Comfort and Lisey’s Story

I read more of Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story last night.  In my post, “What Do You Do with the Mad That You Feel?”, I said regarding “Zack McCool”: “When a mysterious guy referring to himself as ‘Zack McCool’ calls Lisey, and we’re wondering who he is, he turns out to be a bully of sorts, hired by a professor who wants the manuscripts of Lisey’s late husband, the author Scott Landon.”  It turns out that this is not entirely true, for the professor did not exactly “hire” Zack McCool (although Lisey initially thought that he did).  Zack McCool is really James Dooley, who has read many of the works of Scott Landon, Lisey’s late husband.  Dooley meets the professor, and the professor expresses his desire to have Scott’s precious manuscripts, and so Dooley says that he’ll get them for the professor.  The professor lets him do so, but he does not envision Dooley doing what he’s doing: threatening Lisey with bodily harm and putting a dead cat in her mailbox.  Dooley turns out to be out of control.

Now that I presented this correction, I’ll turn to something on page 153:

“[Lisey] led her tired, slightly weeping sister down the short, steep flight of attic stairs and below the worst of the heat.  Then, instead of telling her that where there was life there was hope, or to let a smile be her umbrella, or that it was always darkness just before the dawn, or anything else that had just lately fallen out of the dog’s ass, she simply held her.  Because sometimes only holding was best.  That was one of the things she had taught the man whose last name she had taken for her own—-and sometimes it was best to be quiet; sometimes it was best to just shut your everlasting mouth and to hang on, hang on, hang on.”

This passage made me think about two issues: How am I at comforting people, and what comforts me?  First, how am I at comforting people?  To be honest, I’m not that good at it, for I do not know what to say to people.  So should I hug them, as Lisey says?  I’m not exactly the huggiest person in the world, plus I can’t just hug everybody, for there is a certain intimacy that may have to exist between two people before hugging can take place.  And yet, even this is not an absolute rule, for people hug each other in church, even when they don’t know each other that well.

Second, what comforts me?  Lisey’s point is that optimistic cliches are not helpful.  In my case, they can be, if they are presented in a certain way.  For me, the notion that there is hope as long as there is life is comforting—-it’s a motivation for me to keep on keeping on.  I need hope.  At the same time, I don’t exactly want blind hope—-hope that ignores the challenges I may have to face and tries to believe that things will turn out well, no matter what.  I prefer the “You’ll never know, so why not try?” sort of hope.  I prefer the “There are some good people in the world, so perhaps they’ll give you a chance” hope.  And I also pray.  In my opinion, Lisey is right that lovingly being with a person through an ordeal can be more comforting than telling that person optimistic cliches—-which could entail depriving that person of the opportunity to have his or her feelings and to deal with them honestly.  But, for me, I need hope and wisdom.  I need a better way to look at things, for that does not come automatically to me when I’m by myself.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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