Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dying to be Noticed

If you haven't read anything by John Green, you are a bad person.

Really. You should probably fix that right now. RIGHT. NOW. Stop reading my blog (which should hint at the seriousness of this situation. I love my blog, and actively want more readers). Turn off your stupid computer. And drive to the nearest library, or even better, bookstore and grab some of his books. My very favorite is Paper Towns, closely followed by An Abundance of Katherines. So check him out, if you please.

Sorry about the extreme fangirlness. It was prompted because I just finished his newest book, The Fault in Our Stars. And it was beautiful, and inspiring, and hilarious and sad, all without being too cloying or obvious. That's one of the things I love about John Green. He writes grand romances, interesting literary observations, and coming-of-age stories, but you don't realize that until after you finish the book. Because it doesn't scream "X TYPE OF BOOK" in your face. When you read, you're just completely immersed.

Take Stars, for instance. I suppose it's a cancer book. But, as it correctly identifies in the story, it's not a cancer book. Cancer just happens to be one of the problems that the characters are faced with. But it's not a Problem with a capital P. It's just a problem. It's just life. It might even be Life. Considering I finished the book fifteen minutes ago, I don't think I'm qualified to assign capital letters quite yet.

And I don't have to. Contrary to what you might think, this blog post is not a review. I'm not going to analyze Stars, or dissect the characters, or discuss how well-placed the literary allusions (Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, TS Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Ginsberg, and more!) were. Instead, I'm going to make this post about me.

Surprised? You shouldn't be. Once again, the fact I'm blogging is a testament to my self-absorbedness.

There was one question/quote in the book I particularly liked. For those who will read (all of you, please?), you might not want to read the quote. Unless you are OK with me ruining that moment of the book for you. Also, there is a swear. I refuse to edit it. Be warned.

As noted by Hazel, the protagonist: "I thought of my dad telling me that the universe wants to be noticed. But what we want is to be noticed by the universe, to have the universe give a shit what happens to us--not the collective idea of sentient life but each of us, as individuals."

Sigh. I love that. I love that even more within the grand scheme of the book.

When I was little, I wanted to be famous. As far as I knew, this was an absurd and unnatural desire. On several occasions, when I talked about that Great American Novel I wanted to write, or the Oscar I would win, my mother would look at me with bewilderment. She'd shake her head softly and say: 'You're the only one of my children who has wanted to be famous. That's so strange.' Or something to that effect.

Looking back at that urge now, I can identify what is was--a need to validate my existence. We all want to be loved, to be adored, to be lauded as intelligent and kind and wonderful. As a kid, I thought the only way to get that was through universal fame. Luckily, that fame didn't happen.

Which is almost so much better. Because now, with the wisdom that comes through such extreme age (sarcasm there), I recognize the kind of fame I wanted is more curse than blessing. I can, and DO, have that love and acceptance through simpler measures.

I can feel the small ways that the universe has acknowledged my existence. I receive love, often undeservedly, from my family, my darling man friend I'm engaged to, my friends, even near strangers. I have a warm corner of the world to call my own. I have acceptance, from others and, more importantly, from myself.

The beautiful thing about that little turn of events is that it's a two-way street. You can't curry favors from the universe without desperately noticing the wonders it holds. In pondering the many ways I've been individually recognized, I stand in awe. Along with having wonderful people around me, I'm also surrounded by that universal beauty. I live in a gorgeous city, one that constantly surprises me with a new glory every day. I know, and actively miss, such intelligent and interesting people back home in Utah. Luckily, I'm meeting and interacting with some pretty entertaining and talented folks here as well.

And then you start thinking on a grander scheme. This world holds SO MUCH. This is a world that has Andrew Bird, the Coen Brothers, Cormac McCarthy, Shakespeare and Coleridge and Beardsley and Emerson and the Beatles and the ancient Greeks and van Gogh and Beethoven and Thai food and Ella Fitzgerald and the X-Files and all things bright and beautiful. And sometimes it seems like they were all created solely for me. I suppose there is an argument out there that could say they were. Something discussing reality and consciousness.

But that's not the point. The point is that this universe is pretty amazing. As are the moments when that truth hits you, straight in the face, and your heart swells and bursts with the miracle of it all.