Friday, November 25, 2011

Friendship, Mr. Gaunt's Way, Christian Sub-Cultures, Fine Days

Yesterday, I got a lot of reading done of Stephen King's Needful Things. Here are four passages that stood out to me, along with my comments:

1. On page 302, we read the following about Alan:

"He reached the corner of Main and Laurel, signalled a left turn, then halted in the middle of the intersection and turned right instead. To hell with going home. That was a cold and empty place...There were too many closed doors and too many memories lurking behind them in that house. On the other side of town there was a live woman who might need someone quite badly just now. Almost as badly, perhaps, as this live man needed her."

Alan is going to Polly's place so that he can comfort her after the death of her friend, Nettie, and also because he doesn't want to go back to his empty house, which has a lot of memories lurking there from his late wife and son. That reminded me of a couple of things. First of all, I remember when I was in college, and I wasn't really in the mood to be pouring over every last detail of my homework. I decided to go hang out with my friends, for that was fun. In time, the opposite came to be true, for I preferred the solitude of reading and of academic accomplishments over being with people, some of whom ridiculed or insulted me. But there was a time when I could prefer the company of others over being alone, which felt dark and joyless. Second, I thought of Romans 1:11-12, where Paul states (according to the KJV): "For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me." Paul wanted to go to Rome to help the Roman Christians, but then he realized that such a visit would comfort and support him, as well."

2. On pages 393-394, Leland Gaunt says to drug-dealer Ace Merrill, whom he has hired (and who is also a villain in Stand by Me): "You'll find that things go more smoothly for you, Ace, if you look at working for me the way you would look at serving in the Army. There are three ways of doing things for you now----the right way, the wrong way, and Mr. Gaunt's way. If you always opt for the third choice, trouble will never find you."

That's true in many cases throughout this book. Nettie Cobb is posting citations in Danforth Keeton's home, and Gaunt gives her telepathic instructions on how she can safely escape right before Danforth returns to his house. Basically, she needs to leave the house calmly, in a manner that does not draw attention. Brian Rusk threw stones at Wilma Jerzyck's house, and he is afraid that the police will find out that he did that. But Gaunt reassures him and offers him valid reasons that this will not happen. Gaunt wants Ace to transport illegal guns from Boston to Castle Rock, and he assures Ace that the police will not stop him. Sure enough, the trip goes smoothly for Ace, for the police do not even see the car that Ace is riding when it passes them. Gaunt takes care of people and assuages their fears, but only so long as he needs them. He has no moral compunctions about sacrificing people for his own amusement. Nettie and Wilma kill each other, for instance, because Nettie thinks that Wilma killed Nettie's dog, and Wilma thinks that Nettie trashed Wilma's house, when actually somebody else did those things, under the instigation of Gaunt, who is looking for amusement.

But the passage stood out to me because I feel good when my worries are assuaged, especially since I am someone who can get stressed out by every conceivable loose-end that enters my mind. I also like the promise that following a certain path will make my life less complicated, even though, of course, everybody has problems, including those who live right.

3. Page 398: "Lester went along [with his friends to tent revivals] mostly to be friendly, and because he always liked to listen to some good preaching and do some singing after an exhilerating afternoon of head-knocking and body-blocking. It was the best way of cooling down he knew."

I never really fit into the "jock Christian" sub-culture. But, come to think of it, I never fit into the intellectual Christian sub-culture, either. In terms of which one I fit into more, I'm not sure. The former tended to simplify issues, but at least (on some level) it respected me when I made objections. The latter saw more nuance in issues but trivialized or pompously ridiculed my objections. But I cannot absolutize or generalize, here.

4. Page 399: "Every day was a fine day when you'd given your heart to Jesus, but some days were finer than others."

Lester Pratt thinks this in the book. I like the idea of believing in Jesus leading to joy, and, even when it does not totally, the worse days now being better than our best days before we became Christians (or entered recovery, or embraced some sort of golden path). It would be nice if each day were fine, and some days were even finer.

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