Old Teen Essays
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Article ID: 4543
Age Group: Adult
Posted: January 6th. 2002
Ogre to Ogre
Once upon a time, on a web site far, far away unless you live in Florida, someone was celebrating her birthday week when.... What's that? No, actually that part's right. Here at TWV we get a 'birthday week' instead of just one day. It's a tradition. And if you happen to be a cat, you get a whole birthday month. I think that one is a law.
Anyway, during my birthday week, we went out to a Japanese Steakhouse and then settled in - all content and generally chopsticked out- to watch a birthday-week celebration video. We had several new DVD choices sitting there on the bookshelf. After carefully and thoroughly consulting several forms of divination techniques- Okay, it was the one on the top- we chose 'Shrek'. Good choice! And if you haven't seen it yet, go out and get it even if it's not your birthday week. I'll try not to spoil too much of it for you here.
Shrek (voice by Michael Myers) is a big, green, flatulating machine who lives alone in the swampy woods, takes mud showers and is a gourmet cook of various sorts of weed-rat delicacies. A Scot Ogre who just wants his 'pri-vi-cee', Shrek soon finds his hut, bed and land infested with various fairy-take creatures driven out from the 'perfect' land of Duloc by the evil Lord Farquaad (voice by Jon Lithgow). Farquaad, a small man in so many ways, wants to become the king of Duloc but he must marry an official princess in order to become the legitimate ruler. So Shrek -accompanied by his new found, unwanted and very talkative pal, Donkey (voice by Eddie Murphy) - heads out to set Farquaad straight on a few matters and to get the wee invaders sent back where they came from. How he ends up to be the chosen champion of Duloc and is commissioned to rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona (voice by Cameron Diaz) is only the beginning of the tale. In what would seem at first to be a classic story of good versus evil, Shrek is an unlikely hero. The guy puts eyeballs in his cocktails, for one thing. But it turns out that you really can't judge a person- or an ogre for that matter- before you really get to know him or her.
But we do it all of the time, don't we? We judge people simply by the color of their skin, their ethnic heritage and of course, because of the religion (or non-religion) that they follow. One thing that makes blanket judgments so very easy to make is found in the way that the brain stores information. The human tendency is to lump things into categories. The human brain, much the computers that it designs, just lives to do this. It's the brain's way of storing information in convenient little blocks of code. So when you 'type in' a category such as 'Witch' or 'Christian' or 'Atheist', the brain retrieves a whole block of information at one time. You may get 'Witches are all evil' or 'Christians are all intolerant' or 'Atheists can't be moral without religion'. But that is only the chapter heading, so to speak, not all of the sub-headings that might come after that. Digging through the file a bit more, if one is willing, one might find such things as: 'Well, Peg is a Witch and I like her.' or Margaret is a Christian and she is always nice to everyone.' or 'Greg is an atheist and is the most honest person that I know.' But that's the key. You have to be willing to look beyond the main category. And sadly, many people just can't or won't.
This week, the Freedom Forum features an article by Charles Haynes. In "Believers should remember 'soul liberty,' respect rights of non-believers", Haynes writes:
"It would help matters if people on all sides could keep two civic principles in mind. First and foremost, the First Amendment religion clauses aren't just for the religious. The First Amendment protects the religious liberty of everyone - people of all faiths and people who profess no religious faith. Unlike in the fictional landscape depicted in Shrek, so often our battles do not take place face to face. They are waged through web sites and news articles and book burnings. People become a category. People become a group. And often people come to be labeled under the heading or headlines as 'The Enemy'. How many times have we heard the phrase, 'the enemy of Christianity is such-and-such' with that 'such-and-such' being something Pagan or atheist related? But most Pagans and atheists do not consider themselves 'enemies' of Christendom at all. We are only holding our ground. Our 'crime' is not being Christianity's enemy; our only 'crime' is that we are not Christians and we don't want to become Christians. We ourselves know many Christians and they seem to like us just fine. They don't think that we are their enemy. This is possible though only when we can move beyond the 'category file' into the realm of the personal. It's not easy. We have to be more careful about what we say and write when we discuss religious issues with others of a different faith or belief. But if we really care about people and not just in supporting some pet ideology, then we can choose to make the effort.
And second, government coercion in matters of faith - whether in the classroom or in the courtroom - violates liberty of conscience, harms authentic religion and divides our communities. The public square of America should be a place where all of us - religious and non-religious - are free to persuade one another to our view. But it should not be a place where any of us - religious or non-religious - uses the engine of government to impose our view."
'Ogre' is certainly a category. And the townspeople in Shrek had no problem believing that all ogres were bad, nasty creatures who had to be driven out. But as they and Donkey and Princess Fiona (and we in the audience) come to know Shrek personally throughout the film, we find that he not only is sensitive, but also unabashedly sincere, witty and has the proverbial heart of gold.
The Princess herself has more going on below the surface than can blow up a bluebird (Don't ask.) Fiona has a few deep secrets of her own, and she is terrified that people are going to discover them. Not giving away the ending, we find that the very thing that she is so desperate to hide from others is, in fact, the very thing that will transform her from a metaphorically 'imprisoned princess' into a being capable of giving and receiving 'true love'. How many of us hide our real selves for fear of rejection or censure, I wonder? But if we don't dare to reveal our true selves, then how will people come to see and understand the real 'us' beneath the category?
"Perhaps you shouldn't judge someone before you get to know them," says the Princess Fiona. Why not put THAT on the courthouse or classroom wall right next to a copy of the First Amendment?
Then maybe we can talk. Ogre to ogre.
Walk in Love and Light,
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, January 7th., 2002
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