On Becoming A Woman Chapter 13

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Chapter 13

Suppose

In which we learn the evils of fantasizing. Which is important in a book for teenagers going through puberty because…. ?

The entire chapter is also based upon the words of Ellen White.

You should control your thoughts. This will not be an easy task; you cannot accomplish it without close and even severe effort. Yet God requires this of you; it is a duty resting upon every accountable being. You are responsible to God for your thoughts. If you indulge in vain imaginations, permitting your mind to dwell upon impure subjects, you are, in a degree, as guilty before God as if your thoughts were carried into action. All that prevents the action is the lack of opportunity.

Day and night dreaming and castle-building are bad and exceedingly dangerous habits. When once established, it is next to impossible to break up such habits and direct the thoughts to pure, holy, elevated themes. You will have to become a faithful sentinel over your eyes, ears, and all your senses if you would control your mind and prevent vain and corrupt thoughts from staining your soul. The power of grace alone can accomplish this most desirable work. You are weak in this direction

Mind, Character, and Personality Volume 2, p. 661

As I read this chapter, Even though the author is quite vague, I am of the opinion that primarily the author wishes us to avoid fantasizing about boys. (Of course it would be boys. We already had a chapter on homosexuality, so we’re done with that topic.) The author is also trying to discourage people from becoming fiction authors. We won’t get to books until next chapter, but chapter 13 is indeed laying the groundwork.

The word “suppose” is one of the most interesting words int he English language. It is a door to a fascinating phase of mental activity. When you say, “Suppose I were a queen,” you are peeking through this door and glimpsing yourself as you would like to be.

Maybe it’s a generation thing, but my fantasies usually started with “what if” or “pretend that.” The only time I ever hear the word “suppose” is when Danny tells me I can come over and watch Roswell.

The author then tells us we’re going to do a little experiment. He describes a teenage girl fantasizing about buying a new outfit. Like most people’s fantasies, it is incredibly boring to read about.

I’m going to mention this now because it will be important later. In creative writing class, we actually discussed the difference between a “fantasy” and a “story.” “A rich person is buying me a new outfit, yay!” Is a fantasy. “A rich person is buying me a new outfit, and later I find out that he only did it because he wants me to marry him, I do not wish to marry this man, what am I going to do?” That would be an interesting basis for a story.

Stories, good stories, are not just another person’s fantasies. Humans have been telling each other stories for…well, according to Adventists, the beginning of time. It’s a craft that requires skill. That’s the way it’s always been.

 

Now, all of this did not really happen to you…but as you have followed along through my little story, your mind has been sufficiently active to fill in details that were not even included in what I have recited. For instance, I did not say whether the weather on this particular day was cloudy or sunny. But in your imagination you probably pictured the sun as shining brightly.

I actually was picturing cold and rainy.

The author here does have a point. Our minds tend to fill in details that aren’t there, because we like having a complete picture. At least, when we’re not bored out of our skulls, because dress shopping is a lot of things, but fun isn’t one of them.

How is it that you were able to fill in these details that were not mentioned in the story? It is simply that we were discussing things that were of fundamental interest to you, and based on your previous experiences and knowledge, you were able to make assumptions of how you would like things to be.

I have boobs and a vagina, so of course dress shopping is one of my favorite things in the world to do.

When you indulge in the imagination the details that you throw in to make the story pleasing usually represent your personal preferences.

It is my personal preference that, as I was dress shopping, the magical dress fairy came along with a ready made dress that was pretty and actually fit. I’m such an oddly shaped person that finding a dress that fits is a fantasy.

Where does your mind obtain the mental pictures that are brought into use in connection with imaginary thinking? These details come from fragments of your memories regarding previous experiences, or from memories of what you have seen or read about, or from what you have heard described. The imagination is flexible enough so that it can piece together fragments of many memories, making a combination of thoughts thtat is in perfect harmony with your preferences.

Sounds plausible. So, what exactly is imagination? Where does it come from, how does it work? How did it evolve? Why would a God give it to us if he didn’t want us to use it.

As human beings we are very fortunate to possess the power of imagination. When used correctly, this ability to direct our thinking along the lines of our own choosing is a great asset.

The author goes on to talk about some examples of “correct” ways to use your imagination. When designing a dress, interior decorating, composing music.

Although a fertile imagination is an asset in many lines of endeavor, I suppose it is of greatest advantage in drawing and painting.

Notice he did not say writing. That’s because he’s going to discuss that in Chapter 14, and it won’t be pretty. I am not looking forward to that chapter, because it is going to bring back a lot of painful memories.

Whether or not you are artistic, you still have need for an active imagination. One important use of the imagination is in the making of major decisions.

Fantasizing about whether to be a nurse or a teacher is an approved use of your imagination.

Suppose you have come to at time in your life when you must choose your lifework. Even though your ultimate goal in life is home making, it is advisable for you to select a field of endeavor…..so that you can be self supporting before you are married and that you may fall back on…in case circumstances should require it later.

If you’re a woman reading this, and your ultimate goal in life is homemaking, great. I hope it makes you happy and fulfilled. I’m trying to figure out a way to write that that doesn’t sound sarcastic, because I actually do mean that in all sincerity.

My issue isn’t with someone wanting to become a wife and mother. My issue is with the author assuming that every female reading this wants to become, above all else, a wife and mother.

This was the late 1960s. By this point in time, women were beginning to have careers. The author isn’t writing about the 1860s where this would have been seen as something radical. Come on Shryock, you most definitely know better.

I will give him some credit, however, for saying that someone must have some sort of backup plan in case things don’t work out. A lot of fundies today think women should have absolutely zero options, but Shryock clearly is of the opinion that that is bullshit, because he understands that sometimes shit happens.

The best way to make a major decision is to use the imagination, making believe, first, that you have followed one possibility, and then, changing the scene, making believe that you have accepted the other.

I thought the best way to make major decisions was to job shadow people, but I’m only in my late 20s, what do I know.

A teenage girl is always the heroine of her own daydreams.

Isn’t that kind of how daydreams are supposed to work?

No one else knows what she is thinking about.

I don’t know why the author wrote this. The author is a Seventh Day Adventist, and SDAs absolutely believe that God can read minds. Satan can’t, but he can read body language and facial expression and make some good guesses. Which amounts to the same thing, really.

There is therefore no one to criticize or speak of her as being selfish.

Ah, the main problem with being able to have private thoughts. No one can police them.

Why should she not take this opportunity to enjoy life and do the things she would really like to do?

These sentences came right after each other in a paragraph. This last line is not like the others. By including it in a paragraph about private thoughts and daydreams, the author is equating daydreaming with not enjoying real life. The two are not mutually exclusive.

In any case, the author goes to on to say that your daydreams represent your inner character. They are the things you’d like to do, if you could.

If, in your daydreams, you find yourself doing things that your conscience would not approve, then beware!

Some people actually believe that people would act out their fantasies if there wasn’t anything to stop them. They actually think that the only thing stopping me from murdering my annoying co workers is the fact that I would go to jail if I did. They can’t imagine that I just want to fantasize about going on a murder spree. I would never actually kill anyone. Except in self defense. Or defense of some other defenseless….

We’re getting off the subject.

Someone has said, “tell me your daydreams and I can read your character.” This is but another way of saying that the trend of a person’s imagination is a better index of his real self than is provided by his actual conduct.

The author is doing his best to keep things vague, so let me spell out for you what this means. “If you fantasize about having happy sexy fun times, you are a slut, regardless of whether or not you are actually having happy sexy fun times.”

This isn’t just an Ellen White thing, this is a Biblical thing.

Matthew 5:27-28

27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Even Jesus thinks you shouldn’t fantasize. The author is not going to bring this verse up, and I can’t tell if it’s because he likes being vague, or if he’s honestly trying to keep things open to interpretation.

Yes, many air castles built during the teens become realities later in life.

No, Shryock, they don’t.

I can think of exactly 2 fantasies that have ever come true for me. 3, if you count the one where I am a self supporting adult who goes to work, lives on her own, and has a puppy.*

I haven’t actually gone around asking, but if I asked people how many of their teenage fantasies they’ve actually lived out, I bet the number would be extremely low.

So your own daydreams, while you are still a teenager, are a good indication of the course that you will follow.

When I was a young teenager (a very young teenage, more like pre-teen, actually) I fantasized I was a prophet. I was going to be the next Ellen White. God had marked me and set me aside as special.

In case anyone was wondering, I no longer think I am a prophet. I also don’t think I’m God’s chosen one. In fact, I kind of outgrew all these things by the time I was 14. I would say my teenage daydreams were about as far away from reality today as you can get.

I repeat, that if your daydreams are wholesome, your character is forming along proper lines.

See, here’s the thing. Who gets to decide if something is wholesome?

Fantasizing about being a superhero who goes around fighting crime and saving others is something that Adventists would be divided on. Some would say it shows you have a good character and that you want to use your abilities to help people. Others would think that fantasizing about having superpowers is a big bad terrible thing because fantasy and superpowers are evil, and it shows that you are the type of person who doesn’t like to live in reality.

If, on the other hand, you would be ashamed to have anyone else know the content of your daydreams, it must be that you are struggling with some problem that is affecting your character formation.

I want everyone to take a moment and think, of all the daydreams you ever had when you were a teenager. Set the sexual ones aside, along with the other fantasies where you broke the 10 commandments.

Now, of all the daydreams you ever had as a teenager, not counting the ones where you broke a commandment, how many of them are you comfortable telling me, right now?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

As a child, I would have been horrified if anyone found out the contents of my daydreams. That doesn’t mean I did horrible things in them. It just means that I had my private thoughts and fantasies and frankly I didn’t like the fact that God was constantly listening.

I mean, some of those superhero fantasies are kind of embarrassing to rethink about.

There is another phase of daydreaming that should be explained to you. Some teenagers obtain so much enjoyment from daydreaming that they almost prefer it to wholesome outside activity.

“Sorry Johnny, I’d love to hang out this weekend, but I think I’d rather stay home and daydream.” Said no teenager ever.

This craving for an opportunity to daydream usually results when a teenager is not obtaining the pleasure and satisfaction from his usual routine that he should obtain.

Instead of looking at why Little Susie isn’t getting the amount of pleasure from real life you think she should be getting, the author is going to tell Little Susie to stop doing it.

Great strategy.

Suppose you are doing poorly in school or aren’t popular with the other kids. So you go daydream about actually having friends and being a good student. Well, you should be working hard to do well in school in reality, and you should also be working to make real friends.

To some extent I don’t have an issue with this, however, it’s not always simple as all that. There really isn’t anything you can do to make the other kids like you if they have all decided they don’t like you. This is particularly true in SDA schools which tend to be small, sometimes very small.

Sometimes circumstances are beyond your control. It’s not a sin to daydream about having lots of friends or doing well in school. Chances are you will eventually change schools and have a chance to make friends with new people. Or perhaps you’ll find a good teacher who will work with you to help you have work that isn’t too easy or too hard. In the meantime, it’s not a sin to dream.

And this brings us to the point that daydreaming and castle building becomes actually dangerous whenever (sic) it becomes more attractive than the realities of life.

Daydreaming is always more attractive than the realities of life. That’s kind of how it works.

I do not mean that if you indulge in an occasional daydream, you are destined to failure in life.

No, I never thought you were saying that. I think you are using slippery slope arguments and fear mongering to say that daydreams need to be confined to this tiny little box.

I mean rather that when you find that daydreaming is occupying a considerable portion of your time and that you are craving solitude so that you may have an opportunity to build air castles, then you are in danger of allowing your imagination to rob you of the thrill you should get out of finding solutions to the problems you meet, and adjusting to the circumstances that perplex you.

To some extent I agree with this. There does need to be a balance. You can’t spend your whole life daydreaming. However, I don’t know of anyone who actually does this. The people the author is describing who do this do not seem like real people.

Unless he’s talking about people who enjoy writing. Writing, you see, is basically daydreaming on paper. But that, my audience, is what we will get into in the next chapter. Whenever I get around to doing it.

 

 

*the puppy is still a fantasy

 

 

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One thought on “On Becoming A Woman Chapter 13

  1. “Other fellows ask me out on a date,” sang Shelley Fabares. “But I just sit and wait. I’d rather concentrate on Johnny Angel.” So maybe there was once a teen who would rather sit home and fantasize….

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