Sympathy for the devil

I’m not sure what I should call it. It’s not merely an interest, I would say. Nor an obsession – seems a little heavy. A passion also feels wrong somehow. But it’s definitely something that’s been on my mind: the world wars.

Of late, I think of the wars, the impact they’ve had, the people involved, the decisions made, the ramifications that still reverberate to this very day. And the possibility of it happening again. Maybe it’s Trump. Maybe it’s Brexit. But to me, I feel a stirring in the world. Something’s changed. Something’s different. It’s like we’re on the brink of something and it’s put me on edge.

Whatever it is, it’s made me look into both real accounts and fictionalised stories, detailing these wars. My latest venture into the foray of European and American misery has been The Man in the High Castle, which just had season 2 drop in its entirety on Amazon Prime. I’d seen the first season last year, thought it was “nice”, figured I’d go for season 2 when it came out, but kind of left it at that.

This weekend, I re-viewed the first season, to get myself back into this horror world where the Nazis and the Japanese agressors won instead of the Allied forces. Season 1 is… Scary, sure, but mostly very far removed from our own reality. The evil guys very much feel like the evil guys. And the resistance are easy to sympathise with, imagining they are “us”, the viewers. Which is exactly why I used to think this was a “nice” show in the past. It was all very clear cut and dry. No excessive thinking required.

But now… Season 2 has changed things. The agressors have been humanised. There’s a bigger picture. I don’t know when it happened, but gradually throughout these past 48 hours I have started to root for the man who gassed a woman and her two kids early on in season 1 without a real cause. And the man at the head of the SS in the American Reich has become someone I look up to, someone I admire for his strength and even his values. Naturally, it’s partly the actors delivering on outstanding material that makes it easy to sympathise with the devils. But it’s also the humanisation of monsters. In a way, you could say, every monster has a soul. Somewhere. Hidden deep inside, underneath layers and layers of filth, struggling to survive. But survive it always does. And that’s a scary thought: because are monsters still monsters when we know they have souls?

And that raises another interesting question: is it right of us to easily vilify anyone we feel acts as a monster? Do they not also have a soul? A good side? A side worthy of a chance, no matter how slim it is, at a better life? At the end of season 1, one of the characters makes a decision based on that very belief: thinking that no matter what someone else has done, they deserve a shot. She bets on hope. She bets on people. She bets on a better future, no matter how unlikely it is. And for argument’s sake, the show has proved her right to do so. Her actions reverberate into season 2 and, in the end, help save millions of lives.

I remember thinking, a year ago, that The Man in the High Castle was a piece of dystopian fiction. Most people might still view it as such, even after the realisation that some of the shows’ worst nightmares are human beings with people they love and who they want to protect. But I, for one, will definitely no longer see it as dystopian. Because no matter how bad it gets in the Pacific States or the American Reich, no matter the hatred and fear some of the characters have to endure, there’s at least one woman who continues to believe in her fellow men. I fail to see anything dystopian in that. I find that belief of hers to be very utopian indeed. And we could use some of that in our own lives, I’d say.

Wouldn’t you agree?

c4zd3ngjwlycjpg-a2d335_1280w

Breathless

It’s the calm before the storm. It’s the moment before the wind will pick up speed, making the waves crash against the cliff walls. It’s the time where I hold my breath, knowing there is no other way to go but with both feet forward, taking a plunge into the deep. I feel like I’ve been running for so long and now I’m at a standstill. There’s no way back. And the way ahead may prove to be filled with some tricky waters. I can’t do anything but wait a little longer, until I’m breathless and I have to swim my way back up to survive.

Everyone has good days. And everyone has bad days. You need to experience both in order to distinguish between the two. Perhaps most staggering of all is when they follow up on each other at a breakneck speed, but perhaps it’s only normal. When you go high that fast, you will fall down in equal measure. And that’s okay.

These are the days I will remember. They are the days I will memorize in my mind, in my heart, in writing, in music, in whatever medium I can find. Whether good or bad, it’s the intense days that remind me of what it means to be alive. I’ve had too many flatline-days: days that don’t make a difference in the grand design. Days that don’t make your heart skip, but where it keeps flatlining at a steady beep. A dime a dozen, I suppose. Days that you’ve forgotten before the clock has struck midnight to announce a new sunrise ahead. They are not the days when inspiration will hit. They are not the days where my mind will soar, for better or worse, and bring with it all that I have pouring out.

*

Today I will remember. Today I know that I am breathless. I am immobile. I am in hiding. And I am trapped. Because I know what lies ahead. And yet I have no clue at all. There is a vast landscape ahead of me, filled with uncharted territories. In some I may find joy, others might bring grief and worse, some could forebode danger. For all intents and purposes, I suppose that is what growing into adulthood feels like. In the past I’ve acknowledged fears about it, as well as the excitement coursing through my veins, but never my inability to make it feel real in my head. I don’t how to make something feel real when I’ve never, not once, experienced it before. Again, this is a day where the range of the human emotional spectrum astounds me. To be honest, if I could, I would draw up a cocoon around me and let that be my safe world. Like a safe blanket, which ruffles softly against my toes and can be held close without fear of suffocation. I’d be alright living life as a caterpillar. Not everyone is meant to be a butterfly, least of all me. But there is no return ticket on the clock that is otherwise known as life.

I’ve read that some cultures see time as a circular motion. That’s in stark contrast to here in the West, where time is linear. There is a beginning. And there is an ending. And you can only go one way. Perhaps my lungs will kick in again if I familiarize myself with a circular way of viewing time. Perhaps that will take the pressure off and my chest can rise once more. Yes, this Western world of ours might have all the technology “inferior worlds” are still lacking… But we have a terrifying notion of growing older. And in that respect, we could learn so, so much. Because not only do we radically judge all human beings at the first sight of wrinkles, but we teach our children that there is a limited amount of time where you can “live your life to the fullest”.

When you are a kid, you cannot wait to be tall. When you are a teenager, you cannot wait to be taken seriously. When you reach your twenties, the full weight of adulthood hits you like a flatiron against your skull. But in your thirties you already start feeling like your best years are behind you. By the time forty looms around the corner, you’re due for your midlife crisis, because that’s when you’re deemed “old enough” for it. And anyone past fifty is considered old, in mind, body and spirit. A fate worse than death, I think. So I say… I say we revolt. I say we yank the rug out from under society’s norms and values and choose our own. I say we choose our own damn fate. Our own damn path. And I say we do not wait too long, before it is too late. A final statement, which I hope will be seen for the irony it depicts.

*

I am not going to divulge my secrets today. Not here. Not to the world. I will not spill the details on the innermost workings of my soul. Not today. Whether high or low, today will be remembered only by me. And through my experiences, I grow. Through my memory of those experiences, I learn. And today, I have learned many a thing. Maybe the most important one being that you can never go home again. Not that home is unsafe or unfamiliar, but it holds no more new experiences. Which translates in a standstill once more. So I will go forward soon. And I pray that the dreams I chase and the doors I choose are the right ones. But in all fairness, the world isn’t perfect. And my life has never been a fairytale. So I can only hope that, when I do start breathing again, I will feel my pulse quicken once again.

From down in the valleys below, anyone with enough willpower can rise. So here I go. Any minute now…