"The Sparrow" by Mary D. Russell


(Mark Delepine) #41

Thank you for that. I am used to having my ‘real’ motives questioned by Christians. I appreciate the atmosphere you help to maintain here.

All I can say is that it is honest work and work I enjoy, much like the labor involved in making my garden. You can’t explain the value of a non-kitchen garden to someone who doesn’t care to know any easier than you can the value of finding harmony, meaning and understanding in ones life. But to one who recognizes the value there is nothing more satisfying.


(Mark Delepine) #42

I am relieved to find this thread open as I am near the end of the sequel and note some possible parallels with my own beliefs regarding religion. I always slow down when nearing the end of an enjoyable book, eager to see what is around the next bend but fearing to see the end of the trail.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #43

Enjoy it to the very last words! I will be eager to hear your thoughts about where she went with everything.


(Mark Delepine) #44

Finished Children of God and it was a very fun read. Definitely lots of surprises in the evolution of characters, which the author admits in the reader’s guide was intended. So something about being quick to judge and how a wider context redeems a character one might otherwise dismiss as a villain. That seems to fit with an often repeated theme on these boards. People here as opposed to Christians I come across elsewhere on the internet seem more likely to question their knowledge base when it comes to judging others.

The rest I’ll put under spoiler protection. The thoughts are rough but if any discussion comes of it perhaps some of it can be smoothed out.

[spoiler]Ah, one impression I remember now was how the predator race was largely viewed almost as gods by the Runa. And yet the Runa seem to have greater dexterity and to be capable of creating more technology. Ultimately those strengths are entirely put at the service of the Jana’ata who essentially breed them to that end - among others. This mirrors my own take on religion to a degree. I see our conscious minds and that which is regarded as God as co-products of consciousness. In the books the Runa = the conscious mind and the Jana-ata = that which fills the god hole of consciousness. It has occurred to me that our conscious minds are a later development and one that fills purposes to which it is better suited than is the more primordial-intuitive product of consciousness. In some sense the Jana’ata heighten the consciousness of the Runa who are more content to lead a less thought provoking life style. In the course of the books the Runa rise up as the result of changes brought on by the Jesus like character of the Jesuit Suarez. In the course of that upheaval, the Jana’ata are transformed from ‘gods’ with an OT disposition into one more disposed to peaceful coexistence.

From the perspective of the autistic/mystic Isaac, the true value of the Jana’ata is their music and stories. He values these far more than the ever present, always convivial and chatty Runa among whom he cannot hear his own songs/thoughts. Likewise, the fruit of that which fills the god hole in my thoughts is a place where creativity and inspiration transcending the mundane thrives. We are better off not to drive ‘our Jana’ata’ to extinction. We are better off for keeping their songs and stories alive. Atheists who dismiss all of religion as a mistake to be buried and covered over represent the triumph of the practical over the sublime, not the best outcome.

The opposite extreme would be a world in which all the roles and songs have been codified, sanctified and regulated. A perfection of top-down control, in which traditional religious forms are enforced but no longer live; a religious state in which religion rules but true religious experience is no longer allowed.[/spoiler]


(Mervin Bitikofer) #45

Wow – you went a lot deeper with all the potential symbolism you spotted in there. I was still mucking around in the ideas and dialogue bandied about by the characters. But now that you mention it, the Runa and Jana’ata do seem to roughly fit some of the parallels you mention. Almost as if … the Jana’ata had eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, while the Runa had stayed back in relative innocence?

Coming back up closer to the surface, I agree with you that (most of!) the characters are given more dimensions than villainy or heroism. She made them all pretty real --to a fault I would add. One possible exception (on the periphery) … the ex-husband of Sandoz’s new wife (his name escapes me at the moment), seemed to be fairly villainous, through and through, though he is allowed his own moments of friendly and normal dialogue along with the others. And his character never claims too big a spot in the story, so maybe it isn’t fair to try to read much into that.

Russell seems to shun any sort of fluffy storybook endings, especially if you stop with the first book, leaving the reader starved for closure. And while she still couldn’t be accused of succumbing to fluffy Disney style endings in the second book, I nonetheless felt that it gave me a good measure of the closure I was longing for. Did you feel that way too?


(Mark Delepine) #46

I agree, the characters aren’t all equally well elaborated by the author. The ex-husband was named Carlo and do you suppose the woman he was going to marry was in on the plot all along? Seems possible.

That fits. The Runa could be seen as humans who don’t ‘eat from the tree’ but co-inhabit the world with those who did. Looked at that way, being ‘fallen’ doesn’t look entirely like a mistake. I wonder if some Christians see the acquisition of the knowledge of good and evil as a necessary step and quite possibly part of the grand plan. Can we be said to have free will without it?

I think I read in that study questions section that she had always imagined writing it as a single story over two books. And she does seem to encourage us to judge characters given an incomplete account only to redeem the them later with a fuller back story. I think she has a lesson to teach (axe to grind?) on this count.

But with only a couple of disconnects in the story line I was entirely happy with the plot and resolution. Thanks for the recommendation~


(Mervin Bitikofer) #47

I would press further with a followup question as to whether the story of our creation and fall is a story of earth and its particular creatures? Or is it a story of our entire Cosmos … and … it’s particular creatures?

My initial answer to that is that this is our earth-bound story and it is peculiarly for us. So I see our “tree of good and evil” as representing a fact of life about who we are, just as our initial “animal innocence” is also built into our human substrate.

I think God’s accommodation to us is a peculiar earth-bound accommodation to earth-bound inhabitants; indeed what else could it be? But in defense of Russell’s story, who am I (are we) to think that our citizenship on this planet is not itself beholden to a larger even more basic citizenship in our cosmos? In some senses maybe we have more in common with any alleged ETs that may exist than we might at first guess.

Okay – here’s a subject switch. And I think I’ll make a new post of it, hoping to maybe draw more readers in for a moral discussion than just you and me here.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #48

Please feel free to read this and make comments even if you have not read the discussed books. This does not involve any significant spoiler to the plot of the story, but an ancillary plot device that I thought itself raises good questions.

My family is in the background right now, watching a Bones episode that happens to involve undocumented immigrants being charged with murder and the hell they go through often being trafficked into this country and enslaved without rights.

And that subject reminds me of Russell’s world, in which she has one of her main characters having grown up as a child in Brazil, orphaned and in hopeless poverty. In Russell’s predicted 2018 future (she wrote the book in the 90s) she portrayed private companies in this “futuristic” world as having figured out that all of the masses in poverty represent a potential human resources to be … “exploited” (the word a cynic would use) … or “redeemed” (the word that capitalistic enthusiasts might prefer.) Here is how it worked in Russell’s world: companies would subject hopefull masses of impoverished kids to just enough of a barrage of tests to be able to select out a few of the best and brightest (usually with regard to very specific sought-after skills). After all this vetting, the company would extract the (lucky?) child from their poverty, provide all the best schooling, training … everything needed. And in return they would “own” the emerging trained adult, and enjoy returns on the high-paying job this “redeemed adult” was trained to do until the investment has shown its return. A defender of the practice (if we set aside the disturbing word: “own”) might liken this to med students needing to serve in the army or in a certain state until the investment into their medical degree is considered sufficiently compensated.

Russell’s character is a brilliant world-respected analyst who is nonetheless “with obligation”, but doing quite quite well for herself in comparison to her childhood of selling herself for prostitution. I.e. at some point she ostensibly “consented” to choose this future with its obligation, and was probably the envy of any other impoverished childhood street friends she may have had.

I don’t for a moment defend slavery in any form, historically or now. That said, what do people think of these kinds of situations which, as today’s news shows is far from merely hypothetical. What do we say to people who because of how horrible their present situation is, are willing to try slavery as a means toward gaining a different life?