Saturday, October 25, 2008

YMMV

There's nothing that illustrates the meaning of those letters, which stand for Your Mileage May Vary, like discussing an interesting book in a group of very different people. This is also what makes our book group a great mix even though there are only about 6 of us.

Last month we read Mutant Message Down Under, by Marlo Morgan. This novel claims to be based on fact, but is presented as fiction to protect the innocent. A little research on the web resulted in a plethora of results, mostly debunking everything she said about the aboriginal tribes of Australia, but that probably wouldn't bother the members of my group who loved it.

They weren't, after all, reading it in order to learn the truth about the lifestyle of a real aboriginal tribe. They bought into this: "The belief of the fictitious tribe is to value people for who they are, to appreciate even the simplest things given to us by nature or others, and to be in harmonious connection with ourselves, others and our environment -- our "divine Oneness". Honesty is a key element as it is the simplest and truest form of communication. Everything in the ecosystem connects to the 'Oneness'. "

The minister in our group loved this message so much that she created an entire sermon centered around it. Most of the others agreed with the basic principles, even if they didn't buy into the whole book. I, contrary person that I am, thought the whole thing was bull hockey. I was supposed to believe that this 50 year old American, dressed in silk and high heels, went without protest as she was shanghaied off to the outback, divested of all her worldly goods, and carted off on a barefoot 4 month trek?

The "message" being shoved down my throat was that as long as we eschew material goods and listen to the earth and each other, they will provide for us. Well sure, if you're happy with worms and termites, you'll never go hungry. I was also supposed to believe in hands on healing and tribal mind speaking, not a "something is not right" feeling, mind you, but a "Hey everybody, I am feeling really sick because of something I ate. Is it okay if I cut off the tail of this kangaroo I caught instead of dragging the whole thing 8 miles?"

Most of the commentary on the web is about the disservice the author did to the native Australian tribes with her fictionalized view of their culture. I don't really have as much of a problem with novels that start with a truth and embellish upon it. That's what historical fiction is, after all, and those novels often prompt people to research facts they might never have gone looking for otherwise.

I don't know, or much care, what it says about me, but I am not interested in oneness with the rest of the world. In fact, I have absolutely no desire to read your mind and would thank you to stay the heck out of mine.

I am, however, fascinated by the fact that books speak to the individual, and not only does each of us react very differently to the same book, but we react differently depending on where we are in our lives when we read them. I would even say that a book that can have that effect is one that is worth reading, and perhaps even rereading, even if I don't happen to agree with it myself, at least not this time around.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I love that you are able to disagree with the group in such an intelligent way! I always end up babbling when I am put in situations like that, so I really envy how well-spoken you are.