Lately I’ve begun to read a lot more than I was already reading. When I was a kid, I maxed out the limit of 4-8 books at the library, and I would inhale them as quickly as possible. Today I look back at my life, and I am convinced that books have almost singlehandedly given me my values, enriched my imagination, and taught me to expect more of humanity – that we can be better. In times of extreme darkness, it wasn’t my direct relationships which saved me, but my connection to the imaginations of these writers.
The last few weeks have been trying for me at many different levels, and I am grateful to remember I can always go back to books. Books ground me in a way current reality cannot, they give me a sense of my position in the world. They act as incredible gateways to the diversity and depth of our collective consciousness.
They seem to appear for me magically at the most opportune time. Some time last week I randomly picked up Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” – I have read a couple of his books prior and I didn’t love him as much as other people did, but this book reconnected me back to this world, to remind me why I exist. I am shaped by the books I read. We are only but a sum of our experiences, for better or for worse.
One of my long-time acquaintances tried to end her life last week. I felt a ball of conflicting emotions – I understood why, and I had felt truly powerless. I started to think about the unfairness in life, that I went through a lot as a child but it wasn’t extreme, I had a career that gave me relative economic stability and was more tolerant of my quirkiness, I had met people who were gracious with me, my condition and PTSD weren’t as severe. It is not fair that I get to have the time and space to heal, whereas other people are struggling to make ends meet, much less find the space to heal. Why did I deserve to have more favourable circumstances than someone else? I cannot help but think that I could have easily been in her situation, if I had just slightly deviated from my path. I am only able to be the person I am now, because I had the economic resources to do so.
I think of us as a collective species, of how much we have compromised our own humanity in favour of supposed self-interest, how we are really lacking in terms of taking care of our disadvantaged. Without divulging more my acquaintance should have been given more space to heal, our society should have been designed better for people like her. We have more than enough to do better, but we keep failing ourselves.
I feel alone sometimes in these thoughts, and I am fortunate enough to have peers who believe in the same values I do – but we are the minority. Is it that ridiculous to believe that taking care of our fellow human beings when they are struggling is the right thing to do? Am I crazy to think that we should do better for people who have less favourable circumstances?
Sometimes I wonder if my books have sold me a lie, that I have been imbued with values that are impractical in reality, that instead of dystopian science fiction I have fallen in love with fantasy instead – worlds where there is justice and fairness.
And some may say, but that is fantasy. And I can’t help but question, isn’t it sad that justice and fairness can only exist in fantasy worlds?
Pursuing fairness should not be considered a generosity. It should be the baseline of humanity, but unfortunately, it is so, so far from being a given.
People sometimes wonder why I am so intense. It is because I find this world barely liveable at this point in time – it just so, so unfair that our lot in life is so much determined by where we are born. I have personally come to realise that happiness is only possible with a certain level of ignorance and denial, it is virtually impossible to live a blissful existence when one becomes keenly aware; what we can strive towards, is only to find some peace towards who we are, where we’re at, what we can offer, and then hope for the best. That despite all of this, even in extreme conditions humanity has always found her way to love.
And love, not happiness, is what I can hope for, in my short existence.
My values may have come from the worlds of fantasy, but they have become real because they are mine, and I try to live them into existence. That is for now, who I am, where I’m at, and what I can offer.