Using Our Own Compass

January 17, 2008
By Arwen Cundick, Santaquin, UT

Have you ever seen the movie The Golden Compass or read the book? If you haven’t, you’ve probably heard some degree of differing opinions about it. Personally, I think that The Golden Compass is a wonderful story. It contains invaluable lessons that have been with me since I read the book and the rest of the series when I was in grade school. They helped teach me to have the courage to stand up for my beliefs in the face of adversity, to cultivate the ability to look for the good in every situation, about the power that love and friendship have to overcome any obstacle, to exercise creative problem solving skills, and, most importantly (from the third novel, The Amber Spyglass), to have the fortitude to face disappointment and heartbreak and move on from them a better person. To me, The Golden Compass was a deeply spiritual book about hope, redemption, and the inherent goodness of human nature. That is why, when I read an article expressing negative views toward the story, I was prompted to think about the amazing phenomenon of differing opinions.

What I just mentioned is nothing more than what I got out of these stories. My interpretation is exactly that: mine. As a reader, I have had to sift through a vast amount of information and glean from it those few ideas that I deem truly relevant to my life. In harmony with the title of the story that I used as an example, the journey I take through each novel I read requires my own internal “compass.” This compass guides me through each creative work I encounter and helps me dismiss the ideas that I do not find meaningful and to remember the ideas that I do. It also helps me decide which creative works are worth my time at all. Because everyone’s compass is different, so too is everyone’s resulting opinion. Consequently, when I want to formulate an opinion about something that matters to me, I journey through the information available to me with my compass as my guide.

Today, with information barraging us from every angle, it is almost impossible to find some time for ourselves to formulate our own opinions about things. Sometimes, even the works’ creators have vastly different interpretations of their creations than their audience’s. After a piece of art leaves the artist, it becomes an authority in its own right and is open to interpretation. Much of the flack The Golden Compass is receiving right now is due to statements that Philip Pullman, its author, made himself about his own atheism. As far as that goes, I know that my opinion about this book is completely separate from any influence but my own, and it is a good feeling. As to differing viewpoints: they are essential for our culture’s healthy development and for continued progress. Collectively, we should respect each well-thought out opinion, and challenge ourselves to carefully cultivate our own. As you journey through life, don’t let the staggering amount of information and opinion bog you down: train your compass to lead you in the right direction.

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