Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Winking and glimmering under the setting sun

Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! Matthew 18:7

So my head hurts. Seriously. And I have seven more fourth drafts of The Pearl literary analyses sitting next to my computer, neatly paper-clipped with the peer revision sheets and the double-column quote and inference notes. And because this is my ninth graders’ first step into the big bad world of parenthetical citation and an inviting introduction and satisfying conclusion leave reader with sense of resolution and clear, comprehensive thesis statement in introduction sets up entire essay and details follow logical, effective order in body paragraphs and thoughtful transitions show how ideas connect through essay, I am dragging them towards doing it over and over until it is done right.  And they are all good sports about it, and not complaining, and smiling at the challenge of excellence, but I am reading and reading, over and over about how “being rich isn’t bad,” and writing over and over in the margin “focus on what Steinbeck is saying in his story and not what you personally believe” until my pencil lead breaks.  

And the mysterious google forces linked today’s verses to the 2350 Bible verses, one out of seven in the New Testament, that speak about money and possessions.  Boy oh boy, ol’ Steinbeck sure understood God’s heart on this one as well, as he traces the almost destruction of a kind and innocent man descending into the hell of greed. 

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:16

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 1 John 3:17

And of course in the NPR background drones the twisting pontification of our elected officials trying to squeeze the destitute into one more reelection slogan.

And this one might as well be the thesis statement of every sharp word of this parable, the parable of the Pearl of Great Price: But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:9-10

And I wonder about Mr. Steinbeck and the power of his words that also seem to rightly divide the heart of man. Are the prayers of dear faithful Juana making the magic of prayer, her face set rigid and her muscles hard to force the luck, to tear the luck out of the gods' hands, so very different from my homeroom students who mutter under their breath every morning, “I pray we have a good day and do good on our tests and if anyone is sick please make them well in jesus name amen and can I please copy your geometry homework?”

And at the end of the story, when all is lost: his home, his livelihood and his only son, Kino wrenches his soul back from the pearl, the pearl with its music of promise and delight, its guarantee of the future, of comfort, of security and drew back his arm and flung the pearl with all his might the ugly grey malignancy into the sea and what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?

The music of the pearl drifted to a whisper and disappeared.