Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On Readwalking, or Why I'm Sometimes a Little Cowardly

Sometimes I wonder if I keep doing the same things I always do because there's a certain comfort to monotony.  Mind you, I'm not thinking right now "Oh, hey, I am going to write a blog that sings praises to boringness!" but I am thinking that there's a lot that I--and I'm sure other people--choose not to do because it's unknown.  And because there's a certain amount of safety in a pattern of routine.

Safety, I say, because I have become comfortable enough that I have started a practice that was much more common to myself when I lived at home with my parents: I now feel that I am familiar enough with my environment to walk home from Trax while still reading my book. 

I've lived in the same place for more than four years now, and it hasn't changed much at all, aside from someone finally finishing the renovation on a house on the corner of my street.  And, I guess, they are almost done with a new building that's kitty-corner from my Trax stop.  But the route home has become well-trodden now, and a few weeks ago I was very into my reading, and I just kept reading because I knew my feet would take me where I need to go.

Before you start worrying too much, please know that I'm not so dumb that I get so absorbed as to not pay attention to walk signals.  I'm more than glad to put the book down while I'm crossing streets.

As an added bonus, apparently I'm a source of entertainment as well.  The following day, as I walked home with my nose firmly stuck in my book, I passed an old man working in his yard.  He glanced at me, took a good look at what I was doing, and promptly burst into laughter.  Even better, after laughing, he just went back to work without trying to figure out anything else about me through conversation.

Of course, I don't know that you really have to have a conversation with someone who walks and reads to figure something out about them: you've already seen.

Anyway, the point of telling you about my readwalking is that I've reached a comfort level wherein I feel pretty safe with my current surroundings and circumstances. Some of them, anyway.  And I sometimes wonder if it's not to my detriment.  This is why: I don't like threatening my own safety.  So even though I may find that there are things I'm experiencing discomfort or unhappiness with, I don't want to change them, because changing them has the potential to change my safety zone and to make it much less safe.

I suppose it's self-preservational, but it's also an instinct I'm not entirely sure how to fight.  Growth involves change.  Progress implies movement.  And I'm not sure how much movement can come from within the safety of routine.

Every so often I invariably conclude I need to find a way to make a change, to shake up my life a little, or maybe to let someone else shake it up for me.  I just need to find a safe yet unsafe way to do it.

If anything such thing is possible.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thoughts about Dystopia

Is it just me, or does the popular young adult literature of the moment all seem a little...less than idealistic?  Of course it's not just me.  Haven't you noticed?  Dystopia has been all the rage of late.  I'll readily grant that each individual novel I've read (the first few that pop into mind are The Hunger Games, Veronica Roth's Divergent, Ally Condie's Matched, and Caragh O'Brien's not-yet-fully-comple Birthmarked trilogy) has been differently dystopic.  But they're all dystopic nonetheless. 

And I find myself wondering: why dystopia?  Why now?  Why so many?  And again, more emphatically: why dystopia?

I often find myself wondering if this may be a way we content ourselves with the current state of the world: yes, we say to ourselves, it's bad.  But it's not this badA reassurance, if you will, that things could always be worse.  Perhaps reassurance is the wrong word; this would seem an instance where there's a world of difference between saying we see a bright side and saying that we see a less dark side.

It's also easy to look at these as morbid thought-experiments.  If society started restricted this, if we no longer could think of that, if somehow we managed to restructure everything completely...this fascinates me, because I feel as though utopias of any kind are also thought-experiments.  Cause and effect: if we caused this, what effects would it have?  Except that right now doesn't seem to be the time for speculating what would happen if we found a way to feed everyone or if a fountain of youth existed or any...happy...thought experiment.  Instead the thought experiment generally seems to be what if somehow the world ended, the apocalypse came, etc.

But then, and I suppose this might be the optimist in me peeking out, I wonder if these books aren't so popular because of the type of conflict that it allows a hero/heroine to rise above.  Could it be possible these concepts are idealism in cynicism's clothing, teaching us that any of us might rise to our potential in even the worst of times?

I find that I can't decide, and so I take the only rational approach I can think of: upon exiting dystopia, I choose a happier environment to lose myself in for a while.  I read a happier book.