(*throws himself bodily from the nightmare that is college apps and summer homework and soccer tryouts and schedules and la;skdfas and escapes into the blog to ramble as is his wont when he’s stressed and/or bored and/or feeling contemplative*)
Disclaimer: what follows will probably be stream of consciousness and incoherent and generally exactly what you expect from a teenager writing as much for himself as anyone else.
So. Right. Post writing. I’ve had inordinate amounts of free time since I got back from Carnegie Mellon a few weeks ago (summer and all that), and I just got done reading Looking For Alaska (if you haven’t read it, go read it now. It’s quick, and it’s worth reading. Yes, it’s “Young Adult fiction.” No, I don’t care if you’re an adult. YA writing is sometimes worth reading for adults too, because you don’t know everything either 😉 ). And it’s put me in one of my weird rambly philosophical moods, thinking about, well, life, the universe, and everything.
Here be spoilers:
I’ve rambled and blathered about how a lot of giftedness is just being “more.” Well, that’s true. But so is being a teenager. Gifted teenagers are even worse about it (god have mercy on our parents and teachers and the people who for some inexplicable reason put up with us as friends), but all teenagers do it. Small things, for no reason discernible from outside of our own heads, provoke tremendous emotional responses. I don’t just mean the stupid high school drama crap (although that’s part of it). Some things carry a very disproportionate amount of power in my mind. I’ve constructed images of how things are, or could be, or should be, and when through some strange coincidence that image coincides particularly well with the real world, it can have a profound impact on me. And the same holds true for books. When things line up right in a book, it can have a tremendous impact on me, when even only very much cherrypicked details fit my life, it can hit hard. When things line up with my image of how things should be, same deal. I guess that’s part of why the book hit me hard.
Right. Rambling introduction that didn’t actually explain anything done. ONWARD!
So, Alaska hit home on several points. “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?” Alaska wonders if the labyrinth was life or death, and later decides that it was in fact neither, but was suffering. Before she dies/kills herself, she answers it “Straight and Fast.” Her answer was that you damn the labyrinth, damn the turns, damn the walls, you do what you want, and you don’t let suffering confine you. At first glance it seems to be just the “life fast, die young” mentality (supported by the fact that she drives “straight and fast” into a car, killing herself), but I think that Green (and Alaska) is too smart for that. I think it’s much more powerful. Like I said, it’s not “run headlong into the wall,” it’s “damn the wall, it can’t stop me, it can’t confine me, I will live free, unbent by suffering and pain.” It doesn’t mean that you ignore pain or pretend that it doesn’t exist, it means that you don’t let it control your life. You break free, straight and fast, you break fast by being truly alive.
It has an appeal, doesn’t it? And probably more than teenagers than to anyone else. Break free from your chains, break free from your restraints, and live as you wish you could. It fits with teenagers’ moreness. He even says it.
And if Alaska took her own life, that is the hope I wish I could have given her. Forgetting her mother, failing her mother and her friends and herself–those are awful things, but she did not need to fold into herself and self-destruct. Those awful things are survivable, because we are as indestructible as we believe ourselves to be. When adults say, ‘Teenagers think they are invincible’ with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are.
That’s the essence of it. That’s how it feels. It doesn’t matter whether it’s true, it matters whether it is believed. That belief drives teenagers to do tremendously stupid things, but also to do tremendously wonderful things. Who feels more acutely the pain of loss? Who feels more acutely the joy of friendship? The volume’s turned up, the engine’s revved, the speedometer far over to the right, in our emotions and in our actions.
And really, is that so bad? Is life lived with the radio dial turned up such a bad thing? It isn’t live fast and die young, it’s live magnificent and die happy. Sure, feeling more means feeling pain worse, but isn’t all the joy in life more than enough to outweigh the pain?
*spins steeringwheel and flies off at a 90 degree angle to talk about something else*
Why is Alaska (the girl, not the book) so appealing? Why is she such a powerful character? By all means, she’s a flawed character. No one would mistake her for a role model. And yet she’s such an incredibly compelling character. The narrator puts it thus: “…I was a drizzle, and she was a hurricane.” She’s more. She’s alive, she’s driven (maybe in the wrong ways, but driven none the less), she’s passionate, and yes, she’s a little bit insane and not always in a good way, but that’s overlooked because on some level escaping straight and fast appeals to us. Her life’s volume, so to speak, goes to 11, and that’s something worth having.
People fear monotony. Why is passion valued so much more highly than contentment? Because contentment is the same all the time, it’s boring, it’s everyday. Joy and heartache and love and elation and fury and despair are sharp, they’re sudden, and each and everyone of them cuts deep. They’re exciting, they bring the world to life. Not always in a good way, mind you, but they do it. People treasure that sort of feeling, and Alaska has more of it. She sweeps the other characters up in it. She’s a cat 5 hurricane sending Pudge head over heels before he even knows what’s happened. Suddenly she’s the center of the world by sheer force of personality, and people are drawn to it.
She’s crazy, she’s unhealthy, she’s obviously unbearable sometimes, and yet people are drawn to her. People are drawn to that moreness, that aliveness, to the straight and fast. So the rest is ignored or dismissed of forgotten, and only that moreness is remembered. That moreness is what gets teenagers the ever so slightly condescending smiles and laughs, but it is something powerful enough that it appeals to everyone.
There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s as it should be. I’ve said it before, but it bears restating: http://xkcd.com/167/ is a powerful and true sentiment. Find your own meaning in life, and then GO LIVE IT. Find joy and happiness and pain and sadness, but don’t let the latter 2 rule your life. How can I ever get out of this labyrinth? Straight and fast, because I will not let it guide my path.