Wednesday, January 30, 2013
"I can't help it: it's in my story!"
One of Jonathan's favourite things to watch on DVD is the TV show "Super Why." It's an excellent children's program that is interactive and educational.
In each episode, Whyatt or one of his friends (Pig, Princess Pea, or Red Riding Hood) faces a problem like "My house is too noisy" or "I'm afraid to go down the big slide." To solve the problem, they turn into the Super Readers (Super Why, Alpha Pig, Princess Presto, and Wonder Red) and fly into a storybook (usually a fairy tale) to find out how a character solved a similar problem. Along the way they collect "Super Letters" which they put together to make the "Super Story Answer" to the problem. They also spell and rhyme words along the way. So it's a good way for kids to learn about letters and words. It also includes numerous references to the word "super," in case you hadn't noticed.
At one point in each episode, the Super Readers encounter something in the storybook tale which may prevent them from reaching their goal. For instance, one of the friends is reluctant to play a game she's never played before, so they go into the Sleeping Beauty story and find Beauty sleeping and refusing to do anything else. They encourage her not to spend all her time sleeping, but she replies, "I can't help it: it's in my story." And there at the bottom of the screen is a sentence: "SLEEPING BEAUTY LOVES TO SLEEP." But does this deter the Super Readers? No! Super Why announces that he can change the story and save the day. He zaps the word "sleep" out of the sentence, then brings up three new words like "nap," "play soccer," and "yawn," and asks the viewer to choose a word that might help Sleeping Beauty try new things. When the viewer chooses "play soccer," Super Why zaps it into the sentence, and Sleeping Beauty jumps up and starts to play soccer enthusiastically.
I enjoy watching this show with Jonathan because it has nice animation, it's amusing, and it teaches kids good literary concepts. But I also think it's kind of like life! Often we limit ourselves because we assume that we can't change our situation or that who we are totally determines what we do or become: we think, "I'm an introvert; I can't lead a group! I failed; I can't possibly make up for that." Or we keep on doing things the same old way without admitting they're not working for us, or we blame other people, or fate, or circumstances, for how our lives have turned out. In other words: "I can't help it: it's in my story."
But I don't think that's really true. I love movies in which people undergo a radical transformation -- like Seven Years in Tibet, in which the main character is forced to admit that the things he's relied on (good looks, independence, achievements) have zero value in the community where he now lives. Or About a Boy, where the main character, a wealthy single guy for whom "shallow" is a way of life, meets a needy young boy and realizes his own life lacks meaning. And of course (though this isn't a movie as far as I know) there's Paul in the Bible, who is going about what he thinks is important religious work; Jesus knocks him to the ground, zaps "religious fanatic" out of his story, and zaps "Jesus-follower" in its place. Talk about a Super Story Answer!
Not all changes are that dramatic, and I know these are all cases in which a person didn't even acknowledge that he needed to change until the reality hit him in the face. But even simple things like a kids' TV show can prompt us to think about what we wish was different about our lives. That doesn't have to mean discouragement or resignation, though: we can ask ourselves if there's something we need to do to make that change, and we can recognize what's beyond our power (though not God's) to do and ask for His help.