To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. – C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves
I was reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and Mansfield Park by Jane Austen simultaneously. Mere Christianity is a great book, but I’m not much of a non-fiction fan in general, so I was feeling bogged down by it, and as you can see from my “About the Author” page, I really don’t like Mansfield Park, but I’m determined to give it a second chance. I know so many people who love Fanny Price and think that Mansfield Park is Austen’s best book, so I feel I must read it at least a second time to see if it can redeem itself. Three weeks ago, I was trying to force my way through these two books – one that was good, but not captivating, and one that I was trying my best to like, but couldn’t – and I got worn out. Reading is supposed to be fun, right? I know, it is important to read books you don’t particularly love to expand your mind and your genres of reading, but I had completely had it with books that were assigned, even self-assigned. So I decided to start reading some books that I knew I would enjoy and that I had wanted to read for a long time. In a week and a half, I read The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. That’s pretty impressive for me; I’m an extremely slow reader. Extremely slow reader. It’s really just because I’m so easily distracted by the things around me. Or I read something that makes me think of something that makes me think of something else, and before I know it, I’m off on a dreamy tangent and have to recall myself back to the page.
I watched the movie The Fault in Our Stars twice within my 48-hour rental period on Amazon. (And then I got a refund because I had so many streaming problems and the movie had to buffer a bunch of times. Amazon took the blame when it was really my basic-level internet that was causing the difficulties, so that was pretty nice!) I balled my eyes out both times I watched it. The first time watching the movie, I actually had to pause it and get up and do something different at one point, just after Augustus’ funeral and Hazel’s second encounter with the despicable novelist Peter Van Houten. The pain, sadness, and Birdy’s song “Not About Angels” were too difficult for me to handle all at once.
But for some reason, I decided after watching the movie that I MUST read the book, and I must read it now. That was probably not a smart move considering the fact that I was already in a pretty downer mood at the time… But I’ve started seeing a counselor that I really like and I think it’s gonna be good, meeting with her regularly. After just an hour of conversation, she called me a deep-thinking Renaissance woman, one of the best compliments she could have given me, for I think that is in fact what I strive to be. Really, everyone should go to counseling. We all have problems, even if we don’t think we do, and talking through them with someone other than family or friends helps so much. Back to the point… (Did I mention tangents?)
I feel selfish saying that I identify with Hazel Grace Lancaster, the main character and narrator of The Fault in Our Stars, but it’s true. I really do. No, I am not dying from Type 1 Diabetes, but I still identify with her a lot. Type 1 Diabetes is not a terminal illness, but it is a chronic illness, something with which I will have to live for the rest of my life, unless some great miracle happens or a cure is finally found. I deal with Type 1 Diabetes every day; there are very few moments in life that I don’t think about it, and it affects my every moment whether I want it to or not. Some of my toes have started going numb from standing so much at work, and that’s probably just from diabetes. If I didn’t have diabetes, I would still have bad feet, but I imagine they wouldn’t be so bad that they would lose feeling. My big toes need prayer. Hahahaha! But really, they do. Pray that should-be-nail-less big toe number one and used-to-be-normal-now-getting-numb big toe number two would learn from the lesson discussed below and realize that feeling is good.
Like Hazel, I get shots and give myself shots every day, I get my blood drawn more than the average person, prick myself every day to check my blood sugar, and walk around constantly attached to annoying (although extremely helpful) fashion-diminishing equipment. With Type 1 Diabetes, I have had to come to terms with the fact that I must go to the doctor several times every year and that I never again will be healthy. In The Fault in Our Stars, Hazel uses this against her parents who are trying to convince her to eat dinner to stay healthy. She responds, “I’m not eating dinner, and I can’t stay healthy, because I’m not healthy.” That’s not exactly a good way to go about life whether you’re sick or not – eating or not eating whatever you want, living however you want because you’re already unhealthy, so why does it matter? – but I completely understand where she’s coming from.
When people talk about how they don’t need health insurance (at least they think they don’t now), I can do nothing but gawk at them. I can’t imagine not needing health insurance. Without health insurance and my parents’ help, I’d be broke in about five months or less. And like Hazel, Gus, and their other cancer-stricken friends, I have had to grow up pretty fast and face the fact that I have Type 1 Diabetes and must deal with everything that comes with the disease.
I don’t want to throw a pity party. When people pity me with a high, baby-talk voice that shows that they really don’t understand – that they just feel sorry for me (“Bless her heart!”) – I just get frustrated more. I am not asking for your pity and I am not trying to act selfish; but I really do identify with Hazel.
Sometimes, it is easy to think that separating ourselves from other people will make life easier because then they won’t have to go through our ups and downs with us. It is easy to convince ourselves that we are less worth getting to know because we are less of a person with a disease. From where does that stupid idea come? The only source I can find is Satan. I hate him. I don’t hate many people, but he’s one of them, along with Joseph Kony. But, as The Fault in Our Stars shows, it is better to live with feeling and love and be hurt by loss than to go about life alone, lonely, and disengaged from feeling, friends, and family. After Gus died, Hazel’s dad came to talk to her and asked if it had been a “privilege to love him.” When she nodded yes, he replied, “Gives you an idea how I feel about you.” Yes, being in other people’s lives can be difficult, complicated, painful, and sad, but what would a life without feeling and emotions and community be like? This is when The Giver comes in.
This book gives an interesting depiction of what life would be like if we were disconnected from our feelings and sense of family. The Elders of the community thought that creating a place protected from feelings and emotions – and the pain and hurt that inevitably came with them – would mean creating an ideal world where everyone would get along and productivity would be high. But Jonas, the Receiver of Memories, realized the importance of feeling, family, and belonging through his training where he – how did you guess? – received memories. He received the memories of the past, before the community was first created, memories of joy and sorrow, connection and loss, cold and warmth, bravery and cowardice, death and birth, love and hate. He was to keep these memories to reference them whenever the Elders needed advice in their decision-making. Jonas realized that, yes, having memories and experiences like he had could be painful, but they also bring a wonderful freedom and joy and variation that no one in the community (except for the Giver and the Receiver) had ever experienced. He decided that it was better to have the pain and suffering that came with love and community and feelings and emotions than to have none of them at all. I quite agree. Loving another person and opening up to them may be painful, but it’s completely worth it.
But loving other people is not all there is. In reading The Fault in Our Stars, I saw the terrible hopelessness of living without God. The fact that the only people Hazel and Gus could fully trust and love were each other and their parents was sad. Hazel, Gus, their parents, and their friends were all human beings, mortal and powerless (at least when compared to God). The patients were even skeptical of their doctors, knowing that they were just prolonging their lives, not curing them entirely. But with God, we don’t have to worry about whether or not we have made a huge difference, we don’t have to put all our trust in someone else just as powerless as ourselves, we don’t have to cling on for dear life to something as substantial as air. God gives us a certain time on this earth and, because He created us, we inherently have a creative reason for living, a reason that He gives us. If we enrich the life of only one other person, then so be it! That is not a life wasted, but a life gained. It does not mean that we are any lesser than the people who touch a thousand lives simply because they happened to get famous. Their impacting a thousand lives is great too, but it is no more or less important than one person ministering to one other person. God put us – Christian and non-Christian alike – on this earth for a reason. Revel in that fact.
The hopefulness of the Gospel is what I sorely missed from The Fault in Our Stars. It was otherwise a great book, but the end left me feeling less hopeful than when I started, not more. In our lives we will deal with a lot of sadness and pain, but we do not deal with it for no reason. God uses that pain and sorrow to show His wonderful, unwavering love and power to all people in this broken world.
- Mere Christianity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mere_Christianity
- Mansfield Park: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mansfield_Park
- “About the Author”: https://soarwithlaughter.com/about-the-author/
- The Giver: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Giver
- The Fault in Our Stars: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fault_in_Our_Stars
- Picture of a tangent: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tangent#mediaviewer/File:Tangent_to_a_curve.svg
- “Not About Angels” (the music video is quite funny, actually, because it’s so angsty and dramatic): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxVUee4WsoA
- Downer mood: https://soarwithlaughter.com/2014/11/10/there-but-never-back-again/
- Description of a tangent: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tangent
- Cure T1D: http://jdrf.org/get-involved/ways-to-donate/
- Fashion-diminishing equipment (insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor): http://www.medtronicdiabetes.com/treatment-and-products/continuous-glucose-monitoring
- Joseph Kony: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Kony
- Broken: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0JLAkiX9lc
Read from the beginning: https://soarwithlaughter.com/soar-cloud-high/