Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Harry Potter and the Longest Story on Earth

There is no hiding it: I am a Harry Potter fan.

And although I love the books by themselves, just the way they are, isolated from other literature, there is no way you can avoid the fact that these books express the newest version of the long, long story that has probably lived as long as people have inhabited the earth. You have it expressed in The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien (where Frodo and Sam explicitly refer to themselves as taking part in an overall story, far outliving them), fairytales throughout the world, in lore and popular fiction, ballads, songs and so on. Where it all comes from is of course the next question, but the answer to that is still a bit beyond where I have tread. (Although I think it has something to do with where psychology comes from - what shapes us as humans, why we realize our Being in the shape of humans.)

There is the obvious "good vs bad" theme in the Potter books. There is also a demonstration of the human ability to create - to flesh out the web of ideas and deeply rooted images we all take part in. Rowling is brilliant in the way she uses fantasy, in creating a fully inhabited universe that we want to live in and explore on our own. She presents us with mystery, interesting characters, intelligent storylines, tragedy, comedy, solid friendships and a fight for life. The story she produces is as many-layered as expressed by the great variety of people who love her books (her tale, her long story). I think every reader meets her text with his or her own backdrop of ideas, feelings, memories, preferences etc, factors that make a person that particular person. And despite of this, nearly everyone reading her story gets engulfed. In a good way! I take it as a mark of her genius.

This story incorporates all the stories that went before it, and takes it a few steps further, into our own time - or, rather, the author is one step ahead of us, sketching out a newer, fresher world order. Something we feel it is worth reaching out for, something we feel as being the natural next step in the world as we know it.

Everything that is made and put forth in this world leaves an imprint of itself. Everything existent is always coloured by everything else. The Harry Potter saga (still in the making, that is one of the things that is so fantastic about it! that we get to share the long process from beginning to end, not knowing how the story ends) is without question the biggest, most successful story of our time.

One of the reasons, I think, is because Rowling is exactly one or more steps ahead of us all of the time. She made this universe and, more important still, she made the plot, which every good story springs from and moves towards. The plot is not yet revealed to us so the saga of the saga is also unfinished. (The saga of the saga might never finish, as I am sure you are very well aware). The real size and quality of the story, then, is yet to be unfolded. But the quality of the six books we already know leave us with no doubt that the last and concluding chapter (book 7) will live up to the expectations. Probably it will even transcend the previous ones, perhaps leaving some behind, dissatisfied. But more people are going to love it and see that this was the only way the story could be concluded, this was what the population of the world needed to read in the beginning of the 21st century. I believe that.

That is how much trust I place in J. K. Rowling.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Goodbye melancholy

After having made the discovery about choice and being the leader of my own life, I sensed that something slipped away from my experience of life. I realized that the ties that has kept me clinging to my childhood and my then experience of the world (easy and light, problem free - in a superficial way) were cut. Through the "revelation" I had about my set of beliefs rooted in my mother's view of the world, I at the same time let go of a major part of my melancholy - which, again, has made up a major part of my view of the world. Through easing up, through seeing more clearly the subjectivities of the world views that we are all indoctrinated with one way or another, I let go of a lot of melancholy feelings about childhood states - and seeing nostalgia as being a subtype of melancholy.

Nostalgia is almost exclusively connected with childhood, or the childhood you think you have had. Many of my melancholic moods have been triggered by a feeling that so much has changed for the worse since I was a child. That the world I lived in and experienced then never will be seen again. That all you can have is the remembrance of things past... This melancholy-nostalgia has been a huge part of my "identity", of the images and thoughts and memories I have pieced together to represent something I have called "me".

I also found that I have connected this state with the colour blue, or blue-grey, and that my sense of this particular colour has been very strong. So strong that it has actually rubbed off or melted into other parts of my life-experience. Another part of this identity-thing of mine has been being a serious, wide-eyed, observing girl. This part, too, has the taste and feeling of blue-grey to me. And I can't help but wonder, now, whether these two different expressions of my persona may flow from the same well. Whether they have the same root in me, so to speak. The state of being serious, which I easily slip into, and the melancholy state, which expresses itself with a more overall heavy and gloomy presence, stonelike and overwhelming, seem to share source.

Seeing this helps me distance from these two prominant features of my shell-like personality. But not identifying with them is another step. Distancing is one thing, ridding oneself of something completely is a more painful affair. It is painful to part with deeply rooted beliefs one has about oneself. Sometimes these beliefs can be so deeply rooted that you actually think they are part of you, that they make you you. Nevertheless, seeing these things about myself certainly lightens the familiar feeling of heaviness connected to melancholy or seriousness.

Thoughtful, yet lighter and calmer "good nights" from me.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

You can actually choose

Right now, today, reading the newspaper in the still rather quiet bookstore that I work in, something struck me: I have a choice.

I was reading along in the weekend magazine that accompanies one of the larger Norwegian newspapers when I felt saturated and suffocated by the never ending messages about how to have a good time. How to dress the table in order to have the best summer party, how to decorate your home in the coziest fashion, how to dress for late, light summer nights, what to cook for your ten dinner guests for the garden party (that evereyone seemingly desperately longs to throw), in short: How to live life best.

Well, I have to protest. I have to take a moment and feel into my own chest - is this right for me? Do I believe in this popular mythology? It is so easy to be swept away and into a set of thoughts and mental images about how one is supposed to live one's life. And I realized now, more than ever before, how easy it is to just follow the lights in the aisle, to trot down the trodden path. I realized that in some dimension I had actually started believing in the most prominent ideas and images about how life is best led.

I have to mention, here, that my country lies so far north that when summer arrives, we all run outside and try to spend as much time there as we possibly can, and when fall comes we can hopefully say that we haven't stayed in more than what is strictly necessary for sleeping and other natural reasons... Or is this just a national myth as well? Can it be that the people who are living this myth are the most boisterous and loud and therefore the most visible, making their truths the most "real" truths, also for the rest of the population? I don't have the answer to that. But in my case, the shipper of the easy, rosy, lace-lined way of living was my mother. So I have been indoctrinated with this view for a long time. And, you know, she believes it; her way of having a good time is making a good meal, meeting friends for light, unchallenging chats, doing a little work around the house, tending her flowers and generally having a good time. And it works for her, it is enough. But - and this is something I sensed during childhood, this doesn't do it for me! I like to investigate things, to delve into the depths, to figure out why things are as they are, to understand the principle of just anything, be it human interaction, why this novel is better than that, what this author is actually saying, what happens when we think, what do we believe in and why, and so forth (for ever more).

It was such a revelation to see this! A relief! To just understand that I can actually live the life I would like to, without having to feel guilty that I am not living up to the flower-patterned "ideal" that penetrates the public set of ideals in this country.

I am sure my husband will be pleased to hear me say this. He has hinted, I now undersand, about this for some time. For as long as we have known each other, I believe. Hmm. Some catch things slower than others.

And, again, I feel I have to say that my mother's interpretation of what is a good life certainly is a good one, and I can understand why that is what she chooses for herself. But it isn't what I am searching for in this life. It is as simple as that.

Have a good Saturday!
(And choose to live it the way you like.)


Friday, June 23, 2006

Situation: Here. Now.

Ok, this is me: I am sitting at work, on a desk in a large book store in Oslo, Norway. Outside there is sun. Inside it is quiet. You can hear the squeeking in the floor as people stroll around and the buzz of the air conditioning. Everything seems so.. quiet, almost deserted! And I find myself thinking, What am I doing here? You know those times when you see yourself from the outside, as if you are just looking at some stranger and wondering - how did I get there? How on earth can that be "me"? This is one of those times.

You have a sudden rush of seeing things a they are, looking at the world in a more objective way than usual, and you find that you are a miniscule entity in a large web - or rather, that although you are small and seemingly unimportant, you are actually a part of a living organism. You are part of Life. A holographic expression of the rest of the world.

From this perspective, every problem you think you have suddenly seems rather trivial. Your petty worries about everyday life seem small and unimportant. Well, in this perspective such worries are small and unsignificant. And in glimpses like these, I think you actually see things more as they are than you normally do. I think that this perspective is more real, more cosmic. Yeah, I think cosmic is the term here. You look at yourself with the eyes of the cosmos. With the stuff that you are made of, came from and (if logic can be used here, and why shouldn't it?) what you will return to when you no longer live in the shape you now have.

This is weird, seeing myself write these things. But I honestly believe that what I have said here is true.

Only half an hour left before we close tonight. I like being surrounded by books, but I also like seeing the sun while it is up. Well, nowadays it doesn't set until around midnight, but anyway...

This is me, again. Good night.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Emily Dickinson

For some time now, I have been deeply fascinated by Emily Dickinson's strikingly original work. Her poems stand out as a unique chapter in the history of literature. Putting yourself in her shoes, in 1850-80 Amherst, MA, looking backwards and forwards at the line of poets and literates, you won't find many - if any - poets like her.

She is, of course, known as "The Queen Recluse" as she gradually withdrew from society and from the early sixties never set foot outside her house. You can have all sorts of opinions and interpretations of her choosing to act this way, but I dare say that had she been married and hence drawn into the normal busy life a family would demand, we certainly would not have the great amount of startling poetry from her hand that we now do.

Having of course a fine mind and the nature of questioning and searching and pondering, she would always have left an imprint of herself. But we would never have been able to take part in her originality and quality of mind.

As she so stands out in the landscape of literature, not merely picking up the thread left by some earlier poet, she also manages to be closer to us than many other writers whose work is coloured by the time in which they were written. Today, tomorrow - she will probably remain in the canon of the best poets in human history because of her sharpness, her direct approach to and expression of her thoughts/mental images and her original but enchanting and many-layered imagery. Her metaphors are quivering with life, leaving you with no doubt of her being in possession of her own language and that she is embodying it.

I would like to end this post with a poem I think is beautiful, strong and somewhat ethereal. And it is about poets!

I will probably return to Emily in the future. She is too marvellous to be left in the shadows.


I reckon - when I count at all -
First - Poets - then the Sun -
Then Summer - Then the Heaven of God -
And then - the List is done -

But, looking back - the First so seems
to Comprehend the Whole -
The Others look a needless Show -
So I write - Poets - All -

Their Summer - lasts a Solid Year -
They can afford a Sun
The East - would deem extravagant -
And if the Further Heaven -

Be Beautiful as they prepare
For Those who worship Them -
It is too difficult a Grace -
To justify the Dream -

Emily Dickinson,
ca 1862