There’s few books on my “favorite books” list when you look at my profile on Facebook, at least for the number of entries present. Half of them are authors, for I tend to find individual books lacking in some way, small for the best of them, to be considered favorites, but an author presents a body of work, where the shortcomings of one are augmented by the facets of the others, so that all the areas I wish could be fulfilled are done so, and thus they have become a favorite in my eyes.
One of the five stand-alone novels (for the other four “books” are more appropriately book series, namely Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, and Percy Jackson & the Olympians) is Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carol (the other four books are The Thief of Always by Clive Barker, the Princess Bride by William Goldman, What is Mathematics? by Richard Courant, and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, which wasn’t a phenomenal book, but I liked what it represented and what it idealized).
Before reading Through the Looking Glass, I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and I must admit, sadly, that I didn’t find the latter book nearly as much as the former, which is actually the latter, if you’ll kindly forgive my inversion of sentence structure, since it did me little good here.
My point in mentioning any of this is that, although Alice has gone through a mirror, that plane of which we’ve learned reflects flawlessly, she doesn’t at all reflect very much through it, does she?
Granted, Alice has her moments, has her lessons, but it seemed to me that more often the characters surrounding her lead to the occasions of introspection, rather than Alice initiating them herself. At least in the first book she had that bout of not knowing her name, presuming she must be someone else because of it, and then working back to knowing who she really was. Such fancies, however, do not follow her through the looking glass. Once there, she’s merely playing chess.
In Physics this last spring, we learned the law of reflection: the reciprocal of the focal length is equal to the sum of the reciprocals of the image distance and the object distance. It’s a very straightforward formula, merely algebra at the most of it, and it lets us do such incredible things as craft telescopes and learn just how far away that object in the distance really is. Also we were taught why a surface reflects: that it is so smooth, microscopically, that all the light hitting it must be turned back–so smooth, you could say, that there aren’t any openings left to let the light come inside it.
Still, though fanciful this science may be, it doesn’t come nearly as close to the reflection I’ve been thankful for lately, the reflection that I have been so pained to try to avoid, the reflection so terrifying that it can easily keep my pen at bay.
For as long as I can remember (which here means “since I was twelve or so”) I’ve kept a journal–that’s nearly ten years, to remove the necessity of trying to calculate my age and then doing the arithmetic. I remember my very first journal was a gift for my Bar Mitzvah. My synagogue has a Judaica gift shop and it’s customary that early teenagers, at eleven or twelve, make a small list there for any gift-shoppers to peruse. One of the things I coveted with wonder was a green, leather-bound journal that had the imprint of a massive tree on the front of it. I’d never kept a journal before, but the tree could change that. Surprisingly, that tree would change that.
It took me something like four or five years to fill that first journal (it’s early pages filled alternatively with actual entries and attempts at story writing, with the later pages becoming incredibly life-descriptive of various events and happenings occurring through the time I was fifteen or sixteen), and since then, in the four or five years since, I’ve filled another eleven journals cover to cover–and that’s not even counting the countless pages I’ve written online that are of journal-quality composure!
As an interesting aside, I’ve found that the three forms of writing I employ–journalling, storytelling, and poetry–seem to exist in a sort of checks-and-balances system, and as I put more effort into one, my output of the others decreases. This might partially explain why I’ve not written any stories here lately, although I sincerely think that’s due to my current rereading of Harry Potter more than anything else.
In any case, my journalling is plagued by an incredibly bad habit: Should life get too busy, I stop. And then by an even worse habit: I can’t continue writing until I’ve caught up with cataloging everything I’ve missed. And the deadliest habit of them all: The more I’ve got to write, the less I want to write it.
In short, it’s crippling. If I focus on what’s going on in life, I fall behind. If I fall behind, I feel overwhelmed and can’t even look at my journal, let alone think about it. This can go on for months at a time–and I assure you, it does. This last break began in November, and the break before that went from the summer’s end of 2009 clear through the start of 2010! Now that I say it aloud, it’s rather shameful, actually.
For some years in my youth my mother worked as the kitchen manager, or mashgiach, at my synagogue, so oftentimes I found myself there for many hours, many days a week (in fact, most of my earliest journalling and story writing attempts happened in those very halls, as did much of the inspiration for my mythology, in some form or another, come whilst pacing away these long hours with nothing else to do). Our continual presence often allowed us to get a little close with the caterers, and I recall one man, Roy, who worked with a popular one who I became friends with. We spoke about many fascinating things, such as the mythical and mysterious, astrology and philosophy, and one conversation that stands out is one in which we were talking about fear. I can’t remember it verbatim, but I recall the conclusion coming on a note admitting that I had thought my only fear was fear itself (a complete cliche, and how very noble, says Evanna Lynch, the actress who plays Luna–one of my favorite characters in the Harry Potter series–in a guest blog post she wrote for the Harry Potter Alliance some time ago).
Truth is, I think I’m too afraid of my fears to admit them–even to myself–and so it appears I only fear, well, fear. The thought of being afraid–especially of the things I love so dearly–is so crippling, so crushing, that I block out all notices of that fear itself. It’s why I’m so apt to avoid driving without thinking of it, why I haven’t touched a finger to my mythology in months, why I fall behind in journalling.
Why should I fear that? Why at all should I fear what I love so? It’s very quite simple: With writing comes reflection. With reflection comes understanding my own inner workings, those depths of my body and soul that I so detest, those cavernous gaping holes that writhe and wrath inside me, monsters of dark creation and darker aims, beasts of prey and sickening sorcery that slither along my insides. To uncover these viles is to vanquish them, but sometimes the duel itself is more than I can bear.
So like any gallant and noble lord would, I avoid them altogether. My kingdom come, I’d know no use of giving them light, so long as my court jesters keep dancing and my vassals know no better. Does it make me any greater than filth on the roadside, that knows nothing of its inner composition, ‘cept that it’s walked upon and trod upon and turns to mud when wet? No, I suppose it does not, but at least it’s easier.
It’s despicable, is what it is. So I muster my courage and dive in, fight those swamp wraiths and try, try as very hard as I can, often making small advances in large bouts of effort, but in time, time often spent agonizing over the many different ways I can procrastinate without knowing what I’m doing, time spent fooling myself into thinking I’m trying when I’m only trying to avoid it, but after a time, I’ll get there, and once I’m there, all my evils abolished, I find it’s a pretty nice place to be.
The understanding and self-knowing that comes with honest introspection is something I’ve always adored. It’s part of the many reasons I’ve loved astrology, for it has provided me a window into my own soul, that one hidden catacomb inside where so many wonders lie hidden, if only I should brave myself to discover them. It’s incredibly pleasant to be able to look back and know why you did something and why it worked and why, even if it wasn’t what you had at first imagined, it all turned out for the best in the end. There’s little else that fulfills me so than by truly knowing myself as I would hope to know a lover, all the good and all the bad, in such a small space as my life may be able to offer me. But it’s pleasant.
The journey, however, is often harder than speakable, and this past week, week and a half maybe, I’ve been plowing forward along this road, knowing full well this time what I’m doing to resist, but it’s no comfort, fighting myself. No comfort at all. Even if I do know what I’m doing, what war I’m raging, what secrets I’m hiding from my very own eyes. If anything, it’s all given me a good appreciation of reflection, more than Alice had, more than physics can make one realize. I know I’m struggling against this current of monsters pushing me back, but I know on the other side the kingdom is glorious and bright.
I’ll get there, someday soon I should hope, and I can only wish that some of you, in your own ways, in your own time, might choose to join me on the other side. Fare well, my friends, for although the journey is bitter, the destination is better.