Explorations (**BD2 Movie Spoilers!**)

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Re: Explorations

Postby rollie715 » Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:02 am

December wrote:
But it’s really about something more fundamental: groping to explain what it is we find in Stephanie’s story that takes us beyond the mere pleasure of a “good read.”

I have went back and read a good portion of the posts which December has linked to. Thank you. I only regret I wasn't around during the last couple years to join in them when they were fresh ideas. Rather than dig up old worn out conversations, I will attempt to stay on topic as suggested above.

To be completely honest, part of the draw for me and I will include my wife in this since we both have active conversations together on these subjects, has a lot to do with the big questions of life. What is our purpose in being? Who is God, What role does he play and how do I relate to him? What is a soul? Do I have one and if I do, what conditions could cause it to be lost or saved? Can I do something to lose or save my soul, or is that entirely in God's hands and subject to his good pleasure or mercy? This also ties into the other big subjects I've seen tossed around, such as our free choices and how they relate to morality or the choice of right and wrong and how that leads to consequences good or bad.

I realize that most conversations on these subjects seems to be done from a safe distant, trying to remove our own religious beliefs from the equation and focusing instead on an objective discussion of the characters and how they relate to these subjects, usually done based on historically accepted principles established throughout the centuries. I think it is good to keep that distant as we may want to avoid offending or trampling on others sacred beliefs.

However, as I continue to be honest with myself and you, I admit all this deep thinking brings me directly to relating it to myself and my own opinions on these matters as they relate to my own existence and potential future through the eternities.

It's been an evolution for me. Starting with Twilight, my initial attraction was as I related to Edward, I could understand from my own life what is was like to be drawn or tempted to do things that I felt were wrong. This parallel could be to sex, drugs, alcohol, or anything tempting or destructively addicting. As I continued reading and then watching the Twilight movie, I could relate to the characters and really appreciated how SM gave them a conscience and allowed them to triumph over evil so to speak.

As the story progressed, it went from the simple matters of right and wrong, to developing the ideas of the soul and what the eternities might bring for each of the characters. Once again I related this to myself. What future does God have in store for me, what part of that is freely given, and what if any influence do I have on it as a result of my own decisions and actions? How much is Edward's future locked in by his current state as a vampire or does he have hope for the future of a better life per God's mercy or through his own actions? Even though this is a fictional story, these are real subjects which I personally ponder over and this story gave fuel to my own pondering.

Then there is the subject of personal sacrifice for the unselfish benefit of another, the ultimate being giving one's life so that another might live. This has definite religious connotations, but also prompts us to think about where we personally stand on the unselfish giving scale. Do we love, as in my case my own wife or children enough to give up my own life for them? Or am I self serving and selfish and try to better myself at the cost of others?

Then towards the end of the saga, in Breaking Dawn, one of my favorite scenes is as Bella is turning into a vampire and leaving her mortality behind her. SM describes in detail the sensations of becoming more aware of her surroundings as she connects to her new enhanced abilities. Colors and feelings she did not know existed become part of her awareness. I couldn't help but wonder if maybe this was something God may have in store for me as I pass from my own mortality to whatever future he has planned for me. This made me ponder the eternities and imagine what it might be like. Part of me questioned my own faith and said I should just focus on doing what I know to be right and God will take care of the future, but the other more inquisitive side of me enjoyed speculating on what that future might really be like.

So December, in pondering your original question:
what it is we find in Stephanie’s story that takes us beyond the mere pleasure of a “good read.”?

For me this series has been a catalyst for pondering on all subjects that are the most important or sacred to me, even to the full purpose of life and where we are headed through the eternities. So in some ways, I give credit to Twilight for awakening my own awareness on these most weighty matters.

Rollie
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Re: Explorations

Postby Jazz Girl » Thu Mar 18, 2010 11:57 pm

Rollie~ It is interesting to look back and think about all of the things that crossed my mind as I traversed the world of The Saga. I remember connecting so deeply to Edward's love for Bella and her love for him, how different they were and yet how similar. I remember it spurring discussions between my hubs and I about the nature of love and is it possible that people who love each other so differently can love each other so irreversibly.

There are so many places you can take any discussion of The Saga and it's characters, as clearly evidenced by our discussions here on The Lex.
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Re: Explorations

Postby vampirenerd » Fri Mar 19, 2010 9:52 am

Rollie~ All I can say is WOW lol. I've never even tried to think of Twilight as a parallel to a belief in God but when you lay it out like that it seems extremely clear. As some one raised Baptist I completely agree with pretty much all of your points and it was extremely interesting to read how you felt that Bella's experience with her new immortality was a parallel to what we may have after we die. It would seem to make sense that SM would put in parts of her faith without making it glaringly obvious that she is doing so. I now feel the need to re read certain parts of the books again and take a closer look at them. Thank you for pointing that out.
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Re: Explorations

Postby rollie715 » Fri Mar 19, 2010 12:19 pm

Jazz Girl and vampirenerd~ Thanks for your positive feedback.

I'm not sure where this will lead me, but your comments have spurred further thoughts.

I feel very fortunate to have a spouse who also enjoys TW, and to be able to interact with her on different levels. While I might dwell more on the eternities, my wife has definitely zeroed in on the love and romance aspects of this story. I consider our personal relationship sacred and private, but I can say the discussions involving the love Edward and Bella have for each other have also included relating similar discussions in our own relationship. At times, it has even seemed as if our lives have been connected to them and we are playing as proxies, or role playing their characters. In the romance department, I'm not always sure if my wife is thinking of only me or fantasizing that I am Edward (or even Jacob, eww!) lol, but as our relationship is very open and honest, I believe it is very healthy to have these conversations and ponder our lives with each other.

Jazz~ It is interesting you use the term "irreversibly" in your comments about love. I'm not sure if it's from the movie or book or both, but it reminds me of Bella's quote:

"about three things I was absolutely positive: first, edward was a vampire. second, there was a part of him - and i didn’t know how dominant that part might be - that thirsted for my blood. and third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him."

And another one that ties into this discussion:

"I'd never given much thought to how I would die. But dying in place of someone I love, seems like a good way to go."

I touched briefly on the subject of ultimate love being willing to give our life for another, but even on a smaller scale this also applies directly to our relationship with our husband or wife, our eternal partner. It is amazing to me that in this area, the idea that the more we give, the more we receive in return applies. As Edward and Bella give more or sacrifice more for each other, the more their love and attachment to each other grows. Some may call it obsessive, but it seems to me that obsession is just another term for devoting all you have to one other. What is wonderful is when both parties feel and act that same way. When two people give all they have to each other, then somehow the math results in both parties ending up with more then they started with. In the story, there seems to be a number of occasions, where each partner demonstrates their willingness to give even their own life for the benefit of the other.

True love is not selfish. It is giving, not taking. Much has been written on what defines love as well as the close synonym Charity. I won't dwell too much on those definitions, but what I am intrigued about is this idea of getting back more then you give. Surface logic would suggest that if you want something, you reach out and take it, you don't give it away. I think so many people are confused about this principle as can be seen by the rampant selfishness occurring all around us. When it comes to love, it seems it is based on giving or offering. We receive it, by giving it. Seems illogical, but somehow it works.

I wonder sometimes if Stephanie's introduction of subject matter beyond mortality allows a setting where the characters are able to willingly give up or sacrifice on a deeper level then they could in a simple mortal human level. Not only is Bella willing to give up her mortal life for Edward, but her eternal soul as she understands it. If becoming a vampire means giving up her soul, then Bella really is willing to sacrifice more then her mortal life, but her entire eternal future as she understands it. Edward as well also seems to be risking his own future beyond what we can understand by continuing his relationship with Bella. I wonder even at this deeper level of understanding if SM intended there to be a level of hope beyond the obvious, that somehow as we are willing to give all we have in the name of unselfish sacrifice, that eternal justice somewhere will compensate us for what we think we are giving away. I don't claim to have the full answers; in fact I wonder sometimes where this theme could take us.

Somewhere inside me, there is the unwillingness to accept the idea that Edward or any vampire or being like him is destined to live out the eternities harnessed with the generally accepted concept of the damnation of a lost soul. That somehow, this concept of unselfish love ties into it all. That as it applies to us somehow as we give of ourselves and lose our lives for others, it will be returned to us.

So to me there is another element to this story that has eternal significance and it centers around the nature of love. I realize now that I've gone there, I really have more questions then I have answers. Sorry.
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Re: Explorations

Postby Jazz Girl » Fri Mar 19, 2010 10:45 pm

Rollie~ Just... Wow. I am always amazed at the level to which we look into this Saga and examine it's meaning in our lives. And, quite frankly, it makes me feel a little better that I am not the only one who reflects so deeply on it.

I also feel quite lucky that my hubs is a fan of the Saga and we too enjoy character discussions. And some of the best have circled around devotion vs obsession. Of course, my profession (social worker) also feeds into that discussion often. It's also a discussion that I have with my friends or coworkers. So often, as you said people assign the idea of obsession, which is much more negative. We, instead, call it devotion; that idea the happiness and safety of another person is more important to you than your own. and, most definitely, that devotion definitely extends to the idea that I would gladly sacrifice my life to keep my hubs safe. Nor are we ashamed to say that we much prefer each other's company, a quiet night together as opposed to going out. That's not to say we don't enjoy friends together or separately. But, together is our preferred state of being. Devotion on the context of a relationship meant for forever is a good thing, I think.

I have other thoughts on the idea about giving up one's soul for you love, but I have a DVD to go buy. I'll expound more when I have a chance to put my thoughts in order.


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Re: Explorations

Postby Openhome » Fri Mar 19, 2010 11:19 pm

Jazz Girl, tell us which one you chose when you get back, pretty please. :D I would love to hear the rest of your comments.

Rollie, Thank you so much for your thoughts!! I wanted to point out that one of the reasons we are talking about "mythos" is because it touches on the fundamental, and eternal for those of us who believe in such things, truths of humanity. Religion is clearly at the heart of such discussions, regardless of your beliefs. Even those who do not believe in eternity or in anything more than cosmic chaos and coincidence understand that some things are universally important to being a human. As you said in your first post, such things are often kept to the realm of religion, but they sneak in to even the most atheistic beliefs. Not ideas of God or eternity, but in thoughts of what is truly important, what is truly the reason for being. For me personally, I can see the religious ties of Twilight and always have. Jake and Edward never presented a love triangle, they represented a moral dilemma with eternal (spiritual) ramifications. So much of what she wrote does represent truths about human existence. I always think of the words "baptism by fire" when I think of SM's vamps. Not only at their changing, but with every breath, they endure burning. That simple description holds so many hidden truths for anyone who looks deep enough.

The beauty of not presenting those ideals in religious dialogue is that she could bring forth the deeper truths and allow them to be seen and accepted by anyone who struggles with the deeper questions of human existence. Those ideas can become the object of secular discussion because they are presented in a popular and secular format. That SM could write five books so steeped in the fundamental questions of humanity is a tribute to her skill. That is why we were talking about it in more secular terms. Since the books are a secular phenomena, it is appropriate, I believe, to include everyone.

I am often included in discussions at Twilighted that decry SM's faith and her beliefs as a weakness. That always angers and saddens me (and it is why I LOVE the Lex so much). The funny thing is that they CAN'T put their finger on why the books are so popular. The forums drip with ideas about true love and soul mates and teenage angst. Only on a few threads has there even been a discussion that suggests that SM might have touched on a deeper need in humans than to have a fairy tale ending. It seems that most of the fans completely miss why they find the idea of Twilight so appealing. It's very sad.

I look forward to seeing everyone's replies.
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Re: Explorations

Postby vampirenerd » Fri Mar 19, 2010 11:55 pm

I completely agree. It seems that whenever something is presented with a religious meaning/intent people automatically choose not to accept it. I feel that is a very real possibility that she chose her characters to represent her faith. I'm not saying that is the whole idea behind the story, of course there is the story of true love, and ultimate sacrifice, but it seems to have an underlying theme of her beliefs, of the temptations, making the right choice, and ultimately what is waiting for us after our mortality has ended.

Openhome I also completely agree with what you said about those that don't necessarily believe in God. Even they can find some connection with it, even they don't agree with the belief that there is something after mortality ends, they can understand the pains of temptation and trying to live a good life.
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Re: Explorations

Postby December » Sun Mar 21, 2010 4:31 pm

Gosh, everyone. Fantastic discussion. I keep hoping to get a free moment to come join in, but the last few days have been insane. Hoping for time to reply properly tomorrow!
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Re: Explorations

Postby Knives » Mon Mar 22, 2010 3:18 pm

I'm going to try to reply soon too; I'll have fifteen minutes to post whatever it is I feel I can post (damn library computers) before I have, once again, to leave my thoughts unfinished. I'll try to get to some of my major ideas, which I'm hoping will include myth & archetype, why authors really can't "make them whatever they want", some musings on why much of the fanbase reads the series as realist and the morality of vampirism (with a twin theme of what does it mean to be human).

On an unrelated note, yay bold text!
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Re: Explorations

Postby Knives » Mon Mar 22, 2010 3:35 pm

Alright folks, let's get to it. Well, as much of "it" as I can get to in the next ten minutes.

Note that when I discuss Twilight's vampires as opposed to other vampires, I use the words "feel" and "seem" heavily. The exact specifics of a mythological creature and archetype don't matter; how those specifics make the creature feel to the reader do. It's a complex tapestry of factors, including, but not limited to, the creature itself, how the author presents it, its abilities & appearence, and how pivitol a role it plays in the story. Hence my statements that Ms. Meyer's creations do not feel like vampires.

To attempt to illustrate my point, I'd like to compare them to another take on vampires - those found in White Wolf's stellar roleplaying game Vampire: the Requiem. These vampires are undead creatures; former humans who have died and been brought back to unholy life. They crave and even, in a sense, require blood to survive, and while the weakest of the Kindred (as they call themselves these nights) can sustain themselves poorly off animals, eventually their cursed bodies cry out for human blood, and their minds yearn for something - anything - to provoke emotions that grow increasingly jaded and inhuman as the years pass. In order to give rise to their dead passions, a vampire can run mind control, laugh off a hail of bullets, shift shape, rip blood out of your body at a distance, and even summon demons.

What is life like being one of the Damned? Harsh. Enemies and false friends beset you on all sides. The Beast within howls for blood, and you cannot afford to get too close to loved ones lest you lose control and slaughter them. The elders of your kind use you as pawns; the various factions of the undead plot to manipulate or sacrifice you in cat-and-mouse games which may last centuries, the entire object of which is power and selfish glory. Maintaining your humanity, your morals, is hard. You start as one of the Damned saying that you will never succumb to the Beast. Well, you will never succumb and not feel bad about it. Then you won't succumb often. Soon, it's a question not of self-control, but of how often you unleash it so that it does not overwhelm you in neglect. High moral codes bend, then break, and are forgotten as you simply cannot muster the care to be disgusted at a sin you have committed hundreds or thousands of times before.

These vampires are still intelligent. They have feelings, desires, and wishes, just like humans do. They have families and share the same religions - many of them still vote the way they used to vote. And yet, they feel - they resonate - more with mythic vampires than I feel the Twilight vampires do or ever could. Why? Part of it is the Cullens themselves. By defining them as main characters, they are the poster children upon which the entire archetype is hung. No matter that, in-universe, they are the exceptions to the rule; the reader interacts with the Cullens, which makes all the other examples feel like inferior or incorrect specimens. Another part of it is the subject of immortality vs. undeath; one a curse, the other a blessing. Aside from a struggle to not kill - one which, if the Cullens are any example, eventually becomes automatic if not necessarily easy - there is no cost for being a vampire. You do not give up your emotions or empathy. You do not lose part of your soul to a raging, bloodlusting, animalistic force. You don't age, grow feeble, or change physically. You do still change mentally, being able to learn, take advantage of new facts, and even grow. Where's the downside? I don't see one.

That's all the time I have left - more later!

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