mom. We need more fiction with strong female characters, so that we can learn how strong we can be. The reason I don’t like books such as “50 Shades of Grey” or “Twilight” is because they teach women that being in an abusive relationship is normal, or even desirable. Of course, all these stories are just that…stories. The thing is that stories, particularly ones of such popularity as the ones mentioned here, become part of our culture, and our culture is part of who we are. We draw meaning and identity from our culture, which means that we need our culture to be informed by high quality fiction, movies, games, music, art, etc.

I’ve been taking part in some interesting conversations and interactions lately. I had a conversation last night with some great women I work with who differ completely from me in the way that they think, and a lot of it is influenced by their culture. The only problem is when they think that their culture is the only right way of life. Every culture, even every generation, does things a little differently and have both good and bad aspects. My children are being raised in a multicultural home but are living in the culture of the southern USA. I’m hoping that my children will glean the valuable things from both of the main cultures they are exposed to and influenced by.

If I had to choose, I’d rather have my daughter be like Lisbeth Salander than like Bella Swan. So I want to give my daughter access to literature that shows her how strong she is, how wonderful she is. I want my daughter to know that she needs to be in a relationship with a man who treats her well, not a man who abuses her. I want my daughter to know that she is fully capable of having a career in any field she chooses and that she is intelligent. I want her to know that whether she chooses to dress in conservative clothes and has pretty hair or whether she has her tongue pierced and a hundred tattoos, that she’s a beautiful woman worthy of respect because of who she is. And I want her to know that God loves her either way. 
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The Value of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

After finding it at Goodwill for less than a dollar, I decided that I was going to read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” partly because I think it is the coolest book title ever, and partly because it’s a bestseller and I feel like as a writer I should read at least some of the bestsellers, and mostly because the book intrigues me, and appears like it might actually be an intellectual piece of work, you know, completely unlike “50 Shades of Grey”. I’m not sure in what universe “50 Shades of Grey” sounded like a good idea, but I think it is a sad social commentary that we actually happily consume such stories. However, I’m not writing this post to complain about “50 Shades of Grey” although I can’t pass up having a good jab at it when I get the opportunity. So far, I’ve only read the first few chapters, and the book has proven to be a fascinating read.

“However, it was not Lisbeth Salander’s astonishing lack of emotional involvement that most upset him. Milton’s image was one of conservative stability. Salander fitted into this picture about as well as a buffalo at a boat show. Armansky’s star researcher was a pale, anorexic young woman who had hair as short as a fuse, and a pierced nose and eyebrows. She had a wasp tattoo about an inch long on her neck, a tattooed loop around the biceps of her left arm and another around her left ankle. On those occasions when she had been wearing a tank top, Armansky also saw that she had a dragon tattoo on her left shoulder blade. She was a natural redhead, but she dyed her hair raven black. She looked as though she had just emerged from a week-long orgy with a gang of hard rockers.” Larsson, Steig “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, p. 38.

The story basically says that it was rather unusual that a woman like this would be working at a professional job, because she wasn’t very conservative. I have to wonder why people value conservatism so much. Rather than seeing the value in all people, we tend to write off some people as worse than others, sometimes based solely on appearances. Just last week, I showed up to work in a neon yellow lace top that had a black cami underneath, a long leather skirt, a leather vest, and black flats that had square silver studs on them. My hair was jet black fading into purple. Although I was the same person that I always am, someone decided that my outfit was “offensive” and that person complained to management. I was completely within my company’s dress code, and the manager even told me as much when she informed me that someone had been offended. I did have about five customers tell me how amazing they thought I looked, also. Anyway, my purpose is not to complain about someone choosing to take offense to an outfit of mine, my purpose is to say that you can’t tell what a person is really like just by looking at the way they present themselves.

I’ve heard the argument that if people respected themselves, they wouldn’t have certain piercings, or tattoos, etc. I don’t think it’s really about self-respect, I think it’s more about symbols and meanings and art. There are a lot of piercings and tattoos that I don’t care for, but there are also piercings that I like. I have three holes in each ear and intend to get a nose piercing eventually. I don’t mind the look of tongue piercings although I would never personally get one because it’s not worth it to me. I’m planning on getting a tattoo soon, and when I do I will most certainly post about it. However, this post isn’t about my piercing and tattoo preferences either.

What this post is about is about not judging the character of a person based on their external appearances. We shouldn’t assume that someone wouldn’t fit into a professional environment because of their tattoos and piercings, or because of the cut and color of their hair, or because of the style of clothing they wear. The fact that in the story “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Steig Larsson had to write that Lisbeth Salander was different and didn’t fit in shows the sad state of our society where appearances mean more than character. We all have our own preferences and our own prejudices, but for me I have been trying to put aside my prejudices and see through to who a person really is. I’m not perfect at it and I do judge based on appearances, and it should not be so. The value of a person is not determined by how they look, their value is that they are them.

I think that I will probably have more to say about this story as I progress through it, it appears as if the author was very savvy about culture and I look forward to digging further into this book.

Reference:

Larsson, S 2008, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Black Lizard, New York. 

Individual Worship: Being an Individual

Lately as I’ve been thinking about worship, both individual worship and communal, corporate worship, I’ve had several epiphanies.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV.

Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 The Message.

I used to think that these verses meant that I had to dress in socially awkward ways to please God, that I had to have a neat and clean and perfect appearance, only have one set of piercings (ear lobe only), never get a tattoo, and people who had tattoos were supposed to be ashamed of them, and dress in approved clothing, being careful of styles and appearances. However, I recently began thinking of these verses in relation to individual, personal worship.

The Bible says elsewhere that God basically handcrafted us (well, that’s my paraphrase of Psalm 139:13-16 at any rate). Things that are handcrafted are unique; no two of them are the same. And that’s how it is with us. What this means is that I am the only me that will ever live. God handcrafted me, I’m authentically me and I’m an original. (I hear you all saying “praise God!” Ha). I am supposed to honor God with my body, and worship him with my body. The way I express this worship is going to be different to how other people express worship. I’m moving beyond the definition of worship as simply being participating in a praise and worship service at church on Sunday. It’s great that I participate and worship in those, but worship is so much more than that.

God is a creative God, and he has bestowed upon the human race many creative expressions with which to worship him. Some worship God by dancing, some by singing, some by playing instruments, some by writing songs, some by writing plays, some by writing novels, some by drawing, some by gardening, etc. God has also given us our own unique tastes and our own unique styles. He’s a creative God, and he’s given us a gift in giving us so many ways of expressing ourselves and making sense of him and ourselves through art and creativity.

Lately I’ve started to feel freer about expressing myself through my fashion style. It’s been difficult because of the rules and regulations that I used to live by about clothing and style. I like a classic, preppy style, but I also love the punk, Gothic style. I used to subscribe to the notion that liking the Gothic style was wrong and that I could not express myself in that way, but have in the past couple of weeks realized that I am a unique creation with unique likes and dislikes and that it is ok to express myself and present myself to God in worship in a style that is authentically me, the me he made me to be.

I’ve realized that I can worship God with one hole in each ear or three. I can worship God with a tattoo, in fact, having a tattoo is art, and that is one of the gifts in which God has given us to express ourselves, and so body art can be an expression of worship. (I know some will disagree with me here, and that’s ok). I recently had a period of a few months where I had bright pink hair, and I found out that that was ok with God. It was an expression of me, the me he had made me to be.

I’m not claiming that one has to have hot pink hair or a bunch of piercings or be covered in tattoos to worship God. On the contrary, I’m saying that I learned that one can have hot pink hair, a bunch of piercings and be covered in tattoos and not only be right with God, but for some of them it could be an act of worship and they might have a very vibrant relationship with God. Which then leads me to the topic of communal, corporate worship…when all kinds of handcrafted by God people gather to worship together, their uniqueness and individuality are an asset to the corporate worship rather than a hindrance.

And for the record, I haven’t gotten either my tattoo or my second lobe and my cartilage piercings yet. :p