Bad things happen in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Neither of the major characters is evenly remotely likable. They are an evil, twisted, narcissistic and neurotic married couple who each would have been terrible enough on his or her own but are, together, positively terrifying.
It all starts out happily enough. Boy meets girl. Boy pursues girl. Girl lets herself get caught. And they live happily ever after. Until they don’t.
Gone Girl is a thriller/mystery that defies you to stop reading. Flynn’s story is told from the points of view of both Nick and Amy, the terrible twosome, and in different times of their marriage. We see them start and end and start and end and start again. They are really good together and really bad together too. Mostly, because of Flynn’s amazing abilities as a storyteller, they are really good at being bad together.
Gone Girl is about secrets. Both Nick and Amy have them. They keep them from each other and from everyone around them. They are both obsessed with how they will be perceived by other people; neither can stand the thought that someone somewhere might not like them or find them attractive. Our boy, Nick, is so worried about how he appears that he flashes a usually winning smile at a press conference in which he and his inlaws are to beg for the return of his missing and very likely dead young wife. The smile proves not so winning under those circumstances. Amy is appalled when people comment that her husband’s mistress is a pretty girl, so appalled that she spits in their food.
Gone Girl is about revenge. Nick is furious that Amy does not remain the cool girl he met and married. Amy is furious that Nick no longer sees her as the center of his world. In their own ways, each of them take revenge on the other. They don’t have a “red room of pain” but they do not need one. These people are good at what they do and do not need fancy props to exact pain on one another.
Gone Girl is about the damage our parents inflict on us. Nick’s father made him the misogynist he is, even though he does a nice job of not looking like a misogynist most of the time. Amy’s parents have managed to make their nearly perfect child feel inadequate, their much desired and loved daughter feel like no more than a meal ticket and an also ran. Poor Nick. Poor Amy. Their childhoods sucked so they grew up to be sociopaths.
Gone Girl is about the complexities of love and marriage. A young and beautiful couple grow up together. Their marriage suffers and thrives as growing pains push out its edges. Nick and Amy should never have met much less married. Then again, they are perfect for one another.
Mostly, Gone Girl is about control, being in control and completely losing it. In the end, it is hard to tell who has succeeded and who has failed. Either way, it’s a compelling read, a murder mystery that breaks the mold. Gillian Flynn is my latest favorite author.
Monday, July 16, 2012
Thursday, July 12, 2012
|Preaching in Second Life 7/12/12|
** The Word**
“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”
― Dorothy Day, THE LONG LONELINESS, from her autobiography
I have spoken with all of you before about the October Moms. This is a group of mothers who met online in 1997 during our pregnancies. We were all due to have babies in October of that year. It was an e-list back then on cs.net. I was one of the first of us, the October moms of 1997, to find the list because I knew very, very early in the pregnancy that I was pregnant. Still, I was not the first. Several others got there ahead of me.
In truth, the list was not empty when we found it. We, the October Moms of 1997, were interlopers on a list of moms who had had children in October of ‘96. They were not all that thrilled by our arrival and soon disappeared. I don’t know if their group survived on some other host site or not. I hope so.
Our group thrived and grew for months. Other moms joined us as the months ticked by, some even finding us AFTER their October babies were born. The list swelled to something around 3OO members. We were moms from around the world, moms of all ages and from a diverse cross section of society, racially, politically, religiously and economically. I don’t think any of us are gay, though several are bisexual and a couple are polyamorous. For some, the October baby (some of whom defiantly decided to be August, September, and November babies) was their first child; for others this was a second, third or sixth birth. Some of us worked outside the home; others were homemaking moms whose energies went completely into keeping their families housed, fed, dressed, educated and cuddled.
Really, on the surface of things, we did not have much in common. Had we met anywhere but in a pregnancy support group, I doubt we would have had much to talk about. But, if you have ever known a pregnant woman, you know that her most driving interest is pregnancy and childbirth. Most pregnant women are obsessed with what is happening in their bodies, what WILL happen to their bodies and how they will face parenting, even if they are not first timers. As a result, we October moms came together at what is probably the only time in life we had enough in common to even take notice of one another. We started talking in the early weeks of 1997 and the talking went on for months.
The babies started being born and we kept talking. We shared advice, wisdom, criticism. There were open battles between moms over breast vs. bottle feeding, circumcision, the decision to be a stay at home mom, cloth vs. disposable. There were tears shed when moms had miscarriages and when children were born unhealthy.
Our children grew and we kept talking. We talked about our marriages and our jobs, our kids’ developments and quirks. (I don’t just mean our kids born that year either.) We argued about politics and religion, sometimes viciously. We switched web hosts several times and some moms moved on from the group when their lives became too full to keep up with list mail. Some left over disagreements on the list. Along the way, many of us met in small gatherings all around the world.
We are in our 15th year together now. Our babies are not babies anymore and many have become big brothers or sisters. Moms have married, divorced, been widowed, lost parents and, in very sad cases, lost children. Many of us have relocated in the solid world so it has been especially wonderful to have this online support system that moves with us.
I think there are about 1OO still registered on our list, though only about two dozen still post there regularly. Mostly, we are in FaceBook now and use the e-list for talking about things we would not want seen in FaceBook. In fact, our kids are now linked to one another via a FaceBook Group. My own daughter, Susie, is now friends with kids whose names she has heard all her life but has never met. I cannot tell you how it warms my heart to have given my daughter this online community on which she will always be able to rely as I always have. It is like giving her aunts and cousins that are not actually related by blood. The October moms are extended family by choice.
If someone had told me in January of 1997 that in July of 2O12, I would sit down to lunch with two women I had never met in person but who I considered to be two of my very best friends, I would not have believed it. I could not imagine back then that strangers who lived thousands of miles from me could feel like sisters to me, but they do. A couple weeks ago in New Jersey, I finally met and hugged two of my sisters, Sharon and Christine. I am not ashamed to say that the experience nearly brought me to my knees emotionally. I was so choked up I could barely speak at first. This took me by surprise because this was not the first time I met October Moms. I met a handful at a gathering in Cincinnati back in 1997 when we were still pregnant. We had lunch and went shopping together. I was very glad to have met those moms back then and have become very close to them over the years, but it was not as emotionally charged as this recent meeting because we did not have the shared history that we have now. This meeting earlier this month was very meaningful because, although we have never met in person before, Sharon and Christine and I really know each other.
Now let me switch tracks ever so slightly.
Many of you know I moved to Florida a little more than a year ago. I moved here for a lot of reasons but, by far, the biggest was that the man I love and who loves me is here. Most of you also know that I met that man here online in Second Life. We were peripherally acquainted at first through mutual friends, then became closer when one mutual friend suggested we should spend time together. We had our first real conversation, in text, soon thereafter and I knew right away Hex/Mike was someone I wanted to know better. We did the SL dating thing and decided to meet in person. We both needed to see for sure that we were who we seemed to be in SL. There was little doubt in my mind, but proof is, as they say, in the pudding. So I came to Florida for a week’s vacation. It was then that I decided to move here and three months later I did. Now we live together and I at least am unbelievably happy.
If someone had told me three years ago I would be partnered in my first life to someone I met in Second Life, I would never have believed it. I remember arguing back then, when a previous SL partner wanted to meet in person, that SL is not a solid enough platform for meeting in person, much less making a life with someone. I am glad to say I was very, very wrong.
Now, I have connections outside of SL with many of you in UUtopia and with a couple of people Freda worked with at jobs she has held in SL. I have met a couple of SL friends in person. I consider them *real* friends. And this community, UUtopia, has come to mean a great deal to me. I would miss it if it disappeared, which it someday undoubtedly will. Nothing, even in the solid world, lasts forever. Things online tend to run their course even faster. In fact, so far as online phenomena go, Second Life is already an oldtimer. I think we have to assume the Lindens will not always be around or willing to provide us with this virtual home together.
Now another track shift.
A couple weeks ago at the General Assembly of the UUA, those voting there decided to redefine congregations. I won’t read the whole thing to you now but the part of this change that could affect us in UUtopia is that congregations no longer have to have physical locations. That means this congregation in its virtual home could be deemed a real Unitarian Universalist congregation if we as a community decided we wanted it to be and if we met all the other requirements for being called a UU congregation. I will let Et and anyone else who knows more about the legalities address that during discussion if they care to.
What I want to address from my own personal viewpoint is the desirability of becoming a real, sanctioned-by-the-UUA congregation. I have already told you all that I am not one who believes online communities and relationships are not real. They are very real. Even those who approach Second Life or World Of Warcraft or The SIMS as a game, have built real relationships that stand aside from the game. I have known people who met doing gorean role play in SL, which would seem like an impossible place to to get real with anyone, but they have created strong and lasting friendships. I know one couple soon to be married in the solid world who met when he was role playing a hideous fanged alien wolf-like critter in Second Life.
Still, I have misgivings about making a commitment to the UUA, the commitment that all congregations must make. One of my misgivings is the temporal nature of online sites. They come and they go. We might be here one day and gone the next through no choosing of our own. But that’s minor; there are ways to assure that an online community stays connected even if its host site disappears. If we decided as a community we wanted to be a UUA congregation we could make sure we are solid with or without Linden.
My bigger concerns are about what church means to me. I love you all and, as a group, you matter to me. I want to be part of this community for the foreseeable future. But this place, this group, is NOT a substitute for solid world Face to Face community. In some ways, I like this community BETTER than most solid world churches, but it does not fill my need for solid world community. It pains me to say that because, frankly, I am finding central Florida a damned hard place to find a religious/spiritual/intellectual home. (I have started visiting a local fellowship and will even preach there in the near future but it really is not the church home of my dreams.) I sooo wish UUtopia and FUUCSL could be my church but it just does not work for me in that way. That really should not surprise anyone; an online love affair was not enough for me either.
I also worry that some of us are people who, in the solid world, are pretty much invisible because for one reason or another we cannot live our lives as fully as we would like to outside of SL. Some of us are physically disabled in first life. Others are so “different” from others in our solid world communities that we cannot let go and just be ourselves. For those people, SL is a Godsend; UUtopia is Utopian. That, in and of itself, presents two sides of one problem. On the one hand, no one should settle for a virtual life and, on the other, no one should have to.
We all *need* community. Some find it through work, some through school or a garden club. Others, like me, find community through churches and other houses where people with similar spiritual and intellectual interests gather. In light of the UUA’s recent redefinition of congregations, it would be easy for me to give up on finding a church in the solid world or making one I have already found work for me. I *could* just accept that there is no place for me in the religious/spiritual/intellectual community that already exists here in Brevard County. My mother did that 5O years ago when a presbyterian minister told her there was no place for her in any church. She accepted his decree and never sought community through any church again. I could decide to push for FUUCSL becoming an accepted congregation or fellowship in the UUA and make this place my only church. But if I did that, I would be settling for less than I want and need.
When we take refuge here in sl, we risk shutting ourselves off from a fulfilling reality. I am not saying that Second Life cannot be a great place to examine ourselves and our real life choices; it can be. And, no, I am NOT saying this is not real, that WE are not real. Everyone here knows that people in SL are as real as people anywhere else. I am saying that we all deserve more than the lives we build here, more than the communities we build here. We should not settle for less than we deserve and our solid world communities must be forced, one way or another, to own us as we are, however we are. Each of us deserves a safe and supportive first life, solid world community, more specifically religious community, in which we are not just accepted but welcomed.
So now comes the time when I open the floor for your comments and discussion. How do you feel about the need for a church community in your own life and how does this community, UUtopia, meet or not meet those needs?