The Man in the High Castle: An Exploration of What Ifs

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This week, I started a new credentialing class and it’s kind of awful, in terms of the extra stress that it puts me under. I haven’t been writing the last few days, and I have noticed a change in my mood from when I was writing. When I stop writing, I feel like I’m going to scream from not getting my words out. And so, I’m back to it.

This time, I’m writing about the Man in the High Castle, which is extremely fitting as I’m also teaching Churchill’s Memoirs of the Second World War with my students. I have watched four episodes in between episodes of Parks and Rec in order to keep my spirits up. When I tried to watch it before, I didn’t get very far, but as I’m learning more about World War II at the moment, it is the perfect show.

The premise is that Nazi Germany developed the atom bomb before America and dropped it on Washington D.C. America was eventually defeated by the Axis Powers and divided up between the greater Nazi Reich and the Japanese Pacific states, with a neutral zone in between, running through Colorado. The story is set in 1962 and focuses on two young people, Juliana Crane, a citizen of the Pacific States, and Joe Blake, a Nazi spy infiltrating a resistance cell. The two meet because of a film, made my the secretive Man in the High Castle, which portrays the end of World War II as we know it, with the defeat of Nazi Germany. It’s a really interesting premise, and well treated. It shows how the abuse of a people cannot be sustained until they strike back.

When Juliana takes the film, her boyfriend Frank is detained and tortured, and almost shot by firing squad for the crime of being Jewish, even though it was only his grandfather. Instead, Frank’s sister and her two children are gassed. Because of this, he turns militant, buying a pistol, and making plans to go and shoot the Japanese Crown Prince who is visiting San Francisco. At the same time, a Nazi agent is trying to slip nuclear secrets to the Crown Prince so that Japan will not be crushed after Hitler’s death and the inevitable power struggle that that will cause. Instead, the Japanese Crown Prince is shot, but not by Frank. Frank is ready to do it, but someone else shoots the fatal bullets, leaving the question of the future of Japanese – German relations in the air. 

It keeps me going, even though it’s depressing, because it weaves together the history so well, and really brings the sense of a fully developed world, just one that is wrong. One of the best examples of this is a song that is in the 60s doo-wop style but sung in Japanese. The opening, set to a chilling rendition of Edelweiss, reinforces the fact that America is a conquered nation. As a nation, we have never experienced this. We have subjugated others, and not been subjugated ourselves. I think that watching a show like this makes it easier to sympathize with the plight of people in hundreds of countries or ethnic groups that do not feel at home and equal in their own nation.

I’m looking forward to watching more. Who is the Man in the High Castle? Only time will tell. 

For a Movie Called La La Land, It’s Very Down to Earth

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This weekend has been the weekend of seeing movies- hidden figures on Saturday, and La La Land on Sunday. My roommate had already seen it, and she refused to tell me anything about it besides the fact that I would love it, and I did. I think it is better that I didn’t know anything about it in order for the movie to have its full effect, so if you haven’t seen it yet, I would recommend not reading this post until you have. 

The best thing that I can say about La La Land is that it truly is a work of art. Yes, it’s a tribute to classic musicals, but it has its own voice and its own style at the same time. Every frame is like a painting- perfectly planned, balanced in its use of color. It’s about a girl who wants to be an actress but she keeps getting rejected at auditions, and her jazz pianist boyfriend who is looking to open his own jazz club in order to save jazz. As a musical, the movie was OK, they chose to do the movie without trained voices, which does add another level of realism, but it lacks the depth of sound that a Broadway singer could convey. Some of the songs were rather forgettable. I really wanted to like the opening song, another day of sun, especially as they had the awesome dance sequence on the LA freeway overpass, but I couldn’t quite. But for any of its musical failings, it was a fabulous movie with a modern take on life. 

It’s only at the end that you realize that the movie isn’t a love story at all- she ends up successful but married to someone else, and he opens up his own club. She and her husband come to the club, and he sits down at the piano and plays her their song, “Here’s for the fools that dream” and the sequence that made the movie happened. In that song, they both see all that they could have been together if things had gone differently. They retell the movie in musical sets and truly classic dance sequences and kisses and dancing with the stars again, and old movies that show them getting married and having the child that now belongs to the other husband. For a moment, you are caught up in dreaming with them- was their sitting down in the jazz club apart a dream? But it isn’t, and it’s heartbreaking. He finishes the piece, and he looks up at her. She tells her husband that she wants to leave, and yet at the door, she turns back, and they smile at each other. Roll credits. 

In the end, they both followed their dreams. They made the most of them, they became successful, something that they could never have done without each other. The tragedy, and the most realistic part of it is, that that doesn’t mean that they are meant to be together forever. We hate the husband for being someone else, but we have no indication that he is a bad guy or that he isn’t someone that she’s meant to be with, but he’s certainly different. He doesn’t pull her to jazz clubs and make her appreciate them. We don’t get to evaluate him, just to see that he’s not the man that has made her the way that she is.

John Legend’s character, Keith, had one of the best quotes of the movie. I don’t know the exact phrasing, but he is talking to Seb (her boyfriend) about his love for jazz, his idea of the purity of jazz, and he talks about how Seb plays this amazing music, but he plays it for 90 year olds. “Where are the young people?” He asks. “Jazz is about the future, and you’re stuck in the past. When are you going to be an innovator?” That quote really stuck with me because I am often times a traditionalist. I love Shakespeare, I love reading, and sometimes I fall into the way of thinking that everyone should love what I love in one set way. In truth, I’m only preserving the past, so when can I be an innovator in my own life? How do I follow my dreams? I’m still trying to figure that out, but I think that it’s a great point. Things that adapt last, things that are rigid do not. I need to continue dreaming. 

As one of La La Land’s songs says, “Here’s to the fools who dream/ Foolish as they may seem.”

Go Make a Difference, You Can Make a Difference: A Lapsed Catholic Goes to Mass

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I just went to mass. For me, that’s a pretty big deal. Since I graduated college and moved out, I’ve been to mass a handful of times around here, but it never really stuck. I was often left with the feeling on Sunday’s that I should start going to mass again, but I didn’t really have the impetus to go. I haven’t really been a practicing Catholic since the middle of high school, and when I graduated high school, I left with a very negative feeling about Catholicism, that it was a whole bunch of hypocrites or fools that believed in God on Sundays and at no other time. That makes a big difference in your life and your view of religion. The Catholic faith, as it was presented to me, was not comparable with my view of reality. I saw the darkness, and people kept handing me saccharine stories of Saints’ lives. Everyone that I respected was a fairly secular Catholic, and I figured that that was the way to be. Then, I went to a very conservative Catholic college, something that I was convinced from the get go that I wouldn’t like. And yet, I did. It was the first time that I respected people who were genuine believers, and it forced me to rethink my ideas about faith. In four years there, I never converted back officially, but I started to occasionally attend mass, always in the dark on a weeknight. In all of my college years I don’t think that I ever went to a Sunday mass. 

I went to Rome through a Catholic study abroad program, and I sampled being Catholic again while visiting some of the most beautiful churches in all the world. It was a real spiritual high. I went to confession. But when I came back to the states, I couldn’t keep it going. I wanted to have that again, but my pride didn’t want to let me start going to mass again with my parents, to have them have an “I told you so” opportunity. Not that I ever really think that they will say that, but I still have that sense. I don’t want to admit that I was wrong. And I make it sound so past tense, like one of those great spiritual meditations and conversion stories, but the fact is that I’m still in the middle of this. 

Today, my roommate talked about going to mass, and I thought that I would go with her. I know that she knows me, doesn’t expect more of me than I’m ready to give, doesn’t expect one time going to mass to signal a huge turnaround in me. We went to a church that I had been to a few times by myself, that I hurried into and out of, but never laid down roots. Going with someone that I knew made all the difference. It felt more like I belonged, even as people awkwardly moved past me to get to communion as I stayed in the pew.

I have a feeling that God made sure that I meant today to hear the gospel and the homily. The rest of the time, I feel like mass is more of a spiritual meditation for me, I don’t really focus on all of the rituals and routines, but the gospel was about the light on the mountaintop, and not hiding it under a bushel. The priest’s homily was a story of someone who was supposed to signal a train about danger, but the train still plunged into the chasm. When he came before the judge, the judge asked if he was out there, where he was supposed to me. The man said yes. The judge asked if he had the lantern. The man said yes. The judge asked if the man had signaled the train. The man said yes. The man was acquitted, and afterwards he breathed a sigh of relief that the judge had never asked if his signaling lantern was lit. That lantern is our faith, the priest said, and most of us walk around with it unlit. We cannot show others our light if we are not on fire ourselves. 

He brought it back to the salt of the earth statement, which made lots of sense to me, the way that he explained it. He talked about how we are supposed to season food to give people the taste of God- too much, and people dismiss us, like too salty food, and too little, and the food is tasteless. We only give the taste to others if we give it subtly, make a difference through having our lives and our actions taste a little bit better than everyone who lives in a secular way. That is what will cause someone to inquire into what makes us different, and to pursue faith in their own lives.

The last analogy that the priest used tied in so well with what I have been saying in this blog in the few days that I have had it that I knew that it must be the reason that I was here. It was about a Catholic woman, very conservative and quiet, who went to a rough and tumble news room. The people were competitive and foul mouthed, and they didn’t see how she would last. But she did, and through her actions, she showed that she lived her life by something different. And what was that something different? God. She never said that it was her faith, she didn’t moralize to them, but she was able to tame the lions in that news room by being a simple and faithful Christian. I was just writing about how having someone live in a way that doesn’t jive with someone else’s idea of reality is the only way to really change a heart, and here it was in the homily. 

At my school, they use the phrase, we cannot impart what we ourselves are not. If we want our students to be readers and intellectuals, we must be that. If we want them to think deeply about questions of morals, we must do that. As I work on becoming a better teacher, I am trying to become better, to be the salt of the earth for my students, to reconcile myself to my faith. And just by writing these things down, by taking an active role in my shaping, to truly process what comes my way through writing, I think that I can do that well. I think that it is helpful too that this is open to the public, although no one else is reading it yet. This is making me better, more in tune with who I am, and I hope that my light will make a difference, as the closing hymn went. Here’s hoping that I can stick to going to mass a bit more often. 

Movies/TV: Hidden Figures

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I finally made it to see this movie today. I say finally because I meant to see it last week, but I was sick and tired (literally, not just the expression) and my friend had a crappy day at work and all in all it did not work out last weekend. This weekend, another friend and I found a new theater half an hour south of us with cheaper tickets, and we decided to go. I had heard great things, and I was not disappointed.

I suppose that my big philosophical question lately has been what is a woman? As a woman, I can answer that in a simple philosophical terms, but I cannot really define what makes a woman a woman. In a world where seeing everyone as equal is a struggle, but for reasons of political correctness, we pretend that it is no longer a struggle for most of us and harshly judge those whose struggle is more obvious than ours. I received the message from an early age that women were different. One of my biggest misconceptions, one that I still struggle against, is the pervasive idea that once a woman gets married and has children, her worth outside of the home is negligible. Sure, she may be helpful in her church group or volunteer in the community, but the real work is done by those that are childless, or men. After all, those who have children and work full time are really neglecting their duties, right? It has taken a long time, and meeting many amazing women who work and are mothers, sometimes of upwards of five children, while still being beautiful and accomplished and intelligent. I look at these women and I am amazed. 

This is why I loved the movie Hidden Figures.  Katherine is a strong woman who is brilliant, has a demanding full time job, three young daughters, and refuses to bow beneath the laws that keep her segregated. She refuses to take any crap from anyone, and she demands respect. Although there is only ever one instance in the movie where she shouts about the injustice done to her, she demonstrates her equality through her work, so much so that her supervisor, played by Kevin Costner, takes notice, as does John Glenn, the first American to orbit the planet. Two other women, friends of hers, also broke barriers for black women, one by becoming the first African American supervisor at NASA, and one who became the U.S.’s first black female engineer. They were tough, but they were human. They loved, they drank, and the movie does a great job of showing the history surrounding the events. They were there at the forefront of science and math, getting next to no credit. They shaped the world, and no one knew their names until now. Their legacy lies with all of the women who came after them, black and white, who were able to advance based on the precedent that they set. 

I heard that a couple of girls started a Kickstarter to pay for tickets for girls to go and see this movie, and they ended up raising several times more than they asked for. I can see why. This movie is truly inspirational to anyone that sees it, and it doesn’t sell anyone short. While it references events like the Freedom Riders and the sit ins happening in North Carolina, when footage of Martin Luther King Jr. is shown, the movie reacts, but it is a different kind of civil rights movie than most that I have seen. There is a story to be told with the violence that protesters met all over the country, of being mowed down with fire hoses and having dogs set upon them, of nonviolent protesters walking through crowds filled with hate. This is a great story, an interesting story, but that is not the story that is being told here. 
This story is of truly winning over minds, of bringing equality and respect quietly and through small things. I would argue that the protests that garnered news attention would not have amounted to anything lasting if there were not people like these women demanding to be treated fairly and equally in their own way in their everyday lives.  Their actions change the world just as much as any protester does. 

I would like to set forth as a principle that the only way that people change their opinion is by getting to know and respect someone who lives contrary to their existing opinion in some way. The knowing and respecting part is crucial. Those engineers at NASA were aware of the existence of black women. They saw them on the campus, they knew that there was a division for them, but they never really knew any of them. It was only when one of them came into their midst, when they came to know her patterns, to be in proximity with her, to see the power of her mind, that they were forced to have respect for her. And by having respect for her, their view of the world and their assumption of blacks had to change. 

I wish that more movies were like this, truly educational and inspirational. 

Movies/TV: Penelope

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I started to watch Penelope because I needed to break my depressing movie streak. I like depressing, dark stuff, but at a certain point, it gets to be too much. I wish that I had a better term for the type of movie that Penelope is. I suppose that it is a modern fairy tale, but there is a commonality that it has with something like the Grand Budapest Hotel or Netflix’s new Series of Unfortunate Events- some element of the absurd, of dealing with dark things in a somewhat light way. Maybe the term is magical realism. I’m not sure. They’re all instances of something that rests on the edge of absurdity and cheesiness, but they don’t quite cross over that line, and they are enchanting. Penelope lifts you up without being too formulaic. 

I have never been a fan of hallmark movies, and for a long time, I thought that I wasn’t a fan of romances because of that. There is a big difference between a good romance, even a light one, and one that can be predicted from the beginning to the end. I think it has something to do with the flaws. In the case of magical realism, it doesn’t deny the darkness, but it simplifies the story and emphasizes the good parts. In formulaic romance, all characters are perfect, or with one attractive flaw that is never well developed. They are entertaining, but not good TV. Penelope is a good romance, a good fairy tale. It is simple, but it can still be surprising, it touches on deep themes without being overbearing, and it is simply fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. I suppose that we shouldn’t, either. 

As I watch Penelope, I think of C.S. Lewis’ dedication at the beginning of the Chronicles of Narnia series.

“I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather, C. S. Lewis.”

Penelope is one of those fairy tales that need to be rewatched at different ages. As a kid, it’s a charming story, but as an adult, we can marvel at the simple truths, the innocence, and restore something of what we lose in the day to day grind with society. We should not ignore fairy tales because we are “too old” for them. Anything truly good for us in our childhood can be good for us at another age, though maybe in a different respect. The world needs more good fairy tales, not our modern tendency towards twisted fairy tales. They are amusing, they are good stories, but they are not fairy tales. They are missing key elements, but we have forgotten what the key elements of a fairy tale are, if indeed we ever knew. I think that it is only when we rediscover fairy tales that we will rediscover ourselves.

Recent Readings: The Joy Luck Club

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I picked up this book from a thrift store a few months ago when I was still in the mindset that I should buy all the books that I wanted to read if I saw them cheaply. Buying too many is paralyzingly, though, like having your own lack of reading interest at certain points stare at you from your own shelf. When I started playing too many phone games again, I got this book off of my shelf. Incidentally, it has a name in the front already- the same last name as one of my students. Maybe they’re related, maybe not. I’ve been meaning to ask. Whoever it was was clearly reading it for school, underlining and making comments in pink, blue, and purple gel pen. It’s fun to experience a book alongside someone else, even if I don’t know them.

I had heard of this book before, heard that it was a good book, and I knew that it was about Chinese-American women. Beyond that, I knew nothing of the plot. I didn’t know what to expect, so I didn’t expect it to be in vignettes, or that I would spend so much time flipping back to the table of contents, trying to keep the characters straight. I see why the book is so popular- it is a truly challenging book in that it holds the “mirror up to reality”. As a daughter, I see the relation between me and my mother. I too had a willful fight with my mother over piano lessons, although my mother never pushed me as hard to achieve as any of the mothers in this book. I see myself in the book, mainly in the daughters who do not understand who their mothers are. My mother may not speak a different language or come from a different culture, but we still struggle to understand each other.

The other way that this book challenged me is with regards to my assumptions, which are often times racist. I’m not trying to be an apologist for white privilege or anything like that,I have just been gaining an awareness that human beings try to classify other human beings as being lesser than themselves, particularly if those people are different from them in some quantifiable way. Everyone is a little bit racist, as Avenue Q says so eloquently. It doesn’t matter if you are white, Chinese, Japanese, African-American, Indian, or you name it, everyone has a bias against someone, even if they don’t completely realize it. Instead of ostracizing people that display minor racist tendencies, we need to work to correct these assumptions, something that you can only do through getting to know different types of people and viewing them as people.

The story of Ying-Ying St. Clair particularly challenged me to confront some of these biases in myself, biases against those that do not speak English well, that do not conform to culture because they are still struggling to understand a new culture. I know that I am not the only one who looks at people like that and assumes in some part of myself that they are stupid or uneducated. I know that it is not right, but I would like to be honest that I do this. Ying-Ying St. Clair was a wealthy Chinese girl who lost her money, and who married an American and came over to America. She is a mystery to her mixed race daughter, who has married an architect who always splits everything with her. In the context of equality, they turn their marriage into a balance sheet. Her daughter cannot understand her since Ying Ying does not seem to love Lena’s father in the same way that her friends parents do. The first story about Ying-Ying, the Moon Lady, tells a story about her getting lost. Lena’s story about her mother contrasts their two outlooks on life, and how she views her mother as being backwards, and too Chinese. However, Lena’s second story stayed with me, particularly the ending, when her mother knocks over the vase on the flimsy table that Lena’s husband built. Lena tells her that she knew that it was going to happen, and then her mother asks “Why you don’t stop it?” And then come the words that resounded with me, “And it’s such a simple question”. Ying-Ying knows her daughter well enough to challenge the entire way that she views the world in just a few simple words. In a time in my life where I have been rethinking my outlook on life, this moment caused me to put the book down for a few minutes just to think about it.

In Ying-Ying’s own story at the end, we see how much she went through in China before she met Lena’s father, how she had another husband, another life, aborted a child when that husband left her, and learned to be a tiger, fitting with her Chinese birth year. Her daughter has always assumed that her mother was jumping at the chance to leave China when a western husband came along, but her mother made Lena’s father wait for years until her first husband died. Ying-Ying truly is a tiger, hiding her strength and her talents to the point that Lena doesn’t know how powerful she is. I hope that they come to a better understanding of each other after Lena divorces her husband. I hope that Ying-Ying manages to give her daughter her spirit, as she said that she would, not turning away from the fight with her daughter that it would take to accomplish this. But the book leaves us to wonder, to hope. There is no certainty.

I know that if I were to meet Ying-Ying, I would view her in the same way that her daughter does. I would think that she was backwards or stupid, even if consciously I fought against those assumptions. And I would miss the strength of her. The fact is, that this is more than hypothetical. I have met Ying-Yings, whether I realize it or not. I have sold people short, assumed that they had nothing to teach me, that I was better than them. And I’m not. I’m going to try to remember that the next time I meet someone, and to use what I have learned in my relationship with my own mother.

Movies/TV: Downfall

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I just watched Downfall, the 2005 movie about the last days of Hitler. I’m really glad that they put it back on Netflix, since it was off for a while. I had had it on my queue for months, and then I was ready to watch it over Christmas break, and it had disappeared. I thought that today was as good a time as any because I’m going to be coming to World War II very soon with my students. I need to research more about where the movie is historically accurate and where it is not, but it certainly struck me as being well researched, particularly since it is based on the account of Hitler’s secretary.

I think the best thing that I can say about the movie is that it is beautiful in its darkness, in its portrayal of those last days of the dream of the Third Reich. It showed Hitler as he was in his personal life, and I was able to see how it was possible that so many people around Hitler didn’t recognize what a monster he was, even those who were not monsters themselves. Hitler had a charisma that made people follow him until death, and that is something that is at once difficult and easy to understand. I don’t know that I’ve ever been committed to anything enough to die for it if called, and yet there is a certain amount of respect that I feel for those that refused to live in a world beyond the Third Reich, even as I mourn their lack of understanding of the value of their lives.

Frau Goebbels and her children were the most striking part of the movie. Hitler calls her the bravest mother of the Reich, and she is so happy and proud to be called so. But after Hitler and Eva commit suicide, she kills her own children, and never sheds a tear. She first gives them a sleeping draft, and then she puts cyanide pills into their sleeping mouths and forces their jaws to bite down on them. She cannot see beyond the war. She cannot see any future for them. If those children had lived, they would have either been ostracized as Nazis, or had to disavow their parents. If they left behind Nazi ways, it would be a long road to them discovering who they are, and trying to rebuild their foundation on something else. There is a certain logic to killing them, although it is still atrocious. Frau Goebbels ceases to be a mother with such coldness that afterwards, she deals herself a game of solitaire. Goebbels himself has no direct part in their death- he stands outside.

That game of solitaire is chilling, because it is an act of wasting time. It serves no purpose, other than to wait for the moment that she and her husband will also commit suicide. Both of the Goebbels are portrayed as far more sinister than Hitler. yes, Hitler had his own dog killed by cyanide, but he still seems more human near the end than they do. He is angry, railing against the destruction of his fantasy of the future. He still seems human, although he has done terrible things, he has done evil, and has fallen so far. He is reacting. He is alive. In the end, he accepts his fate and is willing to go down with his government, go down with his dream. It seems as though he still dreams it, however. It was his dream. The Goebbels’ calmness with which they walk towards death is simply unnatural. They have no dream of the future without the Fuhrer, without the Third Reich. They have given up more of their humanity than Hitler has. That is what makes this movie so unnerving, watching people walk to their deaths with unquestioning inevitability. Weeping, gnashing of teeth, pleading, these are all painful things to watch for someone who is about to die, but they show that people are still clinging to life. When people stop clinging to life, it is wrong, a crime against being human.

I’m glad that I watched the movie. Although I cannot show it to my students, I would like to talk with them about those people who did commit suicide in the wake of Hitler’s death, people whose stories I have encountered, at least in their essence, through this movie.  Human stories about times when we get so shortsighted that we cannot see a way out except death. To deny that this is an emotion that people feel is to sell humanity short. While this is not a movie for everyone, it still shows a time and place exceedingly well. To tell the true story of an event as big as World War II, you cannot merely look at a sequence of events, battles won and lost, a laundry list of dates and people. You must encounter the people, the events, in smaller and more intimate ways like this, with a limited scope. Only then can you truly see the whole.

Recent Readings: The Millenium Series

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Recently I started reading the Millenium series, or, to be more specific, I continued reading it. I had read the first book, the Girl With the Dragon tattoo, as it was published in English, when I was in high school. It was one of the few books that my mother banned me from reading, which of course made me read it. I loved the mystery  and the uniqueness of the writing, taking me to a place that I know little about. Maybe I shouldn’t have read it at that age. Maybe I wasn’t ready. A lot of the problems that I noticed in my outlook on life probably came from reading books like that earlier than I should have. Even though I liked the book, I didn’t continue to the others in the series. It was senior year, I was busy, it was a big bother to get ahold of a book that I wasn’t supposed to be reading. At some point, I got the audiobooks for the next two in the series, but I never listened to them.

Then, on one of my long car rides home a few weeks ago, I started listening to the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire. I was captivated with the story of Lisbeth Salander again, for a number of reasons.

Lisbeth Salander is a woman who is fighting to live life on her own terms, something that is her only source of freedom in a world that has consistently failed her. She is unique, almost asocial, and ruthless to those that get in her way. When I first read the scene where she tattoos Niels Bjurmann, her guardian, I was scarred. But coming back to it now, I see Lisbeth as protecting herself the only way that she knows how: no holds barred. She loves, without being overly sentimental or weak, a pitfall that some writers fall into. She desires plenty of people, and is labeled by her world to be a possible prostitue or slut. She is such a multifaceted character that readers are forced to admit that any term like that is to limit her so severely that they cannot see her as she is- imperfect, sometimes brutal or callous, but thoroughly human. There is a great quality in how Stieg Larsson writes her so that it truly feels like a privilege to get a glimpse inside of her head, something that Mikael Blomkvist or Dragan Armansky would so value. The reader gets to know Lisbeth as she knows herself, something that no one in her own world can say. While this view into a character’s mind is always a part of great literature, with a character like Lisbeth, who is complex and does not relate openly to others in her world, it feels like a particular treat.

Not only does Larsson give us one great female character, he gives many. Women from all walks of life, Olympic athletes turned policewomen, strong mothers and wives who are powerful lawyers, and an editor-in-chief who is intelligent and competent whil also being a consistent lover of the main character. All of these women defy being shoehorned into one role or another. When Erika Berger receives threats in the mail and then breaking into her house, all calling her a whore, it highlights the struggle that women always face by being judged by those who barely know them. I am not like Erika Berger as a character, and I do not agree with some of the choices that she makes, or the way that she lives. But I do respect her, and I see the way that women who break a non-existent norm, can be punished.

I would not consider myself a feminist in the modern sense of the term. I have no hatred of men, but I do believe in equality. I believe that we are at the state in history where that equality can only be achieved by little acts from day to day, women demanding to be seen as equals, and putting a quiet but firm end to any behaviors from men or women that go against this ideal. Even if I don’t agree with Erika Berger on her morality, she is a talented and powerful woman, and she does not deserve to be called a whore any more than Lisbeth does, or any woman who desires men openly. I would like to defending the Erika’s and Lisbeths of the world by demanding respect, but know that I have a long way to go to living up to that.

All of this makes the Swedish title, “Men Who Hate Women” make a lot more sense. Mikael Blomkvist is a great example of a man who loves women and treats them as his equals, and fights for their equality through exposing violence against women. He does not do this for any selfish gain, or because women need protecting because they are women, but because it is wrong, and something needs to be done. This series really challenges everyone who reads it to truly see women as people.

I have started reading a book on Stieg Larsson as I have gotten more interested in this man who wrote such a successful and deep series, but they weren’t published until after his death. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

The World Is Too Much With Us

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I named this blog after a William Wordsworth poem, one that I remember reading in high school and not really understanding. And then I became a teacher and I read it again with my students, and I got more out of it, but I still didn’t really get it. I had a rather rough week, less in terms of any bad events happening, but in terms of people challenging the way that I was thinking. Something drew me to that poem tonight, particularly to the “getting and spending, we lay waste our powers. Little we see in Nature that is ours, We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!” I only graduated college recently, and I moved out of my parents house a few months ago. I have been trying to figure out what life is about, and I have been trying to live in different ways. Do I live for other people, or for myself? Do I earn money just to spend it? Do I have long term goals, or am I just getting a piece of paper to do what I’m doing for the rest of my life? Is it wrong to love something but also be afraid that you won’t love it forever? Suddenly Wordsworth’s words made more sense to me in the midst of my muddle.

I decided that it was a great time to start a blog. Sure, I tried to start a blog once before, something that never really took root, and if I’m being honest, I’ve forgotten the name and the password for. I hope that this can be a place to talk about what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been thinking, and the struggles with growing into adulthood. Just because I can act like an adult most of the time, doesn’t meant that I feel like one. So, if you’re reading this, welcome. I hope that you find something here that is of value to you, just as I hope that this will be of value to me. After all, neither of us has time to waste, if we want to become our fullest selves. We need to rediscover nature. So, I’m going to read.