The Road Goes Ever On – Tolkien Poetry

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I thought I would share one of my favourite Tolkien poems, since I am about to step out of my door and onto the Road soon.

“Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.”  – JRR Tolkien

My Love Affair With Books

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Since I’ve been drowning you in blog posts about my travel plans, I thought I’d talk about something different today: My one true love. My passion and my vice, my escape and my reality. Books.

I read an article today about how “deep reading” makes people far more empathetic and intelligent. It spoke about how the experience of constantly inhabiting other people’s minds and hearts makes readers more able to see from the perspective of others. This is definitely true. Reading also expands vocabulary, builds problem solving and critical thinking skills – because of all the pondering that goes into trying to figure out what is going to happen, and what is going on – and teaches lessons in human nature. It builds attention spans and concentration as well; it takes skill to read a book in the middle of parties, on buses, in class and throughout movies. I once got so caught up in a book that I read right through the countdown to New Years. The house was full of people screaming and counting down and I did not even notice it.

Logical benefits of reading aside, there is also the incredible feeling it brings. You pick up a book and it feels right in your hands. That incredible smell of paper, old or new, wafts up to you. The pages rustle, and there’s this beautiful feeling of promise and potential among the paper. It’s as if the book holds something big that is waiting to happen. It’s so easy to begin, so that the words take shape within you and you are teleported into another world. Your body remains lying on your bed, or sitting on a bus, but your mind journeys to long lost kingdoms and dances with people who have never existed on earth.

Books are the closest things we humans have to immortality, to telepathy and magic. Books defy time and space, and they also defy limits of the body. They make the impossible possible. With a pen to paper, a writer can create entire worlds, can bend logic, create emotion, bring people to life who would otherwise never have lived.

Reading has changed me. It has caused me to think about deep things, and to love people and places I will never see in reality. My heart has been shaped by it. There will always be a part in me that aches for the characters that I have loved and lost. A thousand echoes of the laughter I shared with fiction are ingrained in my heart. I have learned from the pain and suffering of people who have never been, have occupied the minds and hearts of characters I loved and hated. I have lived a thousand lives, been a thousand people, made a million mistakes, felt the joy of a billion triumphs.

My life has been deeper, richer, and far more beautiful because of books. I could not live without them. To live without books would make me feel like a free person who has suddenly been locked into a cage just barely big enough to fit them. Reality is only one layer of the universe, a small inkling of everything that is. Reality is the wading pool to the ocean of existence, and books are the air in my lungs that helps me dive deeper and deeper into the fabric of the universe. And this is why I want to be a writer. To be the air in other’s lungs that frees them from the shackles of reality.

The Lead Up To This Adventure

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Two more days of work, four of being eighteen, and four before I leave home until May. A little less than ten days until I get on a plane and go to Europe. Those are small numbers. Very small. I’ve never truly appreciated how small they are. And the craziest part is that I know perfectly well that they are just going to get smaller. Regardless of what happens, April 6th will come. And that is freaking insane. Time is doing weird things – or maybe I’ve just never fully comprehended its ceaseless movement before.

I am going to Europe in ten days. I’ve still can’t comprehend it. It seems like a dream most of time, or like a novel I’m writing – real and yet not real. The only thing that will make me fully believe that I am going travelling is the feeling of the plane taking off. Then maybe I’ll look out the window at the falling ground and believe that this incredible adventure is actually happening.

This weekend is the clean-the-house-do-the-chores weekend, and also the pack-and-panic weekend. The next two days are going to be full of preparation and last minute planning, packing, unpacking, and packing again. I’m going to make lists of everything I need to put in my backpack, and double and triple check that I haven’t missed some crucial detail. And mostly I’m going to try to calm down and control my mounting excitement and tension, so that when the time comes to get on the plane I don’t end up running around the airport waving my hands in the air and shouting incomprehensibly. Somehow I don’t think airport security would like that very much.

The fact of the matter is, I am freaking out. But it’s a good type of freaking out, for the most part. Kind of like the freaking out feeling you get before you jump off of a very large cliff into some deep pools of emerald green water. It’s scary, but you know the hardest part is making the leap and once you’re soaring through the air everything will be fine. You’ll hit the water with a beautiful splash of crystal foam and then scramble up the rocks to do it again. The only difference with this feeling is that I haven’t yet tested the water to double check that it’s deep enough. I’ve peered downwards and reckoned I can manage the landing. But no one has dived down and measured the depth for me. And no one will. I won’t know until I land.

But that’s life. It’s an adventure. You take risks, you jump from cliffs, you give yourself to the chaos of the world and hope you’ll make it through the storm. Life isn’t meant to be wasted sitting around watching movies about people doing things. It’s about actually doing things. It isn’t about who lives the longest, but who lives the deepest.

There are challenges to adventure. There are ups and downs. Highs and lows. But you know those heart monitors, the ones that tell doctors if a person is alive? They look like mountain ranges. Up. Down. Up. Down. And what happens when they go flat? Exactly. So I’ll take the ups and the downs, because this is what it feels like to be alive. This mounting tension, this burning excitement – this is what it feels like to be alive.

Random Thought Gallery

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* Only one more week of being seventeen left and then, willingly or unwillingly, I enter the world of the legal adult. *shudder*.

* That awkward moment when I’m too lazy to do the laundry so I just stay in my pajamas for two days straight… yeah, I’m an adult… shhh…

* Time is slipping by faster and faster and the tension and excitement is building inside me with every hour that passes. Have you ever realize how small a number 13 is? Especially in days… that’s… not even two weeks. In not even two weeks I’ll be getting on a plane to Europe. Holy shit.

* So youtube has decided I’m British. Every single ad it shows me is from the UK. Well, every ad except that one with the people speaking rapid French. But that’s the only exception.

* I’m running out of music to listen to. Since I now work alone as well as live alone, I often listen to music for eight hours a day. There’s only so many times you can listen to the same song, though luckily for me I can listen to Lord of the Rings soundtrack for six hours without halt on the days I’m in the mood to.

* In Lord of the Rings, elves seem like this wise-beyond-belief, beautiful-beyond-belief creature, but in the Silmarillion they all just seem like petty, greedy, jealous children who you wish would stop betraying each other, murdering each other and squabbling over women, jewels and power. You can really see the problems with immortality – if you hold a grudge, you hold a grudge for several thousand years.

* I could make a very long list of all the things I’ve never done before that I’m going to do while travelling: going on a plane, going through customs by myself, leaving North America, going to a country where they speak a different language, riding a train other than a skytrain, sleeping in a hostel, checking into a hotel, navigating a foreign city by myself, using a different currency… to name just a few of the technical ones. I could go on, but it would fill several blog posts. And I haven’t even started on the more-fun-less-technical things that I haven’t done before, such as swimming in the Atlantic Ocean and seeing ancient castles.

* I’m learning French but I am not at all good at it and it is going to be very interesting to see what happens when I go to France.

* Travelling is so incredibly soon – I am freaking out.

The Harry Potter Fanatic’s Travel Dreams

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As anyone who knows me will know, I am a huge potterhead and always have been. And I’m going to the UK. But the funny thing is, I never planned a single one of my destinations around Harry Potter landmarks. Rather, I stumbled upon these landmarks in great excitement in places I already wanted to go to for different reasons. It was beautifully serendipitous.

Take Edinburgh for instance, my first European destination (if you don’t count the airport in Amsterdam). I always wanted to go there and it also turns out to be the home of the Elephant House Cafe, the birthplace of Harry Potter. The cafe is where JK Rowling wrote her first book. The story goes that she couldn’t afford heating in her house, so she’d go to the cafe, buy a small coffee, and stay there all day writing. And I’m not just going there for the sentimentality either. I’m going there for the bathroom. Yes, you read that right. The bathroom. Why? Because the walls of the bathroom at the Elephant House are scrawled with hundreds of messages from Potterheads, so many that they overlap each other and cover the walls entirely. It is a mural of the messages of my people.

From Edinburgh I go to Glasgow, and from Glasgow to the Isle of Skye. My longing to see the Isle of Skye goes way back. I was planning my journey there and realized, in a surge of through-the-roof-excitement, that part of the train journey to Mallaig, the ferry port, is none other than the Hogwarts Express. I get to ride a train over that beautiful arched bridge that Harry and Ron flew over in their enchanted car. I will be keeping both eyes out the window for signs of flying Ford Anglias, dementors, and owls.

Next is London, and of course I knew perfectly well that there would be a mirage of HP landmarks scattered throughout the city. I’m going to try my hardest to push the shopping cart through Platform 9 3/4, and I’m going visit the place they filmed Diagon Alley, since I have always been so enchanted by that street. I wasn’t going to go to the Harry Potter Studios because of money and time, but I found out today that they are located a mere ten minutes from the place where I am staying – another piece of serendipity. My boss also just went to them and raved about their awesomeness to me for ten minutes over skype – remind me to add this to the list of reasons why my boss is awesome. I have deemed that it would be utterly impossible to sleep in a place so close to the HP studios and not visit them, so I’m going to have to – the crowning jewel to my unintentionally Harry Potter filled travel plans.

Also on my tour of Nerdom is Baker’s Street in London, where I hope to catch a glance of Sherlock Holmes, and the cemetery where Douglas Adams is buried. I want to thank this author for bringing to my ears the last message of god to his creation, for the uttermost comfort that it has brought to me. If you don’t know Douglas Adams you will think this means I’m religious. If you do know his work, you will know just what I am talking about and I need not say any more.

Oh, and I also want to thank him for this gem, which I repeat to myself – and to anyone who will listen – when I am tired and feel like I am losing my mind: “‘I went mad once. Did me no end of good. Spent two weeks thinking I was a lemon, jumping out of gin and tonic.’ ‘Where did you find gin and tonic?’ ‘I didn’t, but I found a lake that thought it was gin and tonic.'”

Travelling is soon. The excitement is growing. Can you tell?

Deep Walking Thoughts

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It is my belief that walking is the mother of beautiful thoughts, so that a commute to work becomes a journey through mind and heart, deep into previously unknown realms of discovery and imagining. I was having plenty of deep inquiries this evening as I walked home, but the magic faded upon arriving on my doorstep. Still, I thought I would try to replicate my thoughts, though I daresay I cannot do them justice without the slant of sunlight out of a blue sky and the ever-present movement of footsteps to accompany them.

What if a person’s soul is them in the raw form – their core, so to speak – and is radically different from their personality? What if personality is a person’s soul with the clutter of body, genes, DNA and hormones on top? And on top of that, a sculpture made out of expectations, life experience and labels? And what if sleeping is when the body and mind go off-duty to recharge and let the soul have near free-range, so that our dreams are really just the world as seen through the eyes of our souls?

What if this is the reason children are so different from adults? Because their personalities are almost built purely with souls – they have no labels or expectations yet, and most of their hormones have not kicked in. They have little of the clutter of life experience to build up, layered, on top of their soul, like grime on a window, or algae on a lake, or, in more beautiful terms, carvings on a sculpture that used to be a tree? What if that is why children dream more? Because they see with the eyes of their soul.

And what if death is really just sleep for the soul? A chance for it to recharge and rinse off the grime of body and mind, to keep the life experiences that changed it, but discard the clutter, and to throw away gender, race and labels and get ready to face a new dawn. What if in death the soul shakes off the layers of personality and floats free for awhile in dream state before it finds something else to be?

I can see now how everything moves in cycles – day, night, day, night, waking, sleeping. The seasons, the days, the rise and fall of kingdoms – all cycles. Maybe the soul cycle is just another one of them. It seems a defile of nature for any cycle to end, and therefore I find the concept of the afterlife bizarre, and horribly limiting. How strange it is to believe that after a life spent living with the rise and fall of sun and moon, and the space between heart beats, and the turning of the year, and the ebbing and flowing of the tide, that everything suddenly stops and all remains still for eternity. I cannot believe it is so.

What if the real eternity is the space between heart beats? What if it is the dusk and the dawn? What if all of eternity is held in the split second at midnight on New Years Eve, when it is neither 2014 nor 2015, but somewhere in between? What if eternity is the moment between sleeping and waking, when neither the soul nor the body, nor the mind is in charge? The shift change of the world, so to speak. This seems like a far more believable definition of eternity than ‘forever’ does. When has there ever been a forever?

If death is really just sleep for the soul, than I want to live so that I am tired by the time I lie down. It is comforting to think that there is no forever. It makes everything seem bigger, and even the normal is tainted with a hue of wonder. It makes the spaces between heartbeats matter more, and the rise and fall of breath, and the moments between days. Everything seems more vibrant, as if part of the grime has been washed from the window of my eyes.

And now my feet have stilled by the handle of my door, and I hesitate on the threshold of the end of my walk. The pearly thoughts dissolve into only an inkling of what they used to be and the eternity between seconds is swallowed up.

The ‘Anti-terrorism’ Bill

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I can see the pieces of a dystopian novel slowly assembling in reality. In case you are one of those people who romanticizes the word ‘dystopia’ here’s its definition: “an utterly horrible or degraded society that is generally headed to an irreversible oblivion.” Sound fun? Not really.

While this doesn’t read much like reality – thanks the gods – the puzzle pieces are assembling, and we must not let them connect. The road to dystopia is sitting innocently among all the other, nicer paths that society has to choose from. At all costs, we must not slip onto this path.

Tomorrow – March 14th – is a national day of action against Bill C-51. For those who are less familiar with this new Bill, I’ll explain. Bill C-51 is the ‘anti-terrorism’ Act. It also makes amendments to several other Acts, including the Criminal Code. One of the many things it does is implement a host of incredibly vague definitions for security and terrorism, and grant the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) with sweeping new powers.

Suddenly the security of Canada includes the “the economic or financial stability of Canada” and it’s a terrorism act to interfere with critical infrastructure. The Criminal Code has been amended so that words such as ‘will’ are replaced with ‘may’ and ‘likely to’. The list of activities that fall under the category of terrorism begins with the word ‘including’ which could indicate that it isn’t the full list, and the government could tack anything on to the end if they felt like it. It is possible for CSIS to lay information before a judge on a suspicion that somebody ‘may’ be involved in terrorism, which in turn can now refer to blocking a pipeline, or peacefully protesting the oilsands.

Though the Bill does specify that it does not apply to ‘lawful protest’ or artistic expression, all it would take is an oilsands company to use our already falling apart justice system to get an injunction on an area they want to drill in, and it would be against the law for people to block their work. And instead of the RCMP being called in to arrest activists – already alarming enough – CSIS could classify the activists as terrorists – and act accordingly. There wouldn’t be much anyone could do against it.

Another part of C-51 is the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, which makes the sharing of otherwise confidential information not-so confidential, even between institutions that are not centered around security, such as the Canada Revenue Agency, or Health Canada.

Not only would this Bill give CSIS the ability to use and share confidential information, the power to act on mere suspicion instead of requiring evidence, and the capacity to classify far more people as terrorists than ever before, it also lets them remain secret about their actions. So there we have it: this Bill is the first step towards the creation of a secret police. We do not want a secret police.

So raise your voices tomorrow. Let the Harper government know that you are going to give them hell until they scrap C-51. You have a voice – use it while you’re still allowed to.

I might feel okay about this if I trusted the government. But who the hell trusts the government – this government particularly?