2005-11-27-Lessons From Children's Stories
Topic: Lessons From Childrens' Stories
Group: Rio Rancho TeaM
Elena on Piano: "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent"
Father, we’re thankful today to gather here and be closer and warm and have cozy, warm feelings, even in spite of the blustery day outside.
Thank you, Father, for always providing us will good lessons, through Merium and others. We are always very appreciative and find them extremely helpful. We all look forward to having the lessons and sharing with each other and with Merium and the other beings who are around us that we cannot see.
Be with us today. Help us through the week with your always good guidance. Let us be opening for listening for your guidance. All these things we ask in your name. Amen
MERIUM: I am Merium. Don’t get up. Please, stay there in your chairs. You are so comfortable already, I needn’t even fluff your pillows. It is such a lovely day, as Esmeralda has said already, so cozy. It would be as if you were seated around a roaring fire with your cup of hot cocoa and storybooks in your laps. I’ve come to remind you of our assignment, first off, that being to find something we might study and I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts you’ve all forgotten--
Group: Yes, I forgot. Me, too.
MERIUM: -- so I have an alternate route to take. I will begin with the most elemental lessons in appreciation of your childlike natures. And, in keeping too with the cozy atmosphere of today, isn’t it exciting how the wind is blowing? Such an electrical charge is in the air! It makes our coziness all the more precious.
I am going to involve you all today and I’d like for you to participate. I realize some of you grown-ups will have to take a leap into your childhood, but I am sure you can rally to the occasion. I would like to discuss/study/ find value in literature, as I indicated, and since we haven’t got anything to study, we shall study children’s stories. And so I would like for each of you to call to your own mind one of your favorite stories from your youth and share it with the group so that we can begin to recognize the value in all things, just as Aesop found in his many fables.
Anyone have a story they’d like to tell?
Elena: I have one that’s really appropriate. It’s not exactly from my childhood, but it’s one of my favorite stories, and it was a story by George McDonald called … I don’t remember the title exactly, but it’s about the North Wind, and it tells the story about a little boy who loses his parents, an orphan, and has a very difficult time. At first he battles with the wind and it makes him cold, and he … I don’t know. It’s been a long time since I read the book. It would warrant reading again. But he goes through different things and befriends some people, but the North Wind is his biggest friend, and it actually … in my mind, is like God. At the end of the story, it eventually takes him, so the boy dies. The wind finally carries him away to a happier place, and I may not be remembering it exactly but it’s a wonderful book and I loved it, and that’s at least the gist of it.
MERIUM: So we have the story and the interpretation. There are perhaps other interpretations, but let’s hear another story!
Men-O-Pah: I’m always reminded that the wind is our brother, and it’s part of the whole prayer which says, "Great Spirit, whose voice I hear singing in the wind, wind that gives the breath of life to all the world, hear my prayer, and find my little medicine song acceptable. I seek your wisdom and your power, not that I may be wiser or stronger than my brothers, but that I might win the battle over my most formidable enemy: myself."
MERIUM: Now that one is laden with symbolism and may be regarded as quite the fable. But we need not limit our imaginations to the wind. What of those of us indoors? Like Little Miss Muffet on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey? Many childhood stories, such as The Ugly Duckling, or later stories such as Oliver Twist or Little Women. Tell me stories!
Esmeralda: Well, when I was growing up, from a very, very, very early age, my mother taught me all of the Little Miss Muffet … you know, all of the nursery rhymes. I could go through all of those when I was about three, so I enjoyed every one of them. You just mentioned Little Women, and that is one of the books that I thoroughly just loved. I don’t know how many times I read that.
Paula: Oh, you too? I’ll bet I read it 13, 14 times.
Esmeralda: And "Eight Cousins" was good, too, that she wrote. And it was mainly, as I recall, telling about the lives of the youngsters, the cousins, as they grew up and the different paths they took and the choices they made and I was really fascinated by that, too.
MERIUM: What did you like about it, Paula?
Paula: I loved "Little Women"! All the way through! I just … I couldn’t tell you how many times I read it, and then I read "Little Men." Of course, that was just an off-shoot of that, and that was interesting, but it wasn’t nearly as good as "Little Women." It was just different and I liked it, but I could go back and read "Little Women" over again now. I just loved it.
Elena: What did you—she asked what did you like about it, though?
Paula: Well, the mother and the father valued – just the things that they could learn about life and how you go about things and try to find the proper passage as you go along and do the right thing and, sure enough, if you do it right there is a reward for you, and if you do it wrong you are probably going to get punished, and they lived by that.
And they had a woman that was, I guess, a housekeeper. And how they could afford to pay her I don’t know because they were supposed to be pretty poor but she lived right there with them and they were good to her, too. And it was just … just the morals in the thing.
Of course the father was a minister, and the mother was just an all-around good woman; she could do anything, and was always helping out. And they didn’t have much of anything themselves, but she was down there taking care of the poor family where the mother was sick and there were children who had to be taken care of and sure enough she’s down there doing it, and it was just … that sort of thing.
And then the father – it was during the Civil War and he was injured and was in the hospital and with the help of their neighbors next door who were well-to-do—and of course one of the girls married the son – and they helped him so that she could afford and stay with her husband while he was getting better.
But the whole thing, it was just beautiful the whole way through. Of course they all fall in love and get married. All except little Beth, that was always sick anyhow, and she died before the end of the book, but the other girls got married and it was just great.
Esmeralda: Their ability to cope with not the best of circumstances, to make the most out of whatever it was and appreciate what they had was a good thing in that, too, I thought.
Elena: And there was still fun there, too. There was the snow and the ice. And then the humor, of the sharing of that one glove. You know, and the burned dress and her back to the wall and just dying to dance, and still something working out with that.
Paula: Oh, yeah, she had something wrong with the back of her dress.
Elena: It was singed.
Esmeralda: She had backed up to the fire.
Paula: Oh, yeah, and burned the back of her dress.
Esmeralda: But she didn’t have another dress, so she had to wear that. But they coped and they were happy and they were loving.
Elena: Very close.
Esmeralda: Very close. And that was a very good thing.
Men-O-Pah: I think I was in the second or third grade and my teacher thought that book was so important and so good that she read it aloud to us.
Paula: She did?!
Men-O-Pah: Yeah, we had a few minutes every day where she read to us from one book or another and she read that… she read that book to us.
Elena: Did you like it, too?
Men-O-Pah: Yeah, I did. I did. I sure did.
Esmeralda: You know, another one that was good, too. The teachers did used to read for a period of time. My own mother was my teacher, at school. Another was "Robin Hood" and she read that book aloud to us and that was very fascinating and it was robbing the rich to help the poor but it had good morals to it, too.
MERIUM: Thoroah? What is your mind telling you?
Thoroah: I never read "Little Women." If I did, I don’t remember it. How did I go through life without reading "Little Women"? (Group laughter) I’ve heard about it my whole life, and may well have had a reading assignment at some time or another to read it, but I don’t recollect it.
Of all those things that… the longer stories and the short stories … the biggest factor in my life was "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" and the dog with the bone looking at himself in the water, from Aesop. Those two things … I have been in both places and I didn’t have to go to looking at myself and dropping the imaginary bone. I had no problem with that most of my life because I don’t covet … and that might’ve been one of the reasons why I don’t covet!
… but the other one hit me full blast when I scared my mother and my great-grandmother half out of their wits one time by yelling "Help!" and, you know, it was out at the farm and I did that and they came out and as soon as I saw the panic in their eye, coming out to see what was wrong with me and there wasn’t anything wrong with me, I just Boom! It was like a dagger. I put my own dagger in my own self. So I learned that lesson, but those are the two I remember from my childhood.
MERIUM: And Gerdean, what are your favorites? Or your favorite?
Gerdean: Well that was well put, Merium, because I would be hard-pressed to have a favorite, but I do like the story of "The Ugly Duckling" because it … well, I don’t need to interpret that I guess, huh?
Esmeralda: That was a good story.
Gerdean: That was a good story. And of course I liked "Little Women" too. I like the gentility of "Little Women." I think little girls always fantasize that they are cultured and gracious and, like the Waltons, you want to be around people who are good-hearted and laughing and loving and sticking in there through thick and thin. But my favorite is "The Ugly Ducking."
MERIUM: And why is it "The Ugly Duckling"?
Gerdean: All right. Because – because of the sense of belonging that it represents. The ugly… it wasn’t ugly, it just didn’t fit anywhere until it blundered onto its own kind and then it realized it was in its element and it just happened that it was a swan and it was very beautiful. But that’s symbolic because we all recognize that swan are very beautiful but all animals are beautiful. I don’t object to that. I mean I don’t have to be a beautiful swan. I just appreciate the value of finding your own kind. Finding people that you feel are your kindred spirits. And in there you can be beautiful because you can be yourself.
MERIUM: I too have favorite stories from my childhood, but I’m not sure I would remember them unless someone pointed them out to me in conversation, similar to how you do when you gather round the fire as you have this afternoon, to share your appreciation of sundry literature. I admire Men-O-Pah’s ability to recite. It used to be on your world and on mine, that we learned by memorizing, and so the mind was quickened and found much delight in repeating phrases and refrains that were remembered long ago but that still stay fresh.
The same can be said for songs such as Thoroah and Gerdean enjoy. A simple phrase prompts remembrance and they might launch into song then and there, as if on cue. This again is a form of literature, only it is sung or recited instead of read. Reading together is, alas, a lost art in your culture it would seem. There are some times when folk gather together to read great books, but for the most part they are only interested in books as far as studies are concerned and not for enjoyment.
It would seem in your culture this has to do with the rapid pace of the material age, where everything is happening so fast it is almost an unacceptable indulgence to simply sit back and become lost in a good book, in a good escapist literature, or an adventurous story. But as we have talked about today, almost every story has a moral, has value, and if it does not, it is the nature of the curious mind to manufacture some, so as to validate its investment in time, as if to say it was time well spent because thus-and-such was obtained from the experience.
As you develop your refinements and your tastes in this life and to a great extent in the lives to come, you will be more selective about what you focus your mind on, but always will there be room for diversion, reversion and entertainment. And always will it have a moral, as the parables that Jesus used to give had a grain of truth inside an otherwise simple rendition of life’s mysteries.
Is it any wonder that adults still enjoy telling stories! I think women are perhaps more gifted at telling stories than men, but that is a cultural thing and not an innate tendency. Women seem to have had more time to sit around and tell stories. They also enjoy the details, while men seem to want to get to the point and not dally over descriptive adjectives. However, there are men whose lives are made successful because of those adjectives and they use them in their business to sell or convince, and so they tell stories in their own way.
This is part of the adjutants, the adjutant of counsel that loves stories, telling them and responding to them, for it is the voice of humanity, the voice of intelligence, the voice of consciousness. And yet, I loved the music you played, Elena, that salutes the silence, that allows us to go into the stillness wherein we may sit in repose and enjoy the still small voice within which speaks to us of adventures and provides comfort and quells our fears even as it excites our sense of adventure.
How wonderful are our Eternal Parents, that they have provided so well for us and given us this hearth in front of which we may sit in gentle company with one another, companioning one another on a blustery late November day on Planet Urantia.
Are there any questions from anyone, in terms of your life experience or in terms of your studies that we can address while we are here together?
Paula: Well, it isn’t a question. Can I tell you something?
Paula: Well, you all would have loved my father. I know you would. Everybody did. Daddy was a very unusual man and he went his own way. He was supposed to go to college like his brother and his sisters did, and instead he said to his mother one day when he was a senior in high school, he said, "Well, I’m going to be an actor, on the stage." Well, they about threw a fit, I guess, and grandma, it’s a wonder she didn’t have a heart attack right then because she thought that was a terrible waste. Well, it turned out that he had ten really good years on stage, traveling all over. But the idea was, when he came back home and he married mom and they managed to have me, and he was a really devoted father and very good over at church and always keeping somebody’s spirits up. This was Depression days. You young people don’t know about that, but I do. All we old ladies and old men know about the Depression.
Esmeralda: I know about the Depression. I’m with you.
Paula: And over in church they were just about ready to hang themselves on the nearest rope because they couldn’t support their families and they were all blue, so every Wednesday night we all had dinner together. Every lady brought something, a dish. And it was the best meal some of them had all week, including us! And daddy would get telling jokes and laughing and before the evening was over they had forgotten how upset they were. They were having a great time.
This is all very well and good, then along came my teenage years and I got to be 14 and I was pledged to a sorority. Well, I was younger than the other girls; they were 16, 17 … I was 14. And you don’t know what that does to a teenage girl. I looked at those girls and I thought, "Oh, if I could only be like them. If I could only be so grownup!" And of course I was always a little shrimp, anyhow, and people thought of me as a baby on account of that and I hated it!
So the girls are all sitting around at the sorority meeting. Everybody is puffing away on a cigarette, like this, you know, and it looked so sophisticated to me and I thought, "Oh, boy, I wish I could smoke." I was telling my parents about it and my dad said, "Oh, you want to smoke, huh?" I said, "Well, I wish I could because then I could be like the other girls." He said, "Well, you get an allowance (fifty cents a week) and if you want to waste it on cigarettes, that’s your business. Go ahead."
Well, he could have forbidden me. He could have said, "Don’t you ever dare do anything like that or I’ll have you over my knee," but instead, "Go ahead! Experiment!" so I’m choking down the cigarette and catching the smoke in my throat and everything, so I wanted to go to the next meeting and I tried awful hard to sit with my cigarette out (like "I do this all the time at home") and I thought I was doing pretty well, too.
Then we had the sorority dance and the boy that I thought I was terrific was going to be at that dance and I thought, "Well, he’ll never pay attention to a 14-year-old girl," but lo and behold during the evening he asked me to dance. We danced, and all of a sudden he started to chuckle. I said, "What’s so funny?" He said "Nothing" and I said, "What?" and he said, "Usually when I dance with a girl she smells like smoke and you smell like perfume."
That was the last cigarette I ever smoked in my life. I thought, "Oh, boy, men don’t like that! They like to have things smell nice." So my father was pretty smart that way. He could have forbidden it, and then that would have been my way of saying, "I’m going to do it anyhow!" but I didn’t have to, because he was a smart cookie and he was a good man, and he had his own way of raising his daughter, and I was rambunctious, like all teenagers, and he kept me in line that way, so he was quite a man.
Elena: That was quite a story!
MERIUM: Indeed, he was, quite a man, and it is no wonder you still adore your daddy. He was wise to allow you to make your own way, learn your own lessons, overseeing your mistakes and praising that in you which was appropriate. It is the positive way of teaching, which is how Jesus taught his brothers and sisters. The positive injunction, as compared to "Thou Shalt Not" which, in many young people who are discovering their own limitations, "Thou Shalt Not" is an invitation to extend themselves into realms that will only get them into trouble.
Elena: I guess I have a question, if you … You asked if we had questions. I have this deal going on about my plumbing, and I found that-- I mean, I’m fine with my own plumbing, that I find now that I’m sitting here listening to my mother’s house, and worrying about her! And so, I’m-- It’s-- I have a little worry streak that I’ve tried to control during my life and sometimes I’m better at it than others at controlling it, but it seems that one event will happen to you and then you consider yourself a little bit vulnerable and you look for that same topic.
Is that a good enough..? I may not be expressing this very well.
MERIUM: You already know the answer to your question. You are telling me that you are a creature of habit and if you feel something and it is confirmed, you have at once established a habit. And since you are currently worrying about your plumbing, it’s quite easy then to worry about your mother’s and, if you give yourself permission, you can worry about the plumbing of the entire Sandoval County! (Laughter)
Esmeralda: That’s probably true!
MERIUM: You could take this worry all the way to the point where you decide to run for office and be of service to your community. But if you are not going to do something affirmative and constructive with your worry, you are only indulging anxiety and there are many more productive and pleasing methods of amusement.
Elena: True enough. Thank you, Merium, for the reminder. I needed that.
MERIUM: Your mother needs to tend to her own plumbing. This is not to say you cannot share concerns. But each of you have your own responsibilities. Again, this is not to say that you don’t concern yourself about others’ challenges. This is the nature of empathy. And yet, as you interject yourself into the lives of others, to the extent that you need to fix their problems for them, you have overstepped the boundary of good sense and become a rescuer or an enabler, which is dysfunction.
It could be that misery loves company and so you want your mother to have bad plumbing to companion you!
Elena: No! No, no, no! Knock on wood.
MERIUM: Then don’t worry about it.
Elena: Okay. But thanks for the reminder about that. That was good advice, too, in other areas as well, so I appreciate that.
MERIUM: You are welcome. And I must say this sentiment has a lot of bearing on why you enjoy Louisa May Alcott’s "Little Women." It represents an age in culture that is no more, but is presented as romantic and so it appeals to that in you which nurtures freely and receives same from others, without being dysfunctional. It is the true representation of family, wherein each one enjoys carrying the other's burdens, and enjoying the truth that your burdens are also carried by those who care.
In today's culture (in the main), it is very much "I'll take care of myself; you take care of yourself." And so this interdependence factor is unappreciated. This is a current but temporary cultural reflection of your evolution as a species.
You were talking earlier about the depression and how people pooled together to make a banquet once a week, rather like stone soup, but the fact remains, you all pitched in and helped each other. This remains an experience of value, no matter what trying times you may be experiencing. But you are now enjoying a time of plenty, a time of abundance, and so everyone is quite smug about their self-sufficiency. If and as circumstances are changed to force people to learn to depend upon one another once again, as happens in times of disaster or emergency, you will again see that tendency to bond together to be helpful to one another as an aspect of your goodness.
Elena: Merium, is that independence…is that truly evolution? Is that progress? I forget the word you used, but . .. um, is that a forward direction?
Esmeralda: "I can take care of myself; you can take care of yourself."
MERIUM: It is necessary for the child, the toddler, to pull back from the mother's breast and from holding onto the coffee table, (in order) to walk across the room. And in this regard, it is necessary for individuals to say, "No! Let me do it! I can do it!" And thus they learn to walk. They can run and play with others who also walk and run. However, in the end, it is necessary that teamwork be learned, sharing, and the like. And these are cyclic. But in the cycle of your age now, independence has reached its peak in certain areas, even though there are many who are completely dependent yet on artificial realities, other people, places and things, including work, wealth, drugs, alcohol, ("sex, drugs and rock-and-roll"), and so as we evolve up and away from the dependency on these lesser realities and become more sure-footed in selfhood, selfhood will reveal itself as to whether it is out for itself or if it is able to, willing to, be of service to others and the greater good.
Here is where Tomas would say, "By your fruits you shall be known," and you will know, as in "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," who is genuine and who is just a lot of talk, or, like the North Wind, if it is change for the sake of change, or if it is purposively moving the seasons along.
Speaking of seasons moving along, we have observed your Thanksgiving Day activities, and heard your heart's song as to that for which you are grateful, and [we] are now in our theater seats observing the approach of the Yuletide season and all its many diversions and feelings. I invite you to join me in observing as humanity approaches the holiday that is named after the Christ child and how that affects the world, He who created the world!
Anything else before we call it a day?
Elena: Well, do you have any suggestions about our assignment? I mean, would you like us still to look, I mean, maybe with the idea of reading it aloud, perhaps, or selecting a book that we all read and then discuss here, or . .. do you care about what format takes … or what?
MERIUM: I have no preference as to how it emerges; however, I would very much enjoy and appreciate our ability to apply ourselves to some form of mental stimuli, in terms of study or absorption. It is not only amusing, it is also mental exercise.
Elena: Like on a daily basis, or just during this lesson?
MERIUM: If you find something during the course of time, between now and when we next meet, that you enjoy . .. if it has value to you . .. that you would like to share with someone, as a reflection of yourself, bring it along with you. And this is something all of you can do. All of you have stories from childhood you have shared. And you can all bring in something you have discovered to read with us, to us, that also will edify the group, and we can play "Little Men" and "Little Women" in company with one another. Let's see how that goes.
Group: Okay. We'll try not to forget this time. (I'd better do it right away!)
MERIUM: I look forward to the results of this exercise, as I always look forward to seeing you again, after we have been apart. Bye-bye.