14 February 2016

Delaying gratification

Last Halloween, I met a student at my new school who also shares my interest in A Game of Thrones (though she's only seen the show, and hasn't read the books), and our first conversation lasted about 45 minutes, with her writing questions in dry-erase marker on a whiteboard, and me responding verbally. (She was in full makeup as a zombie for Halloween, so she couldn't move her mouth enough to talk without risking displacing her gorey makeup.) Her questions ranged from speculation about future plot incidents and story lines to my opinion of certain characters and events. At one point, she asked about the current state of a certain character in A Song of Ice and Fire - whether a situation has been resolved or not in the books, as opposed to the show. This post will be about how that question, my response, and her reaction converged on Ash Wednesday this year to make me think about the importance of having a penitent mindset before the exultation of Easter. But for the sake of not spoiling anything for those concerned with the series, I'm going to make the section break here, so if you click to read on, you do so at your own risk of spoilers.

     Okay, so her question was about Arya Stark - whether or not she was still blind in the books, and if we could expect her to stay that way in the show (ASoIaF has resolved this situation, but teaser photos for the next season of GoT evince that it has not been resolved in the show). Initially, I refused to answer, on the grounds that she would appreciate finding out later more than if I just told her. After some thought, I decided to pull a pedantic teacher move, and offer to tell her the current state of Ms. Stark's eyesight if she would first read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and tell me what she thought of it - and if, after reading it, she still wanted me to tell her the answer, rather than waiting to find out on her own. She happily agreed, and I brought her my copy a few days later, and told her that she had a year and a day to read it. (Aside: I have the Tolkien translation - anyone know of another good, or better translation that I should look into?)
     When we returned from Christmas break, she told me that she had finished reading the book, and was ready to return it to me and talk about it - but she was in a rush right then, so it would have to wait. I didn't see her again until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (hmmm, Mardi Gras), right after I learned that I had committed an egregious faux pas in the chain of command at my new school, much to my chagrin. She returned the book to me, and as we discussed her questions and thoughts about it, I explained the concept of delayed gratification; that Gawain must reject the advances of Lady Bertilak not only to save his life, but because a greater reward awaits him if he is faithful to the chivalric code. She understood the symbolism, so when I explained to her that I would be happy to tell her about Arya's eyesight, but that I personally thought it would be more rewarding if she waited to find out on her own though I wouldn't think less of her for wanting to know, she decided to wait. (Granted, I don't know whether she'd already Googled to find out, but I take her at her word.)
     The next day, at an Ash Wednesday service, I found myself trying to explain why the season of Lent has come to hold such significance for me. As you've probably already inferred, it's because it makes Easter that much more meaningful. Forty days of particularly focused mindfulness about my dependence upon Christ for all things makes my shout of "He is risen indeed!" resonate all the more powerfully than if I'd only observed Passion week (for me, at least; I do not intend to cast aspersions upon those who do not observe Lent as acutely). So, there you have it: from Arya to Gawain to Christ, in the nutshell of this mind.
[Man, does it feel good to write again! I must do this regularly!]

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