Who are you?

I went to this school for seven years, which together with my first address gave me many stories.
I went to this school for seven years, which together with my first address gave me many stories.

I sometimes think that it would have been an exciting project to read through all the bookshelves in the library. The one we have in my hometown is small enough that it probably would have been possible during a lifetime, even for a slow reader like myself. I quickly dismiss the idea because I realize the amount of candy I would have to eat, and some of them are pretty tasteless. Even too much of the candy I like is boring.

I like a good detective story, but this is an extremely popular genre in Scandinavia, and there is a fair amount of quite boring books. This desire to take advantage of our appetite for murder has made many books just as entertaining as a soap opera that has spewed out episodes and actors since the 1970’s. The library also has a few titles it would be hard to get rid of because they are the library’s literary alibis in a way. Many people think that books like Moby Dick, Frankenstein, The Great Gatsby, Walden and The Catcher in the Rye are the best books they haven’t read. There are quite a few disappointed people left when they finally do get around to reading these books.

That doesn’t mean they are not worth reading. I find some of these books fascinating, but different people have different tastes. When I googled “boring books” I found a list of books on Goodreads that many people had contributed to. This tells you how different we are because I really enjoyed books like On the Road (Jack Kerouac), The Jungle Book (Kipling), Lord of the Rings (Tolkien) and Sense and Sensibility (Austen), but they were all on the list. I think these books are worth reading, but they belong to another time and another reader. Reading for example Jane Austen requires more from you than reading Nora Roberts, and authors like Shakespeare and Dickens are not effortless today. They are, admittedly, harder for me than for people from English speaking countries, but I think everyone struggles more with these authors than contemporary ones. It’s not just about the language. I might explore Jane Austen’s dark side in a later post, and I believe she has one. I would probably have added Ernest Hemmingway to the list on Goodreads. I have a feeling that many place him on a literary “bucket list”, but I just find his books incredibly boring. We should be different, and there should be people that would miss Hemingway if his books disappeared, and clearly there are.

This is a quote I find redeeming, though:

The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong at the broken places.

The US Vice President, Joe Biden, used this quote in his speech at the Democratic National Convention recently. He had ambitions to become president himself, but there were probably several reasons why he decided not to fight for the nomination. His son died of a brain tumor, so he probably knows what he’s talking about.

A program about my life would have gone back to these low rises where I grew up in the 1970's. It looks idyllic, but was a difficult place
A program about my life would have gone back to these low rises where I grew up in the 1970’s. It was in some ways as idyllic as it looks, but it was also a difficult place.

Many people today show a perfect image of themselves on facebook or their blog, including the pink bloggers that are celebrated as role models for young girls. The problem with the official version of ourselves is that it can limit us. We are vulnerable, because that is what we are when we know we are not perfect, but still willing to show the world our weaknesses. Showing a perfect picture of yourself is problematic because it can lead to some serious anxiety. You could become afraid of failing. That increases the chance of not trying. I’m not hiding the fact that it is my dream to become an author, and as always with dreams it requires a lot of work. So I’m working hard to make that dream come true. Perfection kills creativity and it is possible I will succeed because I have no perfection to offer. I believe I can make a strong attempt because I know I am not perfect. That may sound absurd, but a less perfect life could be a more interesting one.

The Norwegian state channel (our PBS) had a serious of interviews in 1991. I watched one of them recently because they are available for streaming. The interviews with some of the most known people in Norway at the time were called Who are you?  Most people think more about who they want others to see, or who they think others want to see. It takes courage to show the real you, or to move to a different place, and submitting a manuscript to a publishing house would be a scary place for me. It is still the weak spots Hemmingway wrote about that will get me there. That’s where the courage and stories come from. I think that’s what people want to read; not a perfect life. Not always at least, but even I like the perfect lives of Jane and Elizabeth Bennett sometimes. I also like heroes like Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins because they have so many flaws, but still succeed. The title from one of the Star Trek films has always fascinated me: The Undiscovered Country. That’s where I want to go, but it’s a daunting and arduous process.

There is only one thing I am certain of; life is going to kill me. Before I get that far there are many undiscovered countries I want to explore. Courage or lack of it will decide how succesful I am.

Vulnerability: Getting strong in the broken places

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