Category Archives: words

Why I Refuse to Read The Rainbow Fish.

Let me get this out of the way first. I hate the children’s book The Rainbow Fish. I really do. Artistically it’s a fun little book, but the story itself, I can’t stand. Maybe it’s because it’s a translation, and loses some of its meaning when translated from German to English, but I don’t think that’s the case.

Let me start off by saying that I understand that the book is supposed to be about sharing. I like sharing. However, what I get out of The Rainbow Fish is that in order to be liked, you must give away intrinsic pieces of yourself. Not just your time and energy, but the actual pieces that make you unique and interesting.

Let’s break this down into small digestible chunks, shall we?

The book opens with all the other fish wanting to play with the rainbow fish because he’s beautiful. He, however, is proud and aloof because of his appearance, and won’t play with them. When a little fish gets up the gumption to ask the Rainbow Fish for a scale, he refuses the little fish. Then all the other fish won’t have anything to do with him.

This set up really frosts me. First, all the other fish want to play with Rainbow Fish because he’s beautiful, not because of any sterling qualities he might have. And they stop asking him to play with them because he won’t give any of them a scale, not because he’s basically, for all intents and purposes, stuck up. Let me make this point right now: scales are not a prized possession. They are an inherent body part, like skin or bones or eyes. Giving away a scale requires the Rainbow Fish to damage himself.

So right away the motivation for the story is suspect in my opinion. Rather than focus on actions (Rainbow Fish’s poor behavior) it focuses on appearance. It defines worth as what you look like rather than what you do.

When the Rainbow Fish starts to miss all the adulation he used to receive, he goes to a wise old octopus to ask him for advice. The octopus tells him to give a scale to all the other fish, and that while he will no longer be beautiful, he will be happy.

So he returns home, and the other fish once again ask him for a scale. This time, trusting in the octopus’ advice, the Rainbow Fish gives everyone a scale, until he only has one scale left. The result? He’s very happy, of course, because that’s how the story is meant to go.

But if you think about it, there are two underlying reasons for his happiness. Besides the joy of giving (which definitely is real) there’s also the joy of being accepted because he no longer is different from everyone else. That’s the take away for me. Give away everything that makes you unique, and conform, and then you’ll be happy.

Yeah. Not what I want my kids to live by.

I do want my kids to be generous and charitable and kind, but not at the sacrifice of themselves. Sharing and generosity does not require you to damage yourself.

Think about it this way. Wouldn’t this story be much more interesting if the Rainbow Fish learned how to help the other fish find the things that made them unique and interesting and useful? That’s my kind of sharing.

 

 

Are You In or Out?

I’ve been watching a lot of Doctor Who lately. (Netflix for the win!) So much so that last night I dreamt I heard the TARDIS in the street outside my house.

That thought was enough to make me wake up. However, I purposely rolled over and went back to sleep without getting up to look, for the simple reason that if it was real, I wanted no part of it.

(Yes, I know it’s not real. But a part of me, especially the dreaming part, still believes there is magic in stories. That all stories are in some way real. Thank Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast for that.)

I love the Doctor Who shows. I’ve been watching them since I was a kid and watched the Tom Baker episodes with my Dad. I even made one of those ridiculous long scarves for my brother. My husband has it now, but keeps forgetting that it’s there, so it still doesn’t get used. I’d love to see someone wear it.

Anyway, I digress.

I love the Doctor Who shows. They are wonderful combinations of the sublime and the silly, horror and hope. I keep having to wash my glasses because I cry for almost every episode. But the world they portray… How to explain it?

The world of the Doctor is full of hope, but it’s also full of danger. It’s exciting, but also enormously sad. Bad things are happening ALL.THE.TIME.

Imagine being in a world that asked that you run towards the burning building all the time. That asked you to choose on a regular basis who lives and who dies. Can you imagine it? Wouldn’t that be hard? It would be hard for me.

We all want to be the person who runs into the burning building, who rushes in to save the day. But are we? Running towards danger, stepping up and helping others is a hard choice. Fear and indecision get in the way of heroics both small and large all the time.

Jumping in the TARDIS and traveling the length and breadth of space and time with the Doctor would be amazing. And terrifying.

Would you choose to join him if he asked, or would you choose to be safe?

Last night, on the edge of sleep, I chose to be safe.

 

Hope for the Future

When 9-11 happened, I was 8 months pregnant with my first child. I remember my sister calling to tell me she was alright, and my confusion. I then turned on the tv, and watched as the second plane hit.

As the events of the day unfolded, I seemed to collapse in on myself and the baby in my belly, and the thought, “What kind of world am I bringing this baby into?” played over and over in my head. How could I keep him safe? Was I being selfish by having a baby? The world seemed so full of heartache and woe.

The day wore on, and I thought more and more about my reasons for becoming a mother. And then I realized:

This baby was my hope for the future. A future filled with love and strength and courage. A future filled with joy and silliness and compassion.

Becoming a parent was a present and a promise to the future. That while horrible things can and will happen, we have the choice to greet the world with courage and love.

Every time something horrible happens, I reaffirm that conscious decision to choose love.

Repeatedly, someone targets innocents, hoping to create a world filled with fear and hate, because that is the only type of world they believe in. I refuse to let fear and hate define my world. I will bring love and hope into it, even if it’s just a little bit at a time.

 

 

Tight

I hold on too tight to the ones I love, I sometimes think. It’s so hard to walk the line between letting them grow and become who they need to be, and keeping them close, and safe, and cherished.

I have always known that this life is temporary, that everything can change in a moment, and that you never know this “I love you” is the last one until the chance for another is beyond reach.

I scrapbook because I know these things bone deep. It’s another way to hold tight, and keep the fear away. These pieces of paper are talismans to ward off the monsters in the world.

But there is no shield strong enough to keep them safe if the monsters come hunting them.

Today a monster came hunting children, and was all too successful. My heart goes out to the parents, the siblings, the friends and family who will never get to hold their loved ones again.

Such a terrible, unreasoning wrong. There are not enough words for comfort.