The Van Houten Archtype, “You can end this silly little blog exercise and leave this good book alone. It’s JUST a love story!”
Jim said to Kathy, “Before I finish my comments on TFIOS by addressing the likely objections of the Van Houtens out there. Since addressing objections can be dry and uninteresting, let us keep the form of a dialog. Can you play the role of a Peter Van Houten, Kathy?”
“Absolutely! I’ll just pretend I am my secular humanist History teacher, Dr. Spitz.”
“Kathy began with a bit of faux accent, “Are not you embarrassed to be spending your precious minutes over analyzing a teen-literature book that is merely a coming-of-age love story, Mr. Jim?”
“Is teen love really the full extent of the story?”, asked Jim.
“Well, yes. Of course, the magnitude of love’s triumph is multiplied by the depth of their despair. The end of Act I in any love story is always hopeless, but it is absurd to waste your time parsing the dark nuances of the initial scenes.”
“But Peter (Van Houten), why do you think the author chose pointless oblivion, pain that demands to be felt, and a hopelessly defective set of mutant humans from the gene pool?”, asked Jim using quoted descriptions from the book.
“Well, this is the curious thing. I can’t answer for John Green – the author of TFIOS, but I would put those things in ANY book because they are true.”, said Kathy as Peter.
“How can you be so sure? Those are philosophical assumptions, not just dark circumstances tailored to make love shine brighter.”
“Well, I don’t actually think they are dark or bleak. They just are. As I taught Hazel Grace through my book An Imperial Affliction,
“All will be forgotten and this will have been for naught. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”
“So life is not dark?”, Jim challenged.
Kathy stuck out her chin in defiance, “No.”
“You are not worried about oblivion?”
“Then, why are you a drunk?”
This shocked Kathy out of character for a second. Then she thought about how the Peter Van Houten’s out there would respond.
She countered, “Whoa! That’s none of your business! But I assure you it is NOT a philosophical issue.”
“Really. By the way, Kathy, you are doing great.”, encouraged Jim.
Kathy grinned, “Thanks.”
Jim resumed, “Let’s assume you drink too much for one or more of the many reasons mentioned in TFIOS, namely:
- You lost your daughter to cancer.
- You lost a loved one due to your own failings.
- You are spoiled rich and have no sense of meaning in your life.
- You crave the euphoria and numbness that results from drink, drugs, and sex.
Please, be brutally honest since we are role playing and haven’t got time to wade through evasions and excuses.”
Kathy paused to think. Then continued, “Well, you missed a few reasons, but some of those apply to why I am a drunk.”
“These and all other reasons are philosophical and ultimately theological.”, claimed Jim.
Playing a drunken Van Houten type as strongly as she can, Kathy yelled, “No, no, NO! We have no reason to bring GOD into this! And TFIOS is JUST A LOVE STORY! Why are you so stupid as to think this has anything to do with ME, how I choose to live my life, or especially God. He doesn’t exist, and if he did, he has ignored us to death. The God concept is irrelevant.”
“Hey, you brought God into this with Hazel Grace’s quote.”
Jim mocked the faux Dutch accent of a Van Houten elite, “And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”
Smiling, Kathy countered, “That is merely a figure of speech. A literary device used for effect.”
“But God DOES know ‘that’s what everyone does.’ God constantly calls us, and we have to force ourselves to ignore His call.”
Kathy as Peter quipped, “God must not have my phone number.”
“Oh, really? Why do you crave a point to life? RRRING. Why do you sympathize with Isaac’s outrage at Monica’s betrayal of ‘always’? RRRING. Isaac knows like YOU do that love should be REAL and promises should be kept. RRRING. Knowing you are mortal, why do you long for relationships that last more than a lifetime? RRRING. You are a spoiled rich adult brat who craves ‘a point’ and ‘a meaning’ to life. Who told your heart about life having a meaning and a purpose if it wasn’t God? RRRING.
You have heard God’s call your whole life and have learned to ignore it, rage against it, overwhelm it with unintelligible Swedish hip-hop, or drown it in a glass of Scotch with imaginary water.”
Feigning a defeated frustration and annoyance, Kathy asked, “Are you finished?”
“Absolutely. All I had to do was to get you to notice God’s call, again. It is up to you whether you pick up the phone in prayer, or not. Oh, there is one more point to be made, that you might find humorous.”
“Life actually is JUST A LOVE STORY. The world is not a wish-granting factory, not a stage, not a sound and fury signifying nothing, but rather a very very long love story. It is written in the stars, in your DNA, in your relationships with others, and ultimately in your relationship with The Word.”
“…since what can be known about God is evident among you, because God has shown it to you. For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, you are without excuse. … 25 Don’t exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve something created instead of the Creator” [Romans 1:19, 20, 25 para]
Kathy as Kathy said, “Nice.”
Jim chuckled, “You think the Van Houten’s out there will buy it?”
“They will probably never read it. But if they did, maybe the RRRING will be a stone in their shoe. I hope it irritates them until they answer the call.”
*John Green, The Fault in Our Stars, Dutton Books, New York, NY, 2012.