Zealot: The Life And Times Of Jesus Of Nazareth

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“Some of us claim that he was a messiah, and some think that he was just a man with very special powers. But that misses the point. Whatever he was, he changed the world.”
― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things

Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life And Times Of Jesus Of Nazareth is currently at No.1 on Amazon Best Sellers thanks to the awkward Fox News interview. Although I shouldn’t be shocked by the typical Fox News questions like “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” I was nevertheless shocked. It’s like asking an astronomer, “you live on Earth, why study other planets?” It was obvious that Lauren Green had no idea of the contents of the book and was only interested in the fact that Aslan is a Muslim and that he has some kind of faith-based bias in his work. Reza Aslan is a scholar of religions and as he had to politely point out to Green, “a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.”

So…. he wrote a book about Jesus the man and not Jesus the Christ. I can understand that not many Christians are too keen on the historical Jesus, but is a book really a threat to faith? It was Jesus who said that faith is supposed to be built on a rock, not sand. And if so, this book should not be causing any form of fury or insecurity. The investigation of the historical Jesus is an intriguing one. Whether you are a believer or not, we all know that Jesus lived here on Earth as a man, and his life as a person, the times he lived in, and the circumstances in which he lived and preached should be important areas of study. Faith is not essentially based on facts, so these facts should not be discouraging faith.

I first came to know about Zealot when I was watching the Daily Show and after seeing the Fox News interview, I had to go watch the Daily Show interview again just so I could assure myself that there are sane people too working in television.

I don’t see this book as an attack on Christianity. I don’t think Aslan meant it to be either, but people are entitled to their own opinion and many who see it as a threat of some kind, clearly do not understand what faith is really about. Learning about the historical Jesus is just as important. It is no secret that Jesus lived here on Earth as a man rather than a divine being. If he did, then he lived in a place and at a time worth exploring. I don’t see why that is worrying, plus it is not astonishing that a scholar of history of religions is only interested in a religion’s history and not in its spiritual claims.

If Jesus came back today he would disagree on many things we have interpreted and speculated about him. I’m pretty sure that none of us have got it completely right. But even if you knew nothing more about Jesus or whether you accept his divinity or not, we all know that he was crucified – in his efforts to stand up for the poor, the weak, the dispossessed, the downtrodden and the outcast. In doing so, he gave rise to the largest religion in the world. But it is his sacrifice that is more compelling and should stand out in the eyes of his followers; he showed the world that the oppressed, the meek and the powerless were worthy of being stood up for, and that social injustice should not be ignored. It showcases compassion towards every single person, irrespective of their sexual orientation, religious views or ethnicity.

The Jesus in Zealot is likable, relatable and is easy to have a personal relationship with. In my opinion, this book does not leave much room to offend anybody. In Aslan’s words, “you can be a follower of Jesus and not be a Christian just as you can be a Christian and not a follower of Jesus.” Maybe we need to focus more on that and less on wrongheaded judgments on the exploration of historical Jesus. After all, there is a huge distance between the teachings of Jesus, and the way Christianity is often practiced today, and it is true in the case of most world religions.

On another love – all my tears have been used up

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I wanna take you somewhere so you know I care
But it’s so cold and I don’t know where
I brought you daffodils in a pretty string
But they won’t flower like they did last spring

And I wanna kiss you, make you feel alright
I’m just so tired to share my nights
I wanna cry and I wanna love
But all my tears have been used up

And if somebody hurts you, I wanna fight
But my hands been broken, one too many times
So I’ll use my voice, I’ll be so fucking rude
Words they always win, but I know I’ll lose

And I’d sing a song, that’d be just ours
But I sang ’em all to another heart
And I wanna cry I wanna learn to love
But all my tears have been used up

Lyrics of Tom Odell’s Another Love couldn’t have said it better. Loving someone after having your entire self broken and shattered to pieces, is the hardest thing of all. You may gather up the strength and collect the broken pieces together, but there’s always going to be a missing piece lost somewhere forever. And, although you want to give them your everything, all of you isn’t there anymore….plus your heart is held together mostly with glue and pins. In my case I’ve used staples as well…Oh boy!

I love this song and I love Tom Odell. Sometimes songs that other people write, sound like they come right from your own heart. It shows that others too have lived through what we have – it isn’t comforting to know, but it helps you to remember that life and love take similar courses.

When you love someone with your whole heart, you don’t leave much room for another to walk in and take that place. When your heart breaks, it is not the loving again that is difficult, but reconstructing the broken heart, so you can give it all to another. I never love with half-measures; I love with everything that I am, because that’s how I want someone to love me too. But, lately I have come to see that, the events in my past have really weakened my ‘gathering up the pieces’ part. I used up all my tears, all my wishes, all my hope, all my strength, all my “i love you”s and all my dreams, on another love. I just wish that I could be whole again to love again completely, the way I know I can and I should.

They are the kids who don’t ask for much

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“Our pets are the kids who never leave home, and that’s absolutely fine by us because these kids don’t ask for the keys to the car, don’t turn up drunk at two in the morning, and don’t complain if you turn their bedroom into a home gym. Their presence in times of upheaval and transition acts as a touchstone, a reminder of normalcy, of comfort, and the certainty of a love that can get you through.” ― Nick Trout, Ever By My Side: A Memoir in Eight [Acts] Pets

My family pet cat, Snowy, died on the 1st of this month. When my parents broke the news to me, I could hear in their voices, the undeniable grief from the loss of a loved one. In a world where you are loved and liked for what you are rather than who you are, our pets teach us what unconditional love is truly about. Although cats don’t behave like dogs, Snowy was closer to us and more loving towards the family than his brother, who is the complete opposite, literally! – he is a black cat who loves to roam about and fancies a brawl or two with other cats in the neighbourhood, but Snowy was the cat who jumped on to our laps and asked for a good long rub, sat beside us at family meetings, never wandered far from the house and always came running to us whenever we called for him.

Snowy died of cancer and he was only four years old. My parents did everything they could to save his life. It was yet another pet who died, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to pets dying, because I grieve every time. They say the death of a pet teaches a child to deal with a loss of a loved one. But what about adults, who have seen it happen several times over the course of their life? Why do we still cry and get deeply sad? Having a pet is almost like having a kid; you love them unconditionally. When they come home covered in mud and dirt, you do scold them, but you also wash them. When they are sick, you take care of them, and you never sit down to eat your own meals without giving them theirs.

The bond between animals and human beings is a strange one and it never ceases to amaze me. Sometimes I think, it is a more lasting and a profound one than one between two human beings. While human beings constantly change, animals stick to their loyalty. Our pets always come home (unless an unfortunate event befalls them) and they don’t leave us for our flaws. Whether you are rich or poor, good looking or not, accomplished or failed, it doesn’t matter to them – only our love matters.

In my family, we have always treated our pets as equals. And when they are sick or troubled, we treat them the same way we would treat one another. There are many animals that aren’t as lucky as our pets. Animals have feelings and emotions, and they get hurt too. Their physical pain is just as much as painful as ours. But sadly that hurt is never treated or considered the same way as human pain. Who declared us more important than them? Is it about the survival of the fittest? Human beings are calculating, selfish and more dangerous than any other animal on the planet, and for that reason…we thrive. I don’t think it is something we should be proud of.

Although we may never speak the language of our pets or understand it perfectly, we know enough to know that they feel hunger, thirst, pain, fear and love, and so do every other animal. And you would think with all the pet owners in the world, cruelty to animals by now would have been eliminated from the face of the earth. Our pets, not only teach us the lessons of love and loyalty, they also give us the unequivocal knowledge to understand the ever-present feelings and emotions of every other animal.

I hope you rest in peace my little Snowy!

snowy

“My philosophy when it came to pets was much like that of having children: You got what you got, and you loved them unconditionally regardless of whatever their personalities or flaws turned out to be. ”
― Gwen Cooper, Homer’s Odyssey

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – wade in

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Neil Gaiman’s return to adult fiction in eight years is called The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Although it is heralded as a novel for adults, it is a fitting book even for young adults. His storytelling never excludes the young or the old, and after all, this is somewhat of a fairy tale, a grim sort of one.

The story begins when the unnamed narrator returns to Sussex for a funeral. He finds himself visiting his childhood scenes, especially the Hempstock farmhouse, where a girl named Lettie used to live with her mother and grandmother. They were a mysterious and extraordinary family. Lettie’s grandmother could make the moon full every night, and she had been alive long enough to have witnessed the Big Bang.

Rambling through the farm, he comes across the duck pond Lettie used to call the “Ocean.” When he tosses a hazelnut into its water, the ripples carry across his mind and he begins to remember his childhood past. He sits down by the ‘Ocean’ and recalls the magical and traumatic events that befell his seven-year-old self.

Forty years ago, when the narrator was 7 years old there was an incident which led to ancient evil powers being unleashed in the neighbourhood. The lodger at the boy’s house, who is an unlucky gambler, kills the narrator’s cat in an accident, and shortly thereafter kills himself in the family car. A malevolent spirit nanny named Ursula Monkton is stirred into existence as a result of the incident, and arrives at the boy’s house as the new lodger. The narrator recognises her as a monster but his father is beguiled by her, and other family members are equally deceived. His only hope is the powerful and good-hearted Hempstocks and their 11 year old (or maybe billion-year-old) Lettie.

The narrator lives in fear; he sleeps with the door open and the hallway light on. It reminds us of our own childhoods, when we were afraid of the dark, imagined figures lurking in corners ready to jump at us, and checked for monsters under the bed. He is often alone and no one shows up at his seventh birthday party.

The novel also portrays the vulnerability and defenselessness of a child, especially when his father kicks down the door of the bathroom, fills the tub with cold water and shoves him beneath the water. “I looked at him, at the intent expression on his face… He was wearing a light blue shirt and a maroon paisley tie. He pulled off his watch on its expandable strap, dropped it on the window ledge” – everything about that incident is vividly etched in the narrators mind. He clutches the maroon paisley tie, “gripping it for life… pulling up out of that frigid water.” He holds on to it tightly, so his father can’t push him into the water, and in his desperate attempts, he clamps his teeth into it, just below the knot. We not only see the scene in our imagination but we feel the terror, desperation and the helplessness.

Gaiman writes: “Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good.” We see it happening through the narration of this traumatic childhood memory.

The narrator loses himself in the world of adventure and fantasy by reading books. It helps him escape from reality and find answers and consolation others can’t offer him. It sounds a lot like the real Gaiman: “I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible.” References to C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, which he got for his seventh birthday and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland quotes, suggest Gaiman’s inspiration from his own childhood. These were Neil’s childhood favourites and their influence on him is significantly noteworthy. “Books were safer than other people anyway.” 

The boy’s friendship with the Hempstock family, grants him access to another world. He feels safe with them, Gaiman hints that it might even be the safest spot in the whole universe. It is apparent that the Hempstocks exist outside of time, and it is somewhat comforting for the protagonist to know that they are different from the rest. The battle between Lettie’s family and the malevolent forces transports us to a magical and dreamlike realm. Then, just like Gaiman’s Bod in The Graveyard Book, he grows up and loses his ability to cross over to that extraordinary world; the end of childhood magic with the loss of innocence.

Towards the end of the novel, the narrator drops into the ‘Ocean’ and in his mind, achieves a form of transcendent understanding: “I saw the world I had walked since my birth and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality I knew was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger.”

The interwoven adult and child perspectives of the protagonist help him see how he experienced his past and how it affected him for the rest of his life. He even questions whether his adult life is truly worth the magical showdown. Gaiman does not show the act of growing up as something exciting and hopeful, he asks “how can you be happy in this world?” when you are constantly “questing after something you cannot have, something you cannot even properly imagine, the lack of which will spoil your sleep and your day and your life.” This reminded me of the same kind of disappointment expressed by Adam Young in Neil’s collaboration with Terry Pratchett – Good Omens.

I have been a Neil Gaiman fan since I was young, and reading this book as an adult didn’t make me feel like it was essentially an adult novel. Gaiman presents the tragedies of human reality and the brokenness of the characters through a fantastical narrative that is almost like a fairy tale. But as the adult protagonist in the novel observes, fairy tales aren’t for kids or grownups; they’re just stories. And within this story we see our own lost childhoods, which were never forgotten completely. The Ocean at the End of the Lane speaks to the child within the adult. There’s a sense of immortality in childhood and it lingers on somewhere within us even when we turn into fully grown adults, and Gaiman masterfully channels that childhood through the medium of fantasy for the invocation of wistful self-knowledge.

Only time and tears can

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“One by one, drops fell from her eyes like they were on an assembly line – gather, fall, slide…gather, fall, slide…each one commemorating something she had lost. Hope. Faith. Confidence. Pride. Security. Trust. Independence. Joy. Beauty. Freedom. Innocence.”
― Lisi Harrison, Monster High

I was never ashamed of my tears. I only held them back for the benefit of others when I could help it, other times, I let them fall freely. To be honest, I hadn’t perfected the art of keeping emotions in check. It was a big disgrace, because there are people in the world who think it is a weakness. Maybe it is, and maybe I did come across as an emotional wreck. But I never cried because my fish pie got burnt in the oven or because my iPod fell in a pond. It was never that simple. There were people who could make me cry. They could make me feel overwhelming emotions, grief and love like I never knew before, but I doubt they knew that or even cared.

John Green describes grief as something that doesn’t change you but instead reveals you. I think it can do both, but changes come from the revealing itself. It happens slowly, but effectively. And we barely notice it happen. Grief changed the way I look at the world, the way I perceive it and the way I present myself to it now. At the same time, it also revealed my endurance, weaknesses and strengths.

There’s no way around grief, you have to go through it, and the road leads on. You have to keep walking forward, but it’s the constant looking back that slows you down and keeps you standing and waiting. We look back wishing we did things differently, said things we couldn’t and didn’t have to leave behind certain people who took another road instead. I realised that these are people who were never really ours, so they don’t make it to our present or the future.

Yet, there comes a time to look back. This is when you have kept going for a good long while, miles from where you left. The view you see then is the new territory you have just reached. It may not be fields of golden corn, orchards or lavender fields, but it is definitely not what you were trying to leave behind. After all, it is the journey that is important, not the destination. You have to move and keep moving until there is no sign of the place you wanted to leave behind.

Once you do, it is the ideal time to look at yourself too, and I saw myself like I had never seen before. I was weather beaten from the journey, I had scars from the past and bruises when I fell along the way and I was finally learning the art of keeping emotions in check. A part of me was stronger, a part of me was weaker, a part of me was dead, a part of me was alive, a part of me was older and a part of me was younger, but I saw it all. There was more of me and there was less of me. The images of the green fields I used to know and love were finally disappearing. My tears seem to have smudged their colours and blurred their shapes.

The insults which were hurled at me and the animosity I received from others, exist as apparitions which suddenly appear and disappear. I do wince at the sight of them, but they don’t last very long. I learnt life lessons that are taught in no other way. Although, the existence of broccoli in no way affect the taste of chocolate, I tasted enough broccoli to hold dear forever the sweetness of chocolate. The scars will remain and they will remind me why I have them, but I will never look at them the same way I used to.

When grief strikes, only time and tears can make coherent sense of it. Things will change, for the better or for the worse; the important thing is they will change.

What Paris Jackson’s ordeal teaches us

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Paris Jackson and her brothers

It’s her plight, not her privileges, that makes Michael Jackson’s daughter endearing – Victoria Coren

Paris Jackson is beautiful, young, famous and extremely wealthy. According to cultural norms, these are general prerequisites to be happy. While a few argue that happiness comes from deeper self discovery, knowledge, kindness and praise-worthy adoption of a rescue dog; most teenagers would argue that happiness comes from the contentment of owning the latest iPad, getting a hair style that evokes envy, shopping at Burberry Regent Store, getting front row tickets to a One Direction Concert (the mention of One Direction screams out the absolute and total euphoria of the prospect of getting married to Harry Styles), trending on Twitter, being followed by 1D members on Twitter (there really isn’t anything the young want these days that does not include the boys of One Direction one way or another – you see what I did there!), being famous and if you are more ambitious – winning The X Factor. Bottom line….happiness lies in the possession of money, fame and beauty; so our culture tells us.

Paris Jackson is 15, and when I was 15 all I wanted was to be pretty like her, well….in those days I would have said more like Marzena Godecki from Ocean Girl. Basically, anyone with a dewy skin, glossy hair and a trimmed figure. I thought beauty was the key, a small nose and no spots could make you happy for life. Even with distraught thoughts of occasional self harm and suicide, I wanted to look good at the height of my emotional ordeals. I used to think trauma would seem a lot less unpleasant if I was beautiful. I was more or less right about that; our credulous society finds something alluring in the tragedies of beautiful and successful people.

When I heard the news that Paris Jackson appeared to have attempted suicide, I was trying to make sense of the reasons why. She has everything she needs, to be perfectly content, right? Then I almost kicked my inner 15 year old self who still believes beautiful people have it easy. That is the myth of beauty. “Happiness” of good looks, worldwide fame, designer clothing, expensive handbags and verified Twitter accounts is an illusion that has given rise to a mass hysteria.

No matter who you are, rich or poor, famous or invisible, pretty or average looking – pain is pain. And no amount of glamour can prevent it from being felt. While Michael Jackson raised his three children inside a fortress of his success, he himself was hiding his inner suffering. Paris didn’t choose to be famous, she was born to her performer father of immortal stardom, under curious circumstances. She never got that normal childhood like other children and was kept hidden from the world, and before MJ could prepare her to face the world on her own, he left her life; leaving her to shape her own identity. It seems likely that her crisis is a repercussion of her father’s sorrows, fears and fragility.

We look at famous people who medicate themselves with drugs and desperately search love in innumerable strangers, and say, “why would they do that?, they have everything they need.” How often we are wrong? Depression takes many shapes and sizes and is indifferent to who becomes its victim. When most of us are unknowingly doing illogical things to fill the voids in life, how can that be different in the case of celebrities? It’s just that when they do it, it doesn’t look that pathetic plus everyone hears about it.

With the news of her attempted suicide, the world was on a flurry, loving  Paris Jackson more than ever. Hopefully, she will feel better on her own accord rather than from the gush of love from strangers all over the world who can only speculate about her unhappiness. One way to stay content is to do less reacting to the world and being more proactive with oneself. The world constantly tilts to whichever the side it fancies, and we can’t depend on it’s favourable regard, as individuals, famous or not.

Some Infinities Are Bigger Than Other Infinities

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Photograph courtesy Jia Hao, TWAN. A stargazer stands in awe as comet Lovejoy skims across the night sky over Australia on December 2011. Officially known as C/2011 W3, the comet was predicted to dive into the sun and be destroyed. Instead the icy body survived its solar encounter and went on to offer Southern Hemisphere sky-watchers rare views of its bright tail in the predawn skies.

The rule number one of the universe is that nothing lasts forever. Nothing! You, me, our families, friends, houses, cars, pets, the stars…even the mighty sun will come to an end. Yet we somehow seem to know what forever feels like, don’t we? Sometimes a forever can happen in sixty seconds. Sometimes it can happen in sixty minutes. Time has no impact on eternity. It is the absence of time rather than the extension of time. Whether there’s a never ending paradise or eternally flaming hell after life….we all experience forever right here on Earth.

An instant pain which shoots through your heart can lodge in your soul for eternity. Sometimes all it takes is just a few words put together in a certain order, a question mark carefully placed in a sensitive spot and a pause that never ended thereafter. And it takes one person, out of the seven billion in this world to utter those words in a moment that will forever resonate in life and this universe. That’s all it takes to create an eternity. And no matter how hard you try, you cannot be rid of it, because it is forever.

The thing about forever is that you can’t change it. You can’t change the fact that it is forever. In life…there are things that you can never do again, people you can never love again and places you can never be in again. It is true that we can’t turn the clock back, but sometimes, the stories behind those things we can’t do, people we can’t love and places we can’t be in, manage to create eternities that are bigger than others.

And what most of us really want, is to relive such an eternity, that is pure innocent and happy. So, when John Green in The Fault in Our Stars, says “some infinities are bigger than other infinities,” he’s talking about the short period of time Hazel and Gus spent together… but in that short time itself an eternity was created. It is bigger because their love was bigger and it is infinite because their love was infinite. Time has no relevance to the creation of forevers. It is not about how long you live. It’s about how much of yourself was really there and how much of yourself was really lost, at a given point of time.

You don’t have to live forever to know what an eternity feels like, neither do you have to wait till after death. Like heaven and hell can be formed right here on earth, infinities too can be created during our lifetime. In some of them we are happier, in some we are loved and in some we are alone. The important thing is….they exist..and some are certainly bigger than others.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

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“Caring doesn’t sometimes lead to misery. It always does, ” which is why Will Grayson has two very simple rules to avoid crying: 1. Don’t care too much. 2. Shut up. He doesn’t see the point of crying, so he doesn’t like to get too emotional. Apparently, everything unfortunate that ever happened to him stemmed from his failure to follow one of the rules.

Will just tries to blend in, and is a loyal friend to Tiny Cooper, the most flamboyant gay ever, who “falls in love every hour on the hour with some poor new boy.” Tiny makes Will care, not just about him, but also about his autobiographical musical extravaganza called “Tiny Dancer,” he’s about to stage at school. Then there’s Jane, who he has inconvenient feelings for – the super-smart girl in the Gay-Straight Alliance who likes the band Neutral Milk Hotel as much as Will does. He could care about her if he wanted to, he could even fall in love with her. But he is terrified that she will find out the truth about him; that he is: “Not that smart. Not that hot. Not that nice. Not that funny. That’s me: I’m not that.”

Now meet the other will grayson, who hates everything and is an anti-capital letter user. He lives with his mother, he’s depressed, poor and friendless except for a goth girl called Maura who likes him despite his obvious dissing of her. We find that this Will is in love with a guy named Isaac whom he met online and chats with, everyday, but keeps him a solemn secret. He is open to emotion, especially rage and he makes sure everyone knows it: “I am constantly torn between killing myself and killing everyone around me.” His only consolation is his chatting with Isaac, the guy he’s never met face to face with. Finally, he makes plans to meet up with Isaac in Chicago, of all ironic places, a porn shop.

This is the same porn shop the other Will Grayson finds himself wandering around after his fake ID gets him thrown out of the club he tried to get into with Tiny and Jane. When paths of these two inevitably converge on that night, their worlds collide and intertwine, taking on new and unexpected dimensions, plummeting towards revelations of the heart, and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

The first Will Grayson is John Green’s and the second Will Grayson is David Levithan’s. John Green wrote all the odd-numbered chapters while David Levithan wrote all the even-numbered chapters. Together they created something of a narrative-spectacle. Green and Levithan’s writing always seek out love as it should be and friendship as its meant to be. This is why I always connect with their novels. In a world where your nostalgic and true feelings are encouraged to be swept under the carpet, their writing has the power to release us from the suppression of emotions and thoughts. Feel those feelings you are feeling, whether it is pain or pleasure, they are meant to be felt.

Green and Levithan are perhaps the most inspirational authors of young adult literature, purely because they know exactly what to say about love and friendship in the way teenage minds can understand. Love isn’t about sex or beauty, and yes it’s OK to have platonic love. It is also about acceptance, acceptance of yourself, whether you are gay, fat or depressed.

“NO. No no no. I don’t want to screw you. I just love you. When did who you want to screw become the whole game? Since when is the person you want to screw the only person you get to love? It’s so stupid, Tiny! I mean, Jesus, who even gives a fuck about sex?! People act like it’s the most important thing humans do, but come on. How can our sentient fucking lives revolve around something slugs can do. I mean, who you want to screw and whether you screw them? Those are important questions, I guess. But they’re not that important. You know what’s important? Who would you die for? Who do you wake up at five forty-five in the morning for even though you don’t even know why he needs you? Whose drunken nose would you pick?!”

“i have a friend request from some stranger on facebook and i delete it without looking at the profile because that doesn’t seem natural. ’cause friendship should not be as easy as that. it’s like people believe all you need to do is like the same bands in order to be soulmates. or books. omg… U like the outsiders 2… it’s like we’re the same person! no we’re not. it’s like we have the same english teacher. there’s a difference.”

Both Green and Levithan allow their characters to experience love as realistically as possible. The baffling affairs of the heart stay true to themselves. Hearts break, hearts resist love, hearts deny love while quietly surrendering to it, and hearts seek like-beating hearts out. What I love about their stories is, in them, you don’t find people bearing the titles ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’ filling up empty spaces. They are keepers of another’s heart in the most profound way love can elucidate.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan is funny, poignant and self-assuring. The sheer exuberance of Tiny Cooper who is egoistical yet totally lovable, steals the show by bringing together the two narratives of the Will Graysons. He is the master at dealing with heartbreak because he has had so many, and he wins the hearts of many who read this book, probably because Tiny is written by both Green and Levithan. Like most of their books, it is a discovery of life and the acceptance of its grand meaning, and my recent second read of this book left me wanting more from these two fantastic writers.

My favourite quotes from Will Grayson, Will Grayson:

“Some people have lives; some people have music.”
― John Green, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

“You like someone who can’t like you back because unrequited love can be survived in a way that once-requited love cannot. ”
― John Green, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

“I feel like my life is so scattered right now. Like it’s all the small pieces of paper and someone’s turned on the fan. But, talking to you makes me feel like the fan’s been turned off for a little bit. Like things could actually make sense. You completely unscatter me, and I appreciate that so much.”
― John Green, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

“this is why we call people exes, I guess – because the paths that cross in the middle end up separating at the end. it’s too easy to see an X as a cross-out. it’s not, because there’s no way to cross out something like that. the X is a diagram of two paths.”
― David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

“i think the idea of a ‘mental health day’ is something completely invented by people who have no clue what it’s like to have bad mental health. the idea that your mind can be aired out in twenty-four hours is kind of like saying heart disease can be cured if you eat the right breakfast cereal. mental health days only exist for people who have the luxury of saying ‘i don’t want to deal with things today’ and then can take the whole day off, while the rest of us are stuck fighting the fights we always fight, with no one really caring one way or another, unless we choose to bring a gun to school or ruin the morning announcements with a suicide.”
― David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

“The pure and simple truth
Is rarely pure and never simple.”
― John Green, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

“that’s it – hundreds of texts and conversations, thousands upon thousands of words spoken and sent, all boiled down into a single line. is that what relationships become?”
― David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

“he is both the source of my happiness and the one i want to share it with.”
― David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

“I get it now. I get it. The things you hope for the most are the things that destroy you in the end.”
― John Green, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain

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Photo Credit – Rob Leslie, Splash Effect. Taken at the moment a rock was thrown into the water in the Pacific Ocean during a winter sunset in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada.

It was James Taylor who said: 

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again

He may not had ‘set fire to the rain’, but this song is on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. And whenever I hear these lyrics, it makes me feel like nothing in life can surprise me anymore. Change is inevitable as much as death, but I’ve seen changes happening at lightening speed. It made me mortally aware of how easily joy can turn to tears and peace can turn to turmoil. We all know this fact very well, but most of us are not prepared for those changes, which goes to show that accepting the inevitabilities of life doesn’t really make a huge difference.

John Green in ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, writes: “without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”

No matter how well we try to justify pain, whether it is because things happen for a reason or because it is the transience of life; the desire for joy never eludes us. And the pain never passes us without messing us up.

Fragile Things – We Save Our Lives In Such Unlikely Ways

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Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman is subtitled “Short Fictions and Wonders”, which sums up this compilation nicely. The title of this book reminds us of ourselves. Like Gaiman himself says, human beings are fragile and breakable. But stories in the book also point out that fragility does not detract from durability. We survive most of the things we expect to die of. Sometimes we expect to die of a broken heart, but even with a hurt so great, our hearts don’t stop beating. The fragile-looking translucent butterfly wings take the Monarch butterfly from Toronto, Ontario to the rain forests of Brazil. And dreams….even when they are broken they continue to live on in a secret place, somewhere within us, at times, unknown to us.

Survival is not only for the strong and the unbroken. The weak, meek, lost and fragile ones manage to find their way through the twists and turns of fate with equal dexterity. But we don’t see it happening as they do. It’s often years later when you look back; you see the wonders of survival. Like Gaiman says; “we save our lives in such unlikely ways.” This doesn’t mean that we become completely healed or our emotional turmoils are over. It means that despite it all we survive, our hearts don’t falter and our dreams are shut safely away. Being broken isn’t so bad as you think. Yes it hurts and sometimes pieces of us get lost on the way, but it reveals who we really are and what we are made of. The enduring qualities of fragility refine us and re-define us.

What I love about Gaiman is his understanding of human emotions and his non-judgmental attitude. He doesn’t pass a verdict on his characters as to who is wrong and who is right, or what is right and wrong. He observes both sides of the coin and sometimes what happens when the coin stands on its edge. He leaves the judging, perceiving and apprehending to his readers. In the book, Gaiman also reveals the strength of stories although seem fragile.

“Stories, like people and butterflies and songbirds’ eggs and human hearts and dreams, are also fragile things, made up of nothing stronger or more lasting than twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks. Or they are words on the air, composed of sounds and ideas-abstract, invisible, gone once they’ve been spoken-and what could be more frail than that? But some stories, small, simple ones about setting out on adventures or people doing wonders, tales of miracles and monsters, have outlasted all the people who told them, and some of them have outlasted the lands in which they were created.” 
― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things

There are some stories which can be told in fewer words but more expressively than a full-length novel. The stories and poems you find in Fragile Things are best described that way. I never felt like I was reading a short story collection. The power of emotions, intensity of feelings, the varying characters and captivating narrations run through the entire book. Story after story it opens up more gateways into thinking, understanding and being fascinated. The idea for Fragile Things came to Gaiman in a dream: “I think…that I would rather recollect a life misspent on fragile things than spent avoiding moral debt” were the words turned up in his dream. Using “twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks” Gaiman has written “stories, small, simple ones about setting out on adventures or people doing wonders, tales of miracles and monsters” and they will certainly outlast him and his readers.

“Nobody gets through life without losing a few things on the way.”
― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things