I’m currently in Chapter 44 of Stephen King’s The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition. In this chapter, Larry Underwood meets Nadine Cross and a feral boy called “Joe”. I have three items:
1. On pages 430-431, Larry is still traveling by himself, and he thinks about the music of the sixties and how awesome it was. I can’t say that I know much about music, but I can identify with thinking about certain topics according to their time period or decade. I do that as I think back on my life—what books I read when I was such-and-such an age, where I was religiously or personally at such-and-such a season, etc. On some occasions, I also think about television shows or politics by decade. And it’s fun when I can reflect on how awesome something (i.e., a book, a movie, a church, etc.) was.
2. On pages 439-440, Larry realizes that two people are following him, and they will turn out to be Nadine and Joe. But, as they are following him, Larry ceases to be afraid, for he reflects that they would have killed him already had they wanted to do so, plus he desires human companionship. On page 439, Larry wonders why he feels so good, and he thinks for a minute that perhaps “some black poison had leaked out of his system during his long sleep the previous afternoon.” On page 445, Larry’s dreams put him into a good mood for the day, and he looks forward to seeing the ocean. I liked these parts of the book because it feels so good to be drained of the poison of negative emotions, to have inner peace and tranquility rather than fear, and to look forward to the day rather than dreading it as a chore to endure.
3. Something on which I have commented in my posts on The Stand is Larry Underwood’s growth as a person. People call him a taker, and Larry goes out of his way to prove them wrong—primarily to himself. He learns to help Rita, for example, even though she annoys him. At some point, Larry simply drops all pretense and acknowledges that he is not a nice person. I have wondered if Larry grows in the book from being a taker to being a giver, and it will be interesting to look at his character development as I read on.
On pages 448-449, Larry reflects that he has changed. He does not say how exactly on those pages, but, on page 434, he thinks about how he at one point dreamed of being the Elton John of his day, and now he’s crawling over cars, trying to get to wherever. Obviously, the things that mattered to Larry before the plague hit were different from what matters to him now, for he no longer dreams of being a big-time musician. That’s irrelevant now. Circumstances have changed, and so he has changed with them.
On pages 448-449, Larry thinks about Jory Baker, who was a rising musician. Then, Jory was in a car accident and got doped up in the hospital, and he became a heroin addict, the type “with fumble fingers, spare-changing down at the Greyhound station and hanging out on the strop.” Over eighteen months, however, Jory got clean. He was no longer a rising musician, but he showed up to his practice sessions on time and did what he was supposed to do. He had come out the other side, which does not happen to everyone. And Larry reflects that he, too, has come out the other side.
Sometimes, change can come when we’ve “had enough”. There may also be times when change does not result from us beating a dead horse, trying to be different, but it just comes. I think of Jesus’ parable in Mark 4:26-29: the Kingdom of God is like seed that grows into a plant as a man sleeps and gets up every day, and the man does not know how it happens. This is not to suggest that I shouldn’t work on my character defects, for things like relationships and personal growth can take a lot of work. But, sometimes, just letting things be is the way to go.