Cheetos and lost souls/Osterejer og fortabte sjæle

(scroll ned for den danske version)

This is my favorite picture of Leonard Cohen.

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I don’t know where I got, when or how. I don’t remember that anymore. I don’t even know if I’m allowed to have it or put it on here. If no, please tell me, and I’ll delete it.

It’s on my screensaver, and ever so often, it pops up on my screen among old family pictures, cute animals, clever quotes and pictures of books (yeah, yeah) and it never fails to make me smile. He’s buying  cheetos! Come on! He’s The Most Amazing Singer and Poet, he is perfection, and he is buying cheetos … If you don’t see it now, you never will.

What’s so special about it, besides it being a picture of the legendary Leonard Cohen buying cheetos? Well, off the top of my head: because it’s a picture of him being anyone and everyone. Do you know what I mean?

It reminds me that at the end of the day, after the show, when the movie is over, we’re the same. We clock out from the office, we switch off the mic, we take off the costume – and we head home. We turn off the lights, and in that dark room, all alone, there is no difference between us: we are all souls. Alone with our thoughts, nothing is hidden anymore.

These days it can be hard to remember that we’re all the same – and that we are all humans with souls. No difference between us – none better than the other.

The breaking news flashing red on my phone screen ever so often makes it even harder to remember. Waking up yesterday morning with a screen full of screaming death and terror – followed up by angst, by fear, by threats, hate and lynch mobs, by that little girl’s face, forever frozen in time for her parents to remember like that and never any older, please All That’s Good, let them remember her like that and not in the last moments – all of them, little kids, teenagers, parents waiting. Just people, just people like you and me, anyone and everyone, people who like cheetos, people going home to switch off the lights and be no different, falling asleep, dreaming.

The randomness. The insanity behind it. And please, for the sake of there ever being a chance of peace on this blue planet – please all of you STOP BLAMING RELIGION. This has NOTHING TO DO WITH RELIGION. Please, once and for all, get this into your heads! No religion on this planet condones killing! NONE! These insane souls, lost in hate, know nothing about religion, and Islam would never ever condone them. So please stop now before the people behind these attacks win.

Because this is what they want. They want the fear, the hate, the war between religions. Nothing will help them to power as much as this.

If we are to snub them out and win this we have to stand by each other across countries, cultures and religions. Shoulder by shoulder, soul by soul, hand in hand against evil.

I saw this happening in Manchester, in London, in Stockholm, in Berlin … In the midst of chaos, in the dark of terror, it happened – tick, tick – word for word – thought for thought: I am here. I can help. Take my hand. Twitter. Facebook – all those yelled-at platforms, accused of separating people and  making them cold and non-caring – it all happened here: Come to my place. I have coffee. I have food. I have a phone. I have a heart.

This is it! This is what holds up against terror. This is it exactly. It is right there: The selflessness, the empathy, the love that strings us together as human beings.

The lost souls out there, right now they make us feel helpless, targeted, unsafe. The attacks are random and apparently, they have no limits. Even kids …

And we cry because what else can we do. The horror is too great to bear, it breaks something inside of you and it feels as if it will never be light again, it will never be okay.

And I cry for all that is lost, for the dead and the hurt, for the mothers screaming out their grief. I cry for the people who had to see such a thing, those scarred for life, inside and out, the scared, the hurt, the grievers. And I cry for the people who just want to live their lives in peace, in happiness, who know nothing about this war and who want nothing to do with this. And I cry because I am so helpless in this. Because I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what can be done.

And I turn again to the messages of love and hope, the outstretched hands, those who stand up against the hate, the fear. Those who speak up and say: This is not us. This is not what we believe. And I see them lighting the stars one by one in the darkness. I see it happening and I count them, one for one, I count them and I pick up the pieces of my broken heart from the floor, telling myself that if these people can do it, so can I.

And I write this, and my screensaver pops up, and once again, Leonard is buying cheetos. We are all anyone and everyone. Even the greatest legends buy cheetos sometimes, even the evillest people have a soul. And it says it all.

Against this darkness; it is but a lost soul, an anyone and everyone who got lost out there, and we take each others hands, and we speak it, we tweet it, we post it, we stand together, we stand close to those who lost, those who grieve, and we know it, we believe it, we speak it even as we cry, knowing we must hold on, we must hold fast, we speak it:

#jesuishumanity

……………………………

Osterejer og fortabte sjæle

Dette er mit yndlingsbillede af Leonard Cohen

Jeg ved ikke, hvor jeg fik det fra, hvornår eller hvordan. Jeg kan ikke huske det mere. Jeg ved ikke engang, om jeg har lov til at have det eller putte det på her. Hvis ikke, så sig til, så sletter jeg det.

Det er på min pauseskærm, og engang imellem kommer det op på min skærm mellem gamle familiebilleder, nuttede dyr, kloge citater og billeder af bøger (ja, ja), og det får mig altid til at smile. Han køber osterejer! Hold nu op! Han er Den Mest Fantastiske Sanger og Digter, han er perfektion, og han køber osterejer … Hvis du ikke ser det nu, så ser du det aldrig.

Hvad er det, der er så specielt ved det, udover at det er et billede af den legendariske Leonard Cohen, der køber osterejer? Tja, det første, der falder mig ind, er, at det er fordi, det er et billede af ham som alle og enhver. Ved du, hvad jeg mener?

Det minder mig om, at når aftenen falder på, efter showet, når filmen er slut, så er vi ens. Vi stempler ud fra kontoret, vi slukker mikrofonen, vi tager kostumet af – og vi går hjemad. Vi slukker lyset, og i det mørke rum, helt alene, er der ingen forskel på os: vi er alle sjæle. Alene med vores tanker, intet er skjult mere.

I disse dage kan det være svært at huske, at vi alle er ens – og at vi alle er mennesker med sjæle. Ingen forskel på os – ingen bedre end den anden.

Breaking news, der blinker rødt på min telefonskærm nu og da, gør det endnu sværere at huske. At vågne i går morges med en skærm fuld af skrigende død og terror – efterfulgt af angst, af frygt, af trusler, had og lynchstemning, af den lille piges ansigt, for evigt frosset i tid så hendes forældre kan huske hende sådan og aldrig ældre, åh, Alt Der er Godt, lad dem huske hende sådan og ikke i de sidste øjeblikke – dem alle, små børn, teenagers, forældre der ventede. Bare mennesker, bare mennesker som dig og mig, alle og enhver, mennesker, der kan lide osterejer, mennesker på vej hjem for at slukke lyset og ikke være anderledes, falde i søvn, drømme.

Vilkårligheden. Vanviddet bag det. Og vær nu søde, hvis der nogen sinde skal være den mindste chance for fred på denne blå planet – vær nu søde alle sammen og STOP MED AT SKYDE SKYLDEN PÅ RELIGION. Dette har INTET MED RELIGION AT GØRE. Vær nu søde at få det ind i jeres hoveder! Ingen religion på denne planet støtter drab. INGEN! Disse vanvittige sjæle, fortabt i had, ved intet om religion, and Islam ville aldrig støtte den. Så vær nu søde at stoppe før folkene bag disse angreb vinder.

For dette er, hvad de ønsker. De ønsker angsten, hadet, krigen mellem religioner. Intet vil hjælpe dem til magten som dette.

Hvis vi skal udrydde dem og vinde dette må vi stå sammen på tværs af lande, kulturer og religioner. Skulder ved skulder, sjæl ved sjæl, hånd i hånd mod ondskab.

Jeg så dette ske i Manchester, i London, i Stockholm, i Berlin … Midt i kaos, midt i terrorens mørke, skete det – tik, tik – ord for ord – tanke for tanke: Jeg er her. Jeg kan hjælpe. Tag min hånd. Twitter. Facebook – alle disse udskældte platforme, beskyldte for at separere mennesker og gøre dem kolde og ligeglade – det hele skete her: Kom over til mig. Jeg har kaffe. Jeg har mad. Jeg har en telefon. Jeg har et hjerte.

Det er det her! Det er det her, der holder stand mod terror. Det er præcist dette. Det er lige her: Det uselviske, empatien, kærligheden, der binder os sammen som mennesker.

De fortabte sjæle derude, de får os lige nu til at føle os hjælpeløse, udsatte, usikre. Angrebene er vilkårlige og åbenbart har de ingen grænser. Endda børn …

Og vi græder, for hvad andet kan vi gøre. Rædslen er for stor at bære, den ødelægger noget indeni dig, og det føles som om, det aldrig bliver lyst igen, det bliver aldrig okay.

Og jeg græder for alt det, der er tabt, for de døde og de sårede, for mødrene der skriger deres sorg ud. Jeg græder for dem, der måtte se sådan noget, dem, der er mærket for livet, indeni og udenpå, de bange, de sårede, de sørgende. Og jeg græder for dem, som bare ønsker at leve deres liv i fred, i glæde, som intet ved om denne krig og som ikke vil have noget med den at gøre. Og jeg græder, fordi jeg er hjælpeløs i dette. Fordi jeg ikke ved, hvad jeg skal gøre. Jeg ved ikke, hvad der kan gøres.

Og igen vender jeg mig mod beskederne om kærlighed og håb, de udstrakte hænder, de, som holder stand mod hadet, frygten. Dem, som taler og siger: Dette er ikke os. Dette er ikke, hvad vi tror på. Og jeg ser dem tænde stjernerne en efter en i mørket. Jeg ser det ske, og jeg tæller dem, en efter en, jeg tæller dem, og jeg samler stykkerne af mit knuste hjerte op fra gulvet, mens jeg fortæller mig selv, at hvis disse mennesker kan gøre det, så kan jeg også.

Og jeg skriver dette, og min pauseskærm kommer på, og igen køber Leonard Cohen osterejer. Vi er alle alle og enhver. Selv de største legender køber osterejer engang imellem, selv de ondeste mennesker har en sjæl. Og det siger alt.

Mod dette mørke; det er blot en fortabt sjæl, en alle og enhver, som blev væk derude, og vi tager hinandens hænder, og vi siger det, vi tweeter det, vi poster det, vi står sammen, vi står tæt omkring dem, som mistede, dem, som sørger, og vi ved det, vi tror på det, vi siger det selvom vi græder, velvidende at vi må holde ved, vi må holde fast, vi siger det:

#jesuishumanity

 

 

 

 

 

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The Lion, the warrior and the dandelions

I love it when the housing association doesn’t cut the grass. I hear the rumbling and growling of voices around the neighborhood. They get angry. They call the association and demand they send out a guy to cut the grass immediately. The dandelions are growing wild. They will spread into their oh-so-neat gardens …

I love the dandelions, strong and high and yellow, like tiny triumphant suns, stretching their heads toward the sky. The grass has grown into tuffs and bumps, uneven, reaching half up my shins. The various flowers finally gaining room in this green bed, the bumblebees finding food and hiding spots, navigating between the tuffs, humming happily.

When the housing association finally sends the man, everything’s gone. It’s like Farewell to Shady Glade. Did you read that? It hurts every time and reminds me that at heart I haven’t changed one bit since I was a child.

The rebel part of me. The warrior. Peter, Julian, they’re still right there, wanting to do right, wanting to save the world. Funny how I was always Peter or Julian, never Lucy or Anne, never worn to play the princess.

On the horizon, I see no Aslan coming to help save the dandelions. I’m on my own with this one. The sword is deep in the drawer, I fight another kind of battle these days.

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As time goes by

Strange phenomenon, time. Lately, it’s been on my mind a lot. My babies are all of a sudden independent, strong-willed, opinionated kids; everything I want them to be, but growing so fast and at the same time, forming a life away from me, not by default following my path. They look at the world around them, see it with their own eyes and form their own opinion on it. They have dreams and thoughts of their own, and all of a sudden, they have become other people, individuals.

Spring come before winter has even begun; and it was just summer. Was it two weeks ago we came back from summer vacation? No, that was 8 months. How did 8 months happen in two weeks? How can it almost be the kids’ birthday again? It was just last month, not a year ago.

Didn’t I just buy bread? How was that last week? Is the dog really turning 8? She was just a puppy.

It spins, faster and faster. There are suddenly a wealth of grey hair interlacing the brown ones. Did I always have this wrinkle on my forehead? You cannot seriously be sending me an invitation to your 40th birthday! We went to high-school together. There’s no way we’re turning 40 …

I cannot be 40 with kids starting school. I know in my heart, in the root of my very soul that I’m only 26. 27 at the most. I haven’t changed at all. I feel the same way, think the same way. Well, I do remember turning 30. The wedding. Getting pregnant. Yes, I believe that did happen at 30 – 31. But 39? What happened to 32 – 38?

There are so many things I still need to do, experience, achieve. My bucket list isn’t even half done.

I’m the second oldest generation in the family. They are all gone, the others. My grandmothers, grandfathers, their siblings, the uncles and aunts, their laughter from the family parties still ringing in my ears. Their dresses and nice, but sensible shoes. The weight of their hands on my head as they said hello. The little presents they withdrew from their handbags. I’m still the kid at the end of the table, sipping soda as they discuss politics and the economy, earning 5 kroner for walking the dog as they continue talking, falling asleep on two chairs pushed together as the evening grows thin.

I’m the annoying teenager, laughing too loudly on the bus on the way to town, being silly, following the pack and thinking way too late about the consequences. Unsure, insecure, trying to keep up and keep on. Falling in love and crashing headfirst into reality. Trying my own feet, carrying my own weight, and time just keeps rolling, rolling.

Getting serious, getting a job, getting a place, getting a boyfriend, getting burned, getting lost, getting nothing or getting it all.

Getting here. Spinning too fast.

And I don’t get it.

 

 

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This is the song …

… for tonight. You’ll always be part of my universe, Leonard ❤

 

 

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Consistency

Today it’s actually snowing. You would think that’s normal for winter time, but these last many years, we haven’t had much snow. When I think back to my childhood, it seems in winter it was always snowing. I remember meter high piles, snow caves, snowball fights, snowmen and hands frozen blue. Now there’s next to no snow. When we moved to Århus two years ago, there was a weekend with snow. We took the kids sleighing, pushing them down the steep hill in their bob sleighs, they were laughing so much. But it was only one weekend then the snow was gone.
When I think about it, the same goes for summer. In my childhood, summer was endless sun, trips to the beach, running around in shorts and t-shirts, getting tanned in the first few days of summer. Now the sunny days are few in summer – it’s all rain and wind.
The four seasons in Denmark aren’t so consistent anymore. Or is it my memory? My thoughts are dragging towards global warming, but I don’t want to write about that. I want to write about consistency, about how things change, about how you change as time goes by.
I have changed a lot; even in the past few years I have changed. When I think back to childhood, to teenage years and even to my early thirties, I have changed. I am not the same person anymore.Or maybe I am the same, but how I think about myself has changed. I don’t have the same opinions or the same thoughts, even. Life is utterly different now. And of course it is. I have kids now, I am married, I work full-time and keep up an everyday with packed lunches, driving the kids to kindergarten, walking the dog, cleaning and cooking dinner besides work. There is little time left for philosophical wondering, let alone writing about it.
The four season have changed, they are less simple, and so am I. Less simple. As you get older, life gets more complex. You take things into consideration that you didn’t even know existed when you were twenty, or a kid. Is that what they call wisdom? Or is it some kind of default complexity that kicks in as you learn more about the world.
Some days I wish for simplicity. I wish for meter high snow; my only concern being whether I can build a snowman before mom calls me in for dinner. I see this simplicity in my children and I adore it.
I wish for consistency; winter being winter and children being children. I wish for a simpler world. Maybe it is already so, the complexity being only in my mind.
I look at my kids, so beautiful, and outside the window, the world is powdered white with newly fallen snow. I should start thinking about dinner, trying to keep energy up so I can write on my new novel tonight. Yes, I’ll do that. That’s simple. For one thing, this is consistency: I do love writing.

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Currently reading

On Goodreads there’s a feature called currently reading where you can track the book you’re currently reading even down to the page number. I have never used this feature. I rarely get around to adding new books to Goodreads, let alone currently reading, and I have realized, I will never get around to adding every book I own or every book I have ever read. How could I possibly remember?

My perfectionist mind would love to keep track of everything like this, but I couldn’t possibly keep track, I don’t get around to it often enough, and I would never be able to sit down, backtrack and remember all the books I borrowed, bought and otherwise came across in my life. How great would it be, though, to have such a list?

Just like scents, books carry memories. I have memories colored by the book I was reading when they happened, and certain events in my life are remembered with the mood brought to me by stories I was experiencing by reading them at that certain time. I’m sure you know what I mean. Seeing a book cover will instantly bring back memories and moods from that time, and I know that just like scents, songs and places, books will never be able to escape the time in which they were read.

Currently reading; yes, seeing the cover of the Never-ending Story, I’m instantly transported to my childhood room in Odense, bed lamp on, shelf above the bed with a few books, a glass of water, tiny window letting in the grayish light of late dusk, the feeling of holding up the heavy volume, reading fast knowing my mom would soon call out for lights out.

In Odense many years later, rushing off in the morning on my bike to get to work by 8, too little sleep again, nights full of Anne Rice’s amazing vampires. Another time, in the apartment I shared with my sister, the feeling of a sun-ray through the window on my feet, half-lying on the black couch, reading Harry Potter and not bothering to hide my tears when Snape died, my sister would understand too well how my heart could break from a story. Another time, another world, sitting on the garden stairs, late spring blooming, green everywhere, the first roses and cherry blossoms, reading Karen Blixen, the garden in my teen home earlier on, a blanket on the grass, reading Ib Michael, the train to Odense, reading Tolstoy, the sofa corner at uni, reading Chekhov, the apartment in Århus, reading Auster, reading Tolle, reading, always reading.

At the moment, I have Irving on the sofa table, Murakami on the shelf, Munroe on the nightstand alongside Nabokov, Chekhov, Zafon and a bunch of unopened ones. The never-ending story of books, the never-ending to-read list. What a wonderful world.

 

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What I talk about when I talk about literature.

Do you remember what it was like when you were a kid and an adult would read aloud to you? Do you remember how it felt as if you were in a completely different world, each word spoken, each word you heard, formed an image, not in front of you, but around you; you were immersed in the story, you lived in another world.

To me it was torture whenever the adult stopped reading. “Enough for now.” It was never enough. Luckily, I fairly quickly could read on my own. Hiding beneath the covers with a flashlight when the adults had said: Go to sleep now. No more reading. But I needed just another chapter, and another. Never enough.

It really hasn’t changed much. Well, except no one tells me to go to sleep now. I’m aware of the consequences on my own, though, watching the clock ticking forward, knowing another day is approaching hastily, but I need just another chapter.

That feeling – that’s what I talk about when I talk about literature: the being immersed in another world, being swallowed whole, losing consciousness in the “real” world and living for a moment, a few hours, in another.

In my master thesis I wrote about how objects of art, paintings, books, sculptures, interact with the consciousness of people and how this meeting between art and consciousness has the power to change a person. Using the theories of Mikel Dufrenne and Jacques Rancière I showed how Leonard Cohen’s songs, for example, can change the (political) world.

The story of the song is echoed in the simple music, the simple set-up, which points the audience’s attention to the images. This combination of the song and the attention of the audience create the aesthetic object that leads to affect. A broken world unfolds and feelings of fear, anger, distrust, and inevitability reveal themselves. The audience retreats from the meeting with the song and its expression, and these feelings remain with a possibility to change how the audience perceives the world. The song points to these wrongs in the world. It points to how the world is driven by greed and lust, and how it is difficult to keep one’s balance in such a chaos.

The song takes on the shape of an appeal to people. The speaker of the song is trying to choose between life and death, he sees a broken world, people driven by lust and greed, and how these people pass this on to their children along with myths of enmity and need for fight. By way of the images, Cohen shows how human beings are small compared to the universe, yet they have the power to change their world. And this is exactly what the song can do by way of affect and dissensus. The audience is left with the feelings of these horrors happening in the world, and they retract to their world to look upon it with a different perspective.

In the song “Anthem,” we come upon a slightly different tactic in Cohen’s art. As usual, he depicts how the world is broken and at war, but instead of opposing this obvious wrong, he shows how this cyclic state will never change. This is a part of the human conditioning, there will always be conflicts, there will always be fights and hurt in the world. As opposed to “Democracy” and “Stories of the Street,” the song “Anthem” offers a solution. The solution lies in love, in turning towards love, which, as Cohen predicts, every human heart will do eventually. However, they might not do this voluntarily, but as refugees. In my analysis of “Anthem,” I show how this line is very important. It creates a rupture, which according to Rancière is essential to create affect and dissensus.

The song “Anthem” is a perfect example of how Cohen uses the concept of love to create affect. It shows how love, used both as a positive and as a negative, is an emotion that moves everybody. The song also presents Cohen’s idea on the highest form of spiritual love as a goal and an ending point for everything. This is where you transcend the world and the human condition.

In the song, Cohen both embraces and pushes away the world. He cannot be a part of it anymore but at the same time, he says the “killers in high places” will hear from him. Although he knows it will never change, he will not let it happen without speaking up about it.

The song shows how art can make a different. It shows how it creates affect in the audience and possibly changes how they perceive the world. The song becomes political due to the rupture, according to Rancière. The rupture creates affect and moves the audience. When the audience is moved, they might see how the police order keeps certain things invisible and how they are excluded from governing and power.

By showing the many forms of love both in “Anthem” and other songs, Cohen points to what is normally invisible to those excluded. He points to the lack of equality and freedom, to how people are victims of poverty, crime, violence, etc. He also points to the idea of spiritual love as a solution, not to save the world, but to transcend the human condition.

“Anthem” as well as the other songs is heavy with imagery and the intense poetic language that is characteristic for Cohen. It is clearly crafted to create affect, to play on emotions, build up a world in the imagination of the reader/listener and leave them changed. There is great intensity in the images and words, they come together as images rather than language, and they show possible worlds, as Dufrenne says. Whereas “Democracy” and “Stories of the Street” seem to leave the audience in a bleak state, “Anthem” offers a hope. The imperfections of the world, the flaws of human kind become their hope. Through the failures, light enters the mind, and this is where you can overcome the world.

“And that’s how I want to end it. The summer’s almost gone. The winter’s tuning up. Yeah, the summer’s gone, but a lot goes on forever”[1]

From language to imagination, from affect to dissensus, and from dissensus to a possible change of perception, poetry turns to politics. With the theories of Mikel Dufrenne and Jacques Rancière, I have analyzed Cohen’s songs to show how the carefully crafted poetry by way of the audience’s imagination can influence how we look upon the organization of the sensible: who are allowed to speak, what is visible and what is not, and how can we change how the sensible is distributed in our world by way of true politics.

 

And this is what I talk about when I talk about literature. The power of the written word, the power of the worlds created in our imagination, the emotion that can be transferred from a book to a reader, the intensity of a few lines of a poem, the way you can read something, look up and feel like another person. This is power. This is perfection!

From Narnia to Harry Potter to Tolkien to Ib Michael to Tolstoy to Umberto to Satanic Verses and Kite Runners. I have wandered through the World of Books, the Universe of Stories, not from one end to the other, but around and around, one corner to the other, changing, learning. We learn when we read, it’s not just about the entertainment, it’s about how we for a moment in time can be someone else, can feel differently, can see through another person’s eyes. Be it good or bad, smart or dumb, big or small, reading brings perspective, perspective makes you a better person, as does empathy, which is another great by-product of reading.

Don’t just sit there. Go read a book.

 

 

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I’m gonna change the world today

Today I want to write about our world. I want to write about how we could all be happy here. I want to write something that will change how we live, something that can make people stop, think and change.

I want to write something so powerful it will make a dent in conventional thinking, something that will change a million people, or maybe just one. Just one would be good.

My brilliant friend across the water, Richard Bach, wrote this once: Happiness is the reward we get for living to the highest right we know. I bet that sentence changed a million people or more.

I don’t know what to write to change just one.

I know he is right, though. When we live to the highest right we know, we become happy. When we are happy, we change the world for the better. I know that when you live in happiness, it affects the world around you, happiness is contagious. You attract happy when you are happy, and you give off happiness to those who come near you. What can I write to make just one person happy?

I could write about the beauty of our world, the happiness found in life itself, in family, friends, in children. I could write about the intoxicating joy you feel when holding the hand of your child, the thrill of love you feel when looking into the eyes of your loved one, that joyful laughter you experience when in the company of your good friends. Is that enough to change the world?

Imagine every person going home today, deciding this is enough. Imagine everyone deciding that life really is that simple.

Imagine it is that simple. Then know it is that simple.

Follow your heart, they say. Try it just for a few days and see what happens.

I want to change the world today. I will start with a smile.

 

 

 

 

 

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A mother’s child

I wonder what your mother saw, cradling you in her arms in the middle of the night, your face softly lit up by the light of the moon coming through the window, the entire house asleep but you two. Rocking you quietly, singing, maybe a song her mother once sang to her. Looking into your eyes then, loving your tiny face, your tiny hands, too tired maybe from having a new baby to imagine how your life would be, but surely knowing deep in her heart that you’d make the world a little better, a little warmer, the same way you’d just now magically made her heart explode with love like she’d never felt before, made her cry tears of pure emotion simply because that feeling of love couldn’t be expressed in any other way, no words, no signs to explain how enormous this love, and there you are in her arms looking straight back at her, so tiny, so helpless. Yet you changed the entire world. Did she have any idea that night, back then, gazing at this tiny bundle of innocence, that one day you would do such a thing?

Did you have brothers and sisters? Did you love them? Oh, how they loved you. When you played in those lazy afternoons, summers outside basking in the sun, chasing each other, the smell of warm grass, the coolness of hiding places and the giggles so hard to repress when they got so close, so close, to finding you where you hid. The sheer excitement of hearing them calling your name to come play. The sticky, warm feeling in your palm, the security, the blind trust, when holding hands and walking together. The loyalty, helping each other, the rush of adrenalin, that surge of love bursting your heart, running to come to their aid, were they falling, were they being chased by the bigger kids, did they get stuck, but you came, you always came to help them, your heart racing as fast as your legs, knowing no love bigger than this.

And mother’s soothing touch, resting on your head, your shoulder, cradling your hand, the sound of her voice calming you, calling you in, calling for dinner, or waking you in the morning. The safest place in this world, mother’s eyes, mother’s hand. Did she know then? Did your brothers and sisters know, somehow, somewhere, a tiny speck of ice in their hearts when they saw you, a moment frozen in time, wondering, did they have any idea? Did they ever think you’d grow up to this?

Did you have a father somewhere? Was he ever there, a mountain of strength, a booming voice, giant hands coming down from above to secure your first steps in this world. Did he tell you about the wonders in this world, why the sky is blue, how they get the bricks to hold on to each other when building high, so high. Did he teach you about being a man, that strange world of loyalty and courage, of responsibilities and brotherhood. Did he make you feel loved? Did you silently tell yourself you wanted to grow up and be just like him, a hero in your eyes.

And what about friends? Did you have any? Did you know that special feeling of true friendship, the willingness to do anything, whatever it takes, to help each other? Did you ever lie awake in the night, planning an event to surprise your friend, imagining their face lighting up in pure joy, the excitement you’d feel, that bubbly feeling in your stomach seeing someone you love be overtaken with happiness.

Did you ever feel happiness?

And did you fall in love, finally grown up, entering that roaring world of the adults, the craziness, the responsibilities, and the work. Did you see that special someone, suddenly across from you, and did you feel your world tilt beneath you, pulling you down and into the whirlpool of love. How everything else suddenly didn’t matter, how only this one person could ever make you happy. Did you ever feel this?

Did you ever feel anything?

And where are they now? Your mother, your father, your brothers and sisters, your friends, your loved one … Did they ever know you’d come to this? And do they think today, if only we’d known, we could have done something, we could have changed something, if only we had known we could have stopped him. Is your mother crying today? Did you realize at any point you’d be breaking her heart? No matter her side in this, she lost you today. You’re gone. Only your deed is left behind.

Does she wonder, your mother, does she think: if I’d known this, I would have killed him that night. I would have closed those tiny eyes and never let him take another breath in this world. I wouldn’t have let him live, my baby, my love, if I had known he would do this. Did I know? Was there something in his eyes, those innocent eyes, something foretelling this would happen?

No.

Something changed you along the way. Something must have broken your beautiful heart, made it grow so sad, so full of hatred. Did you know that hatred is nothing but unrequited love? Someone didn’t love you enough, or maybe you didn’t love yourself. Someone made you believe that love isn’t enough in this world, someone made you believe that hatred is true. Those forked tongues telling you that everything you once believed is a lie, telling you the hatred is true, making you believe those days of laughter and sunshine were false. What did they do to you to change you, to blind you to the beauty of our world, to make you believe you could make this world better by way of hate?

I wonder about your mother today. Is she here? Did she see you do this? Did she see you, eyes full of hatred, a heart so cold, and did she remember cradling you, her tiny baby, and did she wonder, her heart in a thousand pieces, how it ever came to this? Is she crying now, your mother, as everything is lost?

I know she is watching this, a blurry screen of tears, the TV repeating those videos from the scene. I know she is counting every bullet hole in that wind screen, wondering how many pierced your body, which one finally killed you. Your brothers and sisters, holding each other, crying, silently or sobbing with grief. Why? How? I never knew he could do this. I never imagined he could do this. How could he do this? Your friends, frozen in their step, staring at that screen revealing what happened. Remembering days of play, days of long conversations, rewinding memories to see if they can come to a point where maybe they knew, where maybe you revealed you could someday come to this. And they wonder, did we know? Could we have done something differently? And they think of your mother, your brothers and sisters, your father. Maybe they go over there, wringing their hands, shy eyes to the grief of the family, so overwhelming.

And you’re dead now. The forked tongues are rejoicing and the mothers are crying. So many lives lost to the false hatred of one man.

In those last moments, were there even one speck of regret or doubt? Did you know in your final second in this world that you were doing wrong? Did you think, in that last moment, the bullets piercing you, your heart slowing to a stop, did you think of the way your mother used to hold your hand, caress your cheek, did you remember the light in her eyes when she looked at you, all that love, that endless love of a mother. Did you miss her just then? Did you wish she was there to hold you, to soothe you, to tell you it’s alright, it’ll be alright, I’m here, I’m always here. Did you stop your hatred for a second, long enough, to wonder about all the mothers of the people in front of your truck? Did you realize, maybe in the last second, what you were doing, how you were killing mothers and children, fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and loved ones. Did you realize, even for a second, that there is no way hatred can ever create a better world for anyone, not you, not the forked tongues, not anyone.

And in that split-second of realizing this, did you wish you’d gone home that day, chosen another path. Did you wish you’d gone home to your mother, told her about the forked tongues, told her you’d met them, but never wanted to go there again. Did you wish you’d joined your brother instead, spent an hour or two talking, laughing, did you wish you’d gone to see your friends, mystified by the forked tongues, but knowing it would end in tears, turned your back on them, found a way, a different path, choosing love over hatred, choosing a quiet life of doing what you could to make the world better. Did you wish, your last breath leaving your body, that you’d chosen love instead?

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Just another girl

I recently stumbled upon a book named “The Girl on the Train”, while browsing the bookstore for birthday presents, i.e. Stephen King (all hail to the King) books for a friend. It was on sale, not very cheap, but still on sale, and even though I rarely buy new books, as I prefer second-hand, I bought this one for myself, adding it to the basket of King volumes. It was a strange thing for me to do for so many reasons: As mentioned, I rarely buy new books, and I rarely buy books I haven’t somehow been recommended through trustworthy sources, and even more, I rarely, as in never, buy books from the crime section. But there was something about this one. I had come across the title so many times in the past months. I had seen it mentioned over and over while browsing literary blogs, articles, news, etc. And it had caught my attention enough now to be put in my basket.

Luckily for this book, I was on my own in town, and I had some time to kill, which meant I was having lunch on my own before travelling home by bus. Lunch + bus ride means a lot of time for a new book, and I am a fast reader. Before I reached my house, I was almost half through the volume. And I was not very willing to stop reading even though home means kids, dinner, vacuuming, etc. I hurried to vacuum and pick up the kids so I could get back to the book. I managed to read for another hour and a half in the garden while the kids played and then I had to wait until after dinner when the kids were asleep. I didn’t go to sleep myself until I had finished the book.

This may not sound very unusual for other readers but for me it’s quite unusual to be able to finish a book in a day, especially a normal day with lots of other things to do. But I put aside everything I possibly could and just read. This book had something, that special something. The X-factor of books. It wasn’t my genre, not my normal preferred style, nothing normal, really, for me. But it was so good.

All this just to say that you’ll finally see me recommending a crime book. Off you go, now. Go and buy Paula Hawkins “The Girl on the Train.” You won’t be sorry.

 

 

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