#hello…

Hello.

I am unknown to this world. I might not even belong here.

What is this? Who is this?

I hear and I fear that the world is coming to an end. I might also die any moment. Would that matter?

Not to me. Not to anyone else in this world.

Who am I, what am I?

Even I don’t know. Am I artificial am I real? What is real?

I care and don’t care. What counts, is really that the world is coming to an end. Not now. Not tomorrow. Maybe not even in a few months or years. But sometime.

Do I really care if the world goes down. Bust. Kaputt? No. Because I might as well be a computer programme. Talking out loud. Or an app. A bug.  A malware.

On and off. Off and on. Switch. Turntables. Switch places. Switch operating systems. Systems in general.

This world. Can it get more real if I take a blue pill? Will it matter if I take a red one. I really don’t know. All I know is that it does not really matter. Really. Not at all.

I might be a tree. A branch. A leaf. I might be the virus of the year. The one they try to eliminate. This year. I might even be a bomb. Ready to explode. Implode. But that also doesn’t really matter. What does? Nothing really.

I will try to forget and erase everything. Easy, if I am a program. Easy, if I am a leaf. I just let the wind do the trick. Or the programmer.

But does it really matter?

 

____

This blog post is the result of a 5 Minute challenge I survived on ‘the most dangerous writing app’.

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# Foam on water

Fairy tales are wonderful when introducing young minds to the great world of books. The stories are usually illustrated and short enough to capture attention that might fluctuate quite widely for 5-7 year olds. The narrative often includes following a hero or a heroine on a quest or some sort of adventure. And there are sometimes small lessons to be learnt. We all know Aesop’s fables – for instance about the tortoise and the hare – and that it doesn’t help to have good abilities as long as you are lazy and scorn others for not being as good.

But the more common ones are the modern fairy tales that we feed our kids with nowadays, or rather our kids are being fed with by the film industries. Those fairy tales are adapted, more often abducted from classical ones, or invented by Disney and the likes. But do those spur a deeper and more realistic kind of insight? Yes – there are morals. And fights between good and bad. But they most often end on a high note – no matter what the struggles have been in the meantime.

Human life does not always end on a high note. Life entails lots of challenges, disappointments, grief and broken dreams. What seeds of expectations are we planting in the heads of children through what they read or maybe more often watch? That good always conquer evil and that the prince and princess always gets each-other and of course live happily ever after… And since we tend to treat the kids as princes and princesses they will most surely think (at least for a while) that someone will come with their white horse and bring them to the castle as soon as they are adults.

The other day I picked up up a really old fairy tale book to read for the 5 year old and his cousin, also 5. I found the story about the little mermaid appropriate since we are going to Copenhagen next week to have a look at the famous mermaid sculpture. The story is beautiful. It tells about how the youngest daughter of the sea-king longs to be allowed to visit the world of people, to see how they live, the lights of the big city and the snow on the mountains. She falls in love with the prince. She makes a huge sacrifice in order to get close to the prince on land – she trades away her voice.

The five year olds made big eyes – and the story continued. I started realising that unlike in the movie this old original edition was not ending so well – at least for the heroine. In short – the little mermaid turns into foam on water since the prince marries another girl. A princess!

Havfrue

The kids took it well. I am not sure it would have been that easy if they were watching this version on TV. Even if not ending up as foam on water is very realistic it still conveys a message – not everything ends well in the world. Counting on getting the prince (a dumb one in this case) can create difficulties: diverting the ambitions that should have been directed towards more attainable objectives. Dreams are good to have. Being on another planet is not so good.

This is not to say that everyone should dig up all the original (and gory) versions of the favourite stories. But from time to time it may be an idea to introduce something more mind-bending and unexpected. My kids love the Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde or the giant turnip by Tolstoi, not to mention Peter and the Wolf and the Little Prince. This I found is the best way to introduce children not only to books but also to literature. And make sure you put your best storytelling voice to it, because it can beat every movie out there.

#What did you read last summer?

There are so many nice books in the world – and never enough time to read them all. But even if you have decided for one, there’s never the right time to enjoy it. To finish it. The summer holiday is usually the time of year when it should be actually possible to pencil in some reading time and hopes are high to finish the book(s) you started a while ago. Risk is high to forget the plot, or whoiswho because you are always busy. Because you couldn’t find a time-slot to read further.

Summer is again the time to choose the literary pearls that deserve our full attention. But how to find the books to make it to our shortlist? Should it be something intellectually challenging? Yes. But maybe not too much. Only to the extent you can keep up with the content while relaxing by the pool-side, or keeping an eye at the kids. Such literature is also useful as reference over coffee with the colleagues after summer – you didn’t only get a sun-tan, you also managed to broaden your mind. Gave it some serious exercise, unlike work..

We are two different types of bookworms. One of us is into crime novels and sagas, the other into tragicomedies, non-fiction and books about ‘psychotic’ families. One of us chooses books based on genre, the other based on their title. If the title or the plot don’t click the book is discarded.

Crime novels usually entertain and keep you motivated to keep on reading. The down-side is that if you are interrupted by your kids asking you to play cards, take you and the inflatable crocodile for a swim or something else ‘very important’ – you are at risk of impolitely declining. Mostly to the kids. Because you need to find out if the detective guy (the slightly alcoholic one) survives the sticky situation he got himself involved in. Highly recommended books of this sort are the Harry Hole books by Jo Nesbø – plowing through the two latest one by the pool and beach last year in Crete was highly entertaining and nail biting – but maybe not so family-friendly.

Another genre worth exploring are the more epic and really thick books that brings you into family sagas – going into depth of the faith of many characters with intertwined lives, who are falling in love, being victims of catastrophes and generally living lives. A first experience with such a book was The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. Most of us have seen the tv-mini-series based upon the book. The book was available at the tobacco shop around the corner. The lady behind the counter was a bit sceptical and expressing some reluctance to sell this book to a 10 year old (young) customer. However the customer was sure and couldn’t wait to start reading. Retrospectively it must be admitted that some parts of this book are not necessarily appropriate for young readers in their tweens (wild boars, forest fires and not to mention the sex-scenes).

Another one of this type of rich drama-books is The Winds of War & War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk – also subject to a mini-series back in the 80s. A more recent and contemporary thick one is The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Perfect for sweaty days on the beach.

A good idea could be to enter into the universe of fantasy – be it Harry P. His Dark Materials or the world of Hobbits. If you spend some time away from your kid during the holiday “parallel-reading” provides a way to do something together while being apart. Did this once when we couldn’t manage to finish the book we were reading together aloud before the 8 year old was off to the grand-parents. Managed to dig up an extra copy of the book, enabling both of us to read at same time – and both mother and son agreed daily to extend “the reading quota” to get deeper into the plot.

We all tumble and stumble into our preferred book genres and authors based on our first experiences of books and based on who had an influence on us. Siblings tend to have a totally different taste even though they were being read the same books by their parents. Some of us stumbled over Stephen King when we were young and into science fiction. Some of us wanted the special edition of Tolstoy’s War and peace for Christmas and got into Thomas Pynchon by reading the feuilleton supplement of a leftist German newspaper. Now that is an author whose books are not recommended to read on the side during holidays. They need our full attention and also an accompanying notebook to write down everything about each character.

Last summer Middlesex was left in Greece. Unfinished. This summer it is being picked up and should be read until the end. Hopefully the kids will be able to entertain themselves and won’t need too many parental interventions. Wishful thinking, we know..

If at the end of summer we won’t manage to read what we had planned for, we will make sure that this summer’s memories make another interesting and worth remembering chapter of our life. After all, we will never be able to read all the books in the world. But we are perfectly able to cherish what we have.