Guest blog. All comments are appreciated.
When Worlds Collide: Discovering The Callings
Let me first explain. I am a Northern Irish writer living in southern Spain; half a world away from Louisiana. I teach part time, and a few weeks ago, a former employer, Demand Media Studios based in San Francisco, invited me to return to write for them. I accepted. Employment and money are in short supply in Spain, which is yet another country battered by the Euro crisis.
The first article I picked up was titled “Characters in Loretta Theriot’s ‘The Callings’,” a book co-authored with Mary S. Palmer. I’ve written several literature articles for Demand’s eHow site, so I went straight to Google and started searching. That’s when I found Mary S. Palmer and our worlds collided. In a good way. I would rarely contact an author, but on this occasion I decided to do it, mostly because I couldn’t find enough information on the web. Mary was so helpful I was able to write an article just from her notes.
The most striking thing about my contact with Mary is the parallel between the story she and Loretta Theriot tell in “The Callings” and an article I wrote back in 2004 about a young man in Oregon called Jordan, who found himself in a similar situation to Bobby, one of the main characters in Mary’s story. Both were juveniles when they were given sentences for murder and sent to adult penitentiaries. Both were troubled youths, and both had problematic fathers. In Bobby’s case, the father appears to be a cruel, controller. In Jordan Merrell’s case, his father was a professional lawyer who, following a stint in Vietnam, had a diagnosis of PTSD that he never recovered from. Jordan was an adopted child and his father used him as the target of his frustrations.
Mary and Loretta’s book has another character, Robert, who goes to the same school as Bobby and grew up in the same parish (county), yet he became a priest. “The Callings” poses the question: how can two people from a similar background and the same place have two such different life paths. This question taxes sociologists, psychologists and educationalists everywhere. The answer is not easy, nor is it simple. So many factors are involved. Individual choices and responses to your environment are the key.
And then it occurred to me this morning: look at Cain and Abel; same parents, very different boys. What insight does the bible want us to take from this story? I know the main one I take is that it is personal choice that leads us to harm ourselves and others. Parents and family may contribute, but evil people also come from stable families.
I hesitate to use the term “evil,” it is a word that seems so damning that there is no way back from it, and once uttered – or written - it hangs there, brooding, dark and unforgiving. Yet sometimes “bad” doesn’t quite hack it. I am not a church-going Christian, but as I wrote to Mary, my belief in God is solid. I’m not so sure about an entity called the Devil. But then, if I think of God as a divine energy, it makes some sense to name the dark, negative energy I know exists, “the Devil.” I choose Light, but I know many who are inexorably drawn to darkness.
I’m still waiting for my article to be published on eHow, so that all Mary’s fans can go and have a read. I also hope that the article might bring “The Callings” a bigger audience and make more people consider this issue of choice. Do some people have no choice? Or do we always have a choice? I’d be interested to hear what some of you think. ++