Friday, September 6, 2013

The Quest for Skye: Chapter 9

Recap: Morgan and Skye are going to Jamaica to kiss dolphins. Skye is still perfect, except it appears she believes in Atlantis.

Skye and Morgan get onto a van, where Skye, of course, knows the van driver and scolds him for his hurting ankle.
She moved close to his face. “I keep telling you, you’re too old to be sliding in to home plate. You need to find something else to do. Have you ever thought about chess?” 
Morgan tried not to laugh. 
“Chess?” the driver asked. 
“Yes, I can beat my father seven out of ten times.”
OK. Skye needs to do the following things if she wants to be worthy of all the praise she receives.

1) Learn about personal boundaries and not get all up in people's faces.
2) Stop bossing people around about how they should live their lives.
3) Figure out when it's appropriate to brag about how awesome she is at chess and when it's just a bizarre non sequitur.

All of this would have been acceptable in a normal child, but since the author clearly doesn't want Skye to be seen as a normal child, then, fine, we will judge her according to his ridiculously high standards. And she just keeps falling short.

Skye introduces herself to everyone on the van, and then tells Morgan the life story of their fellow van passenger Mrs. Scott, who is taking this cruise in memory of her husband, who always wanted to go on a cruise with her but never got around to it before he passed away.

Eventually the van stops and everyone hikes up Dunn's River Falls. Skye mocks Morgan for going so slowly. Because, again, she thinks the best way to help him face his fears is to mock his fearful reaction when he encounters them.
Eager Jamaicans were selling products they made, adding a little income to improve their simple lives.
Whoa. That's... a horribly condescending way to put that. "Income" is just a way to "improve their simple lives"? Um, in most places, income is kind of necessary to live a life at all, period. And, really, why would one need to justify anyone selling touristy products at a tourist destination anyway?

We are reminded again that Skye is The Best Person Ever because she purchases a handmade wristband from some Poor Simple Jamaican Children, even though, as the author helpfully tells us, "nothing was worth buying."

OK, now this section is where I get confused. They drove in their van, got out of the van, hiked up the waterfall, then at the top of the waterfall they get into a bus van (the book jumps back and forth between the two) to go to the "dolphin exhibit" - apparently the dolphins live a bus ride's distance from the top of a waterfall. That's not the confusing part, though. The confusing part is Mrs. Scott, who was there in her wheelchair on the van, and then there in her wheelchair on the bus at the top of the waterfall.

How did she get up there?

The author named the waterfall, so I googled it to see if it's handicap accessible, but, nope, it's not. The only way up is to hike up the slippery rocks, during which everyone has to hold hands so they don't slide. Not exactly a situation that lends itself to someone carrying a woman and her wheelchair all the way up there.

She just mysteriously appears in the bus at the top of the waterfall, and Skye takes charge from there, dismissing Carlos, who was going to help her around.
The elderly woman looked at Morgan, smiling. “Thank you, Child. I’d love for you to call me Grandma. You’re such a blessing, Dear.”
Ooer, the bad writing. It makes it seem like even though Skye's the one offering to help Mrs. Scott, it seems it's Morgan she really has her eye on, even insisting he call her Grandma.

Skye pushes her to the bridge overlooking the dolphin, then gives the old woman a hug, proclaiming it to be from Mrs. Scott's late husband. Then she lets Mrs. Scott borrow her camera, which COMPLETELY BLOWS MORGAN AWAY.
Morgan’s eyes were fixed on the scene. He was amazed by what he’d just witnessed. Rarely had he seen such an act of selflessness in his life.
When I told my friend Jennie about this, her response was, "Camera != kidney."

Seriously, if letting someone take pictures with your camera is the ultimate act of selflessness, everyone I know is a saint. Morgan seriously needs to make some new friends and get some perspective on what's a life-changing act of selflessness and what's just, ya know, sweet and friendly.
The man at the ticket booth asked, “One or two tickets?”
“Just one for the little girl here,” Morgan replied readily.
“Dad, you’re coming, too.”
He smiled at the man. “I’m Dad,” he offered with a guilty look.
"HA HA HA, I AM TOTALLY HER FATHER. I mean, you see how she called me Dad. And I am a grown man with her, so who else could I be but her father?" Way to not sound guilty and suspicious at all, Morgan.
A young man in the water spoke. “My name is Simon, and this is Kami. We’re going to teach you about these incredible dolphins, and show you some commands we use to control them.” For the next several minutes, they were taught how to handle the dolphins safely. They were also told what various hand commands meant.
Again, this is terrible writing that is so easy to fix. And if it was fixed, it wouldn't sound like Simon and Kami are just being taught for the first time how to control dolphins. Here, look how easy it is to fix this: "For the next several minutes, the audience were taught how to handle the dolphins safely." Ta-da! I did it in like two seconds. And now you can read that paragraph without getting confused.

So Skye gets to swim with the dolphins and kiss them. Morgan watches and is like, "Aww," but it's never stated whether he himself swims as well. I'd assume not, because of his whole paralyzing-fear-of-water thing, but there's not a scene where Skye makes fun of him for it, so maybe he does.

As they leave, Skye's dolphin GOES BALLISTIC and desperately tries to get her attention, and all the dolphin trainers are like, "She never does this! You must be special! You must be a mermaid!"
Morgan stood speechless. Who is this child? Is there anything normal about her? She remembers everyone’s name and all about them. She attracts people like a magnet wherever she goes. I mean, even to the point that a dolphin would exhibit extreme behavior after spending time with her because it didn’t want her to leave. Bewildered, he scratched his head.
Oh my gosh, just reveal that Skye is Jesus and be done with it.

They leave the dolphin exhibit, go back to get Skye's camera from Mrs. Scott, and then Skye chastises Morgan for looking sad.
“Well, look at you. The whole world is ours to explore and enjoy! There is no time to be sad.”
Cue music:

“Things happen in peoples’ lives that cause them to be sad. Nothing can be done about that. Nothing!” 
Everyone in the van had quieted. There were no distractions around them.
Except for the distraction of, ya know, everyone listening to them. I don't feel like Morgan is quite in the right mood to launch into a discussion of why he is sad.

Skye tells him that Jesus can fix his sadness. Morgan is skeptical. Skye accuses him of lacking faith.
“I may be young,” Skye said, “but I’m not dumb. My father calls me a spider web. I catch everything that comes my way. I know you and Mom can’t have babies. Remember what Jesus said about that?” 
Morgan felt a heaviness in his chest. “No, I don’t. What did Jesus say about it?” 
“He talked about living each day by faith,” Skye said. “You know, becoming like a child.”
First of all, I'm not sure what Bible verses she's referring to when she talks about "living each day by faith." The becoming like a child part is almost certainly referring to Matthew 18:1-5, where he talks about being like children, but it doesn't seem to be referencing faith at all, but humility. There are several other verses I can find that refer to living by faith, but none of them were said by Jesus himself, and none of them refer to children.

(Any of my more Bible-savvy friends who want to do a bit more digging can help me a bit with it.)

Secondly, no, this does not relate to his problem. You can't say, "Jesus talks about people not being able to have babies. You want to know what he says? HAVE FAITH," when that's not what Jesus was talking about at all. It's misleading, but, worse, it's blaming him for being sad about something that he can't control. He and his wife are grieving bad news they just discovered. My gosh, let them grieve. Tell them God will comfort them, tell them God grieves with them, but don't tell them that they're grieving because they lack faith. That's the least comforting advice ever.

Fortunately, Morgan doesn't really have to respond, because Skye makes them stop the bus again by the Poor Simple Jamaican Children and gives them everything she has. (Including towels she got from the ship, which I'm not entirely sure are hers to give, but whatever.) It's the first thing she's done that I find admirable.
Everyone saw this kind, caring act. Many shed a tear, including Morgan. An act of kindness by a little nine-year-old girl to the less fortunate humbled those who were blessed enough to see it.
If there was ever a moment to really gush over Skye, this would be it, but nope, we get a fairly subdued (for this book) description. Letting an old woman borrow your camera is an extremely rare act of selflessness, complimenting people makes you divinely gifted with compassion, and not playing video games means she lives every day to the fullest, but giving away everything you have on you to a group of poor kids, that's just a regular old simple "act of kindness."

I feel like their priorities are slightly off.

Skye gets back in the van and, exhausted by her kindness, falls asleep immediately.

And thus ends Chapter Nine.

(Chapter 10.)


  1. I'm sure Rothdiener can support his condescending views of impoverished Jamaicans with made-up Scripture, but wow. Absolutely sickening. I've been to Barbados and the Bahamas. It appalled me to see the way other visitors scoffed at and shunned the locals. "We don't want all these poor people inconveniencing our idyllic vacation!" For Rothdiener to actually say that "nothing was worth buying" is perhaps the most repulsive part of that entire passage.

    As for Skye's offerings, that also betrays Rothdiener. Believe it or not, but there is such a thing as "too much" generosity. Selling a handmade bracelet to a tourist allows for dignity. Just being handed a bunch of things undermines that. In Rothdiener's mind, the Poor Simple Jamaican Children would - and should - be ecstatic with Skye's offerings, but if he knew the first thing about the situation, he would know that it would instead greatly embarrass them.

    I love your dissection of Skye's "I find your lack of faith disturbing" lecture. That's a point that comes up often with people of faith who seem to have learned more from bumper stickers than from their doctrinal text. It's the religious version of "If you really want it, you'll get it".

    All of this points to one unmistakable problem with Rothdiener: He's got to be one of the most privileged people out there, because he views things like infertility and being an impoverished Jamaican child as opportunities to show off patronizing banalities masquerading as wisdom. He clearly has never been the one being chastised for lacking faith over something like infertility, nor has he ever been poor and embarrassed by someone who thought they were helping.

    No wonder this guy thinks Skye is the embodiment of all his ideals.

    1. That's a good point about Skye's giving away of all her possessions (including her stolen towels) being an embarrassing and condescending act. I hadn't even thought of that. But I'm also glad you mentioned his general condescension toward the poor in this whole chapter. I was seriously bothered by it, especially that whole "nothing was worth buying" bit. The patronizing "oh, look how cute the little poor children are, thinking we'd want their meager offerings" tone is pretty disgusting.

      I absolutely think you're right about Rothdiener being intensely privileged. He writes like someone who has never felt he was in a situation where he has needed someone to show him kindness, and so his fictional acts of kindness are too small and his fictional responses to those kindnesses are too large. (Mrs. Scott's story here, in particular, really connected with me. Skye gives her the camera so she can take pictures since she can't get her wheelchair down to the actual dolphins. As someone whose physical condition has occasionally required her to bow out of fun activities others have participated in, "Here, take some pictures with my camera" is not a mind-blowingly compassionate act. Depending on the person offering it, it varies from being "Aww, that's sweet, thanks" to making me feel like the other person's giving me a JOB instead of letting me enjoy the activity on my own terms.)

      Every person in this book is expected to be not only touched by Skye's "compassion," but *overwhelmingly grateful* for it, especially the poor and the disabled, when a lot of the time it's just patronizing.

    2. It's bad enough when a writer doesn't understand medical science and can't be bothered to find out how long it takes to traverse the Panama Canal, but for a Christian writer to have such a poor grasp of compassion and such condescending views toward people facing hardships is appalling.

      On the other hand, this does help us identify the demographic of reader that actually thinks he's great. These would be readers who take cruises and think those poor people should be barred from loitering near ports and pat themselves on the back for occasionally buying a trinket from a cute kid.

      These are also the same people who say things about minorities like, "I have no problem with the ones who get an education" and complain about poor people owning refrigerators. They're people for whom everyone else's misery is an inconvenience to be ignored unless it presents an opportunity for grandstanding.

      I have nothing but contempt for such people.