“There’s much more. There’s all that goes beyond – all … that is Elsewhere – and all that goes back, and back, and back. I received all of those, when I was selected. And here in this room, all alone, I re-experience them again and again. It is how wisdom comes. And how we shape our future.”
― Lois Lowry, The Giver
The Giver is one of my all time favorite books. I think I read it for the first time in the fourth grade, and it began my love for all books about a dystopian future.
Some loves do last a lifetime…. Well it might be, still, too early to tell. 😉
For those who have never read The Giver, shame on you. Go read it right now. It’s only 138 pages, you can come back and finish the blog post when you’re done.
In the book a young boy, Jonas, is selected to receive all the memories of the world, and will be keeping them for the entire community. The community knows not of the past, or of so many things like colors, true emotion, true feeling, or even weather.
What struck me about reading this book again recently is how Jonas received the memories.
He had to feel them.
The first one was a sled ride. Feeling snow and the exhilaration of sledding down a hill. The second, a sunburn. Another a family at Christmastime, another breaking his leg on the sled, another war, and on and on.
The purpose of ‘the receiver’ is to multi-faceted–keep the memories of the world, obtain wisdom from said memories, protect the community by using this wisdom to advise the council of elders, and tell no one.
The thing is in our society, we obtain knowledge, wisdom, and memories of events past through more and more through reading and word of mouth and less and less through experiences.
Many of us will never know what it feels like to be starving, abused, raped, or homeless. What it feels like to watch your best friend die in war or to lose a limb.
We know numbers and statistics, perhaps know a personal story or two, but very few of us know these feelings.
In the book, ‘the receiver’ is said to gain wisdom from the memories.
I think about the people that we have governing us, the ones that we put in power to make our decisions. For most of them, as for most of us, they have known few days of discomfort. They’ve known few times when they’ve wondered how they will pay the light bill or feed their kids.
The knowledge (very different than wisdom) that they have, has been given to them mostly from books and lectures, and though yes, they are mostly old dudes and they have life experiences that give them the wisdom to make the decisions they do, of what depth is that wisdom?
My question is, how different would our world be if we had to feel the joy AND pain of this world?
Not just know the joy of playing with a newborn baby or the pain of the loss of a loved one, but all of it. All of the suffering in the world, all of the love, joy, kindness, hate, and death.
In my young life, I’ve experienced more than my fair share of wonderful things. I’ve been in love, worked hard, had sisters (which is both wonderful and terrible), found a faith in God, and been able to travel the world. But I’ve also had my fair share of torment, and troubles. There are things I’ve experienced that I might never share with another person because they are truly troubling to my soul.
I’ve been shaped by it all. I can regret none of it, for to take back even one of those experiences would change me fundamentally.
Because of this…. interesting… life I’ve led, I am passionate about people. About loving, helping, and journeying with folks. Sometimes that means sharing a beer to celebrate a new job, and sometimes that means redirecting an upset Alzheimer’s victim (if you don’t think someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s aren’t victims you’ve not seen what I have).
Lots of folks are passionate about justice. They are passionate about mercy and love, and fight everyday to bring the kingdom of God just a wee bit closer. For those who fight because they have seen or felt these yucky things have more power behind the punch. It adds weight to the fight.
When things like war and rape and hunger become more than abstract thoughts, when we put heartbeats to these things, we open more and more eyes to give them weight. It influences movements, rallies, and laws.
I know that we can’t all experience all the bad and good stuff, and Lord knows I don’t really want to experience some of it. But they say a few times in the book, “Memories are made to be shared.” It is your job and mine to share our collective knowledge with others. For me to share about how people can come out of broken homes and be awesome, how AMAZING the folks in L’viv, Nicaragua, and The Bahamas are (and how these folks are folks just like everyone else… funny how that works), for all of us to share our wisdom to help influence our world for the better.
We all have stories–both painful and joyful–that we need to continue to share, so that for those of us who will never truly know the good and the bad can know to fight and can have the conviction we need to do so.