Yesterday, I finished Stephen King’s The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition. There were many things that stood out to me in yesterday’s reading, but I will focus on two issues:
1. Prayer was an issue that came up more than once in yesterday’s reading. First of all, Stu was in the desert dying of pneumonia, and Nick in a dream was giving Tom Cullen information on how to treat that—-by having Stu drink lots of fluids, by walking Stu (who also had a broken leg), and by giving him penicillin and other drugs. But Nick told Tom that even this treatment would not absolutely guarantee that Stu would survive. Consequently, Tom had to add prayer to his list of ways to treat Stu.
Second, even after the villain Randall Flagg’s community in the West has been destroyed in a nuclear explosion, there is doubt about whether Flagg is even dead. Tom Cullen says in a trance that Flagg never dies, and that he continues to inhabit various wild animals. And, on page 1139, Stu tells Fran that the Free Zone is safe for a while—-for a little while. Stu also says that it will be a good idea to find the place where the government made the superflu, and to “fill that place up with dirt and seed the ground with salt and then pray for it. Pray for all of us.”
Prayer can help one to get through the uncertainties of life, even if the prayer is not answered as one hopes. I can’t speak in absolutes on this, for I’m sure that there are plenty of people who have been discouraged by unanswered prayer. But there are also many who find peace and comfort in praying. Some argue that prayer is a poor substitute for actually working to solve a problem. Indeed, it can be, and prayer should not take the place of concrete action (as even the passages of The Stand that I just mentioned acknowledge). But there are some things that we are powerless to solve, and prayer is a way for us to gain clarity of mind and confidence, as well as to express concern for others.
I was thinking about prayer this morning at church. Every Sunday morning, my church has a part of the service in which we share our joys and concerns. We hear about things such as sickness, or people being victims of unfairness, or unemployment. I do not always know how those situations turn out, but there is a degree of comfort that I get from lifting up those concerns to God. I hope that these situations turn out well for those involved, but, in any case, I like how the church through prayer shows concern for others, making them less alone.
2. I thought that the resolution of the book was rather bittersweet. It could have been entitled The Stand: The Next Generation, for it was about how the Free Zone was getting new leaders. Stu is now an honorary relic from the past, and the new developments within the Free Zone lead him to think about what the late Glen Bateman would have said. The characters I love in The Stand are now yesterday’s news, and, usually, when I feel that way about a story, I’m hesitant to go back and read about those characters—-at least for some time—-because that will only remind me that life will go on and their experiences are not frozen in time, even though they have strong personalities and thus look eternal (if that makes any sense). I do somewhat wish that there had been a way for the Free Zone to hold on to its past by having more relics of its founders—-the same way that Fran wanted to have some connection with her pre-superflu life through the survival of her baby, whose father was Fran’s boyfriend Jesse (a casualty of the superflu). That would have still been bittersweet, but not as bittersweet as the current resolution.
That said, I really enjoyed this book. The next book that I will read and blog through is Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story.