John Green is my author of the season. Unfortunately, the number of books he has published is small, so with The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, and Paper Towns already read (An Abundance of Katherines sits next to my bed waiting for me to digest and write about Paper Towns), there isn’t a whole lot more of him for me to read.
Following is what I wrote to a friend of mine on her LDS mission in Florida about the book:
On Sunday I binge read (and finished) a book, Paper Towns,by John Green. Quick synopsis: Q (short for Quinton) is approaching high school graduation when his neighbor/friend/crush, Margo, runs away from home, leaving him cryptic clues as to her whereabouts. As he progresses through, he learns how to really see people for who they are.
It is easy to forget that other people are real people too. They actually have hopes, fears, and dreams just like I do. They aren’t merely characters in the story of my life, but have stories of their own. Too often I see only mirrors in them; or rather I only see me in them. Instead, I should look for windows to see them as they are instead of as a reflection of myself. For example: I believe that [someone, let’s say Steve] has issues understanding and accepting the gay thing because he views it as unnatural, a farce of a love. He has a hard time believing that a committed, monogamous, homosexual relationship/marriage could work. For him it isn’t “Love=Love,” but “Heterosexual Love>whatever those gays lust for.” Yes, I intentionally used “gay” incorrectly as a noun instead of an adjective for emphasis. To be fair though, I have a hard time seeing him as he is instead of seeing him how I think he should be, reflecting my own hopes/dreams/desires. Though I use the gay example, it works for nearly everything. Mormons are often seen as judgmental because we believe others should reflect our own values instead of accepting them as they are. The same is true of almost every political thing ever. Wars. Arguments. Everything.
The perfect example of someone who sees windows is Christ. He is able to see us as we are. Suffer with us. Mourn with us. Rejoice with us. He has felt what I felt when I hated myself for liking boys. Or the gender dysphoria of those who do not fit the gender binary of today. He knows my pain not because of the abuses he experienced during his life; the beatings, the scourging, the betrayal, but because in some divinely inconceivable way he became me, living through my woes. He felt my relative take their life, becoming my relative. He felt his son’s anger at his parent who abandoned him long before a son should bury his parent. In the performance of the atonement Christ not only brought humans to God and made them more God-like, but he made God accessible to humans, making Him more human. A human who has lived the however many billions of lives that have passed on the earth. And because of that we are able to take His name on us, give His name as ours. And when we do so at that great judgment day, every fault and sorrow in our registrar in the Book of Life will read, “Paid in full.” Because He paid what we cannot, we escape the punishment that He deserved not, but took anyway.
The mirrors concept also ties in nicely with the circles that I was talking about last week, the part about not forcing parts of yourself on others and instead seeing and loving them as they are.
Windows can sometimes act as mirrors, depending on where the light is brighter. You will see wherever the brightest light is. If you look at a person with the goal of outshining them you will never see them. Looking for the light they already have will reveal them. Sometimes this might mean dimming your own light, showing your weakness, so that you meet them where they are at, then shine together. Green in Paper Towns quotes Walt Whitman in saying that the ultimate goal is to become someone else. Christ did that. One day we will be able to as well.
They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace;
And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.