MITCH ALBOM, TRACY CHAPMAN, AND THE CORN GOD

I’ve fallen behind on my cultural literacy, so I picked up
some books at the library the other day. 
First up:  The Five People You Meet in Heaven. 
This immensely popular book seems to push everybody’s “inspiration”
button. 

My analysis:  Albom’s storytelling genius draws the reader
deep into main character Eddie’s life (and death) from the first sentence.  It’s a slim book, read in an afternoon, and I
swear I held my breath through the whole thing. 
The overall message is so schmaltzy I hated myself for enjoying it so
much, thereby endangering my detached cynic credentials.

My question of the day: When exactly is the appropriate time
to inform your children that the world they live in is a stinking hell-hole?

Yesterday I popped my old Tracy Chapman disc in the car
stereo and after skipping through a few songs I didn’t want my kids to hear, I
gave up and took it out.

My girls have a pretty sunny view of reality, and I have
protected them from a lot of popular modern media.  The most violent movie they’ve seen is Pirates of the Caribbean, and there is
no “ho this” or “bitch that” rap crap in our house.

Then there’s the amazing Tracy Chapman, with her understated
style and her smoky voice, singing about black girls getting assaulted, poor
people rising up in revolt, domestic violence in the neighborhood, and all
manner of doom and gloom that is nothing like the happy world my kids know.

Even the marvelous Fast
Car
begins hopefully:

You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere

But ends with the seemingly inevitable disappointment:

You got a fast car
And I got a job that pays all our bills
You stay out drinking late at the bar
See more of your friends than you do of your kids
I’d always hoped for better
Thought maybe together you and me would find it
I got no plans I ain’t going nowhere
So take your fast car and keep on driving

But it’s all real and kids have
to learn about it sometime.  When?  Am I making them vulnerable by
over-protecting them?  Should I let them
know just how lucky they are because their lives aren’t like those people’s? 

I was just reading about Mayan gods, my interest sparked by
a new discovery in Guatemala.  I was interested to find that in ancient
Mayan mythology, the Maize God is sacrificed each year at harvest time and then
resurrected in the spring, bringing new corn so the people may live.

 

 Summing up: Everything happens for a purpose.  Everyone’s life is connected, including the
poor beleaguered souls in Chapman’s songs and my family and yours.  And the Corn God died for you, proving that
your life is connected to an ancient civilization that was entirely different
and yet startlingly similar to ours.

BREAKING NEWS

I’m wounded!  A certain feline who resides in
my house and is not known for either grace or wit was so panic-stricken
by the roaring machine that approached him that he ran pell-mell from
the room, and in his ill-considered effort to go directly through my
legs, perforated my unshod foot.

Damn cat.
You’d think he’d never seen the vacuum before.

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28 thoughts on “

  1. I think they get to see tragedy soon enough… I think it’s best not to go overboard to shelter them, but also not to overexpose them… how’s that for a middle of the road opinion…
    I think I’ll have corn for dinner   It died for my sins?
    btw I read almost all your blogging and enjoy your sense of humor and writing in general.  I just don’t have much to say most of the time.

  2. Life is complex… they’ll get to it all soon enough.  you have a great sense of when to answer questions (Mommy, what does it mean to get ‘felt-up’) etc.  I wouldn’t spend too much time worring about it until the kids quit asking you questions. That’s when it gets hard.

  3. I have to admit to having enjoyed that book, too.  Although I disagree with the premise, it was a nice bit of fluff.
    I hate that Tracy Chapman song.  That’s what she gets for hooking up with such a loser.
    Let the kids enjoy being kids.  Angst is for teenagers.

  4. My mother had her ways of telling us how bad the world could be: Especially to me – horror stories about girls getting kidnapped and raped and how drugs can kill you. I was only 8 when she started that stuff – it affected me somewhat, kinda gave me unnecessary nightmares. It was pretty sadistic. I think that’s why I took up martial sports, played a guitar and was a tomboy until I left highschool.Moral of the story: A very tasteful story like “Don’t talk to strangers or they will lie to you and take you away from home” is probably better than “Don’t talk to strangers or they will kidnap you and cut up your body parts”.

  5. I must be one of five people in the whole world who wasn’t charmed by that book.  I’ve read about half, and one day I’ll read the other half.  I always did like that Tracy Chapman song, though, even if, as Bad_Dogma said, she hooked up with a real loser.  I do agree that we should let kids enjoy their innocence.  At least, that’s how I approached parenthood–don’t know if I was right or wrong, but we all learn the hard lessons eventually anyway.

  6. I thought that book was shit, and resented the few hours invested. Luckily it was short. I say shelter them until they’re in jr. high…Then bombard them with every bit of psychotic behavior (they may ever encounter) brought to your attention by Oprah Winfrey.On second thought just make them watch Oprah. Let her raise our kids!P.S. Stop making me feel sorry for you. I hate feeling sorry for people I admire. Give yourself a little lovin’.(Oh god, I hope people don’t take that in the wrong way… whatever.)

  7. I haven’t read that book, because it just seemed like it would be “of a type” and I don’t have trouble resisting those.  People must like it, though, because they always sell out as soon as I put them up.
    I think we need all the hopefulness we can retain from our childhood just to get us through the rest of our lives!  They’ll have PLENTY of time to encounter the worst life has to offer.

  8. I too am overprotective (I have a 10 year-old daughter, and a 12 year-old son). That’s partly due to being a stay-at-home dad, and also to the fact that I was half of the reason my adult children suffered through a divorce.That particular Tracy Chapman CD (I think I bought the cassette in 1988) is one of my favorites. I love your analysis of how we’re connected to ancient culture. And those Mayans and Aztecs had some very strange (to us anyway) cultural practices. Peace.

  9. I cant read ANY book in an afternoon…that attention thing…I may have read the Albom book…he is very witty on the Sports reporters on ESPN (which i have not watched for more than a year)…the Tracy Chapman song I know but i never looked at the words that deeply…eek its bleek. And now I am off to google the expression “pell-mell”. Always something new to discover on Xanga!

  10. I ADORE Tracy Chapman… I am a crazy fast reader…and I struggle daily with the overprotection and tell it like it is factor..I took my 9 year old to an emergency homeless shelter and we fed 150 people.I was scared …
    it was amazing and I just watched her beautiful soul unfold and realized I ahve so much to learn..
    the world is a tough place but our perspective is SO different then theres..isnt it? I like your blog

  11. I’ve changed my tune about this.  And I’m breaking my new rule here about reflective listening, to tell you about it.  Oh, God, it’s after midnight.  I’ll be quick.  I think the longer you can keep their world beautiful, the better.  Because the more solid they feel in it, the longer they identify with it, the better your chances of them not straying from it.  Of course the down side is that if they inadvertently find themselves where it’s not so beautiful they will be at a loss.  But then they won’t tarry.

  12. I’ll have to remember that the next time a Jehovah’s Witness comes knocking at the door.  “HERETIC!!!  THE CORN GOD SACRIFICED HIS LIFE FOR YOUR BREAD!!!  REPENT, REPENT YOUR SINS TO THE CORN GOD, OR YE SHALL….ummmmm…..EAT ROTTING BURRITOS FOR ALL ETERNITY!!!”
    That is a good question, and one that is becoming more and more pertinant.  How do you break it to your kids that the world ain’t a bed of roses?  Well, I guess my only recommendation would be to just start them slowly on the hard stuff, while being there to explain what is happening.  If you do it just in the right way, rather than making them completely jaded on life, you might encourage them to be active in social causes and try to make the world better.  Really, the worst thing a parent can do is hide them from the world forever; it will make the shell-shock all the more horrifying.
    Honestly, I’ve never been much of a fan of Tracy Chapman.  I always thought her complete failure to be the next Billie Holiday was kind of annoying.

  13. One of my 4 year old’s favorite songs is Bruce Springsteen’s Empty Sky. I just assumed she wasn’t listening that closely, then one day she pipes up, “Mommy, why does he say ‘blood on the streets, blood flowing down’?” I had a bit of a mommy-heart attack then, but she took the story of 9-11, which happened when she was a 2 week old, in stride. She now professes great love for the ‘Twin Buildings’ and she wants to see them built again.

  14. Your “Summing it up” paragraph really touched me.  I wish you peace my friend, I wish your children peace, and our children’s children’s children, for yes we truly are all connected.  ~Paloma 

  15. I think of it this way:  An Indian King wanted to shelter his son from knowing anything about suffering, so he created a completely false world, sanitized of all unpleasantness.  His son, Siddartha, believed the world was all joy and light, and knew nothing of pain, sickness or death.  When he finally learned the truth, in adulthood, he decided to devote his entire life to finding the end of suffering.  He became the Buddha.
    In Denmark, they tried to raise the environmental consciousness of the citizenry by introducing them to major issues such as pollution, deforestation, endangered species, etc, in grade school.  They took preschoolers on field trips to land fills and preached to them about recycling.  It didn’t produce activists as they’d hoped.  The kids were so crushed by the overwhelming weight of the world’s issues, they felt hopeless and grew up to be apathetic.
    When it comes to kids and reality, I try to find the middle path between creating a falsely happy world, and overwhelming them with calamity before they’ve had time to form a vision of what the world should be.

  16. My parents sheltered me, yet let me read the bloody passages in the bible, so you can guess how screwed up I was for awhile. I’d say give them the truth when they ask for it, don’t sugarcoat anything, and don’t give them any more than they can handle. Sorry for being vague. This is one reason I didn’t have kids.
    The most powerful book I have ever read is Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. Every word in that book speaks volumes.

  17. Uggh.  Injurious cat. 
    Do you think the kids would pick up on the words?  I’ve never even paid attention to them (the songs I’ve heard at least).  Although it is amazing what they do pick up on.

  18. I love the “Fast Car” song.  Who could not love that voice?
    And you have all made me very curious about this book.  Now someone has to come over and babysit, so I can READ it. 😉
    And your question about the kids is an excellent one, I think. . .Reminds me of when Bananna and I read the first Addy book, in the American Girls series.  I had this sinking feeling:  “Is it really time for her to know about crap like slavery?”  And it was.  And of course it’s all presented in a very age-appropriate fashion.  But there was a real sadness, that it was time for her to know about something like that.

  19. Aww what a lovely cat you have! I used to have one when I lived in the country but then, when I moved down to the city I had to give him away.  He was a very dark gray, almost black.

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