“Some infinities are larger than other infinities…”- The Fault In Our Stars

Originally, I had made plans to see The Fault in Our Stars with a friend. As anyone who has ever spent more than half of their life reading understands, sometimes you really feel the need to read the book before you see the movie. So, I spent between eight to sixteen hours (time is rather vague when you’re trapped between pages) voraciously pouring through this novel. I did so, partly to see why everyone was so obsessed with it; mostly to see if I too would fall under its spell; and mainly, so that I would be able to watch the movie with that superior air many readers wear upon hearing their favourite book has become a film.

I was stunned.

Stunned because it was so simple, and yet it was not–no Salman Rushdie this John Green fellow. Stunned because it felt a tad pretentious, as if it were trying too hard, and yet it was not–coincidentally, this is the sort of thing a certain Hazel Grace might have noted. Stunned because it was about death, and dying…and yet it was not. In the words of the story, “Some infinities are [greater] than other[s].” And in the case of this novel, the infinite presence of its aphorisms are far greater than its infinite hamartia.

Hamartia–the fatal flaw.

I have spent so much time musing, and contemplating the various impressions, and phrases which have resonated with me from this tale, that I’ve discovered my own hamartia. I’ve found the hamartia of my love. I’ve found the hamartia of my thoughts. I’ve found the hamartia of my reading. You could say I discovered the very essence of hamartia. Perhaps, I’m being hyperbolic, but hey, a girl has got to enjoy the one moment something from literature class (hamartia) actually develops some usefulness in everyday life. What I will say, is that every new thought led to another, and I felt a marvellous need to pick up a pen, or open a new document, or write a new blog post (ha) just to document my musings.

One of the first things I noted to myself, once I was finished, was that this novel was not what I expected. The story was no great epic; no Romeo and Juliet; or Othello, or Ramayana. In fact, it’s not even The Notebook. Yet, it would be unfair to judge the book against the contents of these wonderful works of literature. Primarily because this novel is life without its favoured euphemisms, or the larger than life issues that exist in the average literary masterpiece. It portrays life in the disillusionment which comes from having your greatest wish fulfilled. It walks upon the edge of life’s inevitability with the very real presence of death’s weight. The story trudges determinedly through mortifying humiliation, and children who are more adult than adults. Adult not in the sense of love, or responsibility, but rather with their lens of clarity which long-term suffering, that sets one apart from the rest of the healthy child to young adult population, creates. These characters, a small circle of cancer-ridden adolescents, are so beautifully involved in their love, that one cannot help, but dream with them. Unfortunately, neither they, nor we, are allowed to dream. Why is that?

Even at the very beginning of their developing affections for each other, I was left thinking that they had fallen in love too soon. Grown too fond too quickly. Skipped far too many stages of adolescent “love”, for me to take them seriously. And then, it hit me. These were not people with time. These were individuals who had seen mortality virtually every day of their diagnosed lives. Hazel Grace, and Augustus Waters could die that day, or three weeks later. Therefore, why in God’s name would they waste time with the usual overtures of adolescent dating? Where could they find the precious time to send coy text messages, or meet “accidentally” at a place they’d never heard of, much less seen? How could they sneak out after curfews to enjoy some time at a mutual friend’s party? How could they randomly bump into each other in the hallways at school, when the very idea of attending school carried so much weight? I’d say the words of Augustus Waters sums up the entire situation:

“I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence.”

Certainly not the most profound thing to have been said in this novel, but Augustus leaves a few words unspoken:

“I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence [because there is no guarantee of extended time. There is no certainty that tomorrow, you, or I will be there to enjoy the little things that so many others take for granted.]”

When viewed in the context of their lives, it weighs as heavily as a live grenade in the hand. The grenade Hazel Grace fears she will be to those that love her. The grenade a certain someone turned out to be upon an inevitable surrender to death. Except, it wasn’t a destructive explosion which that someone left behind in the wake of loss; rather, it was an explosive revelation. The revelation that physical pain does not transcend love. That even the most torturous moments leave room for the gallows humour that can make one more day easier. That even death can bring a gift for the living.

In short, I understood it. Their rapid fall into a pure, less-infantile love than most display today made sense. We were given just enough to dream of love, but even in the act of loving, it was impossible not to see how little this was a dream. This was the raw courage of knowing that there could be loss at any moment. It was the contrasting vision of an oasis, woefully surrounded by the sands of the desert.

One could say that I fell in love with this book the way Hazel Grace fell for Augustus Waters, and his beautiful blue eyes:

“I fell in love with [it], the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

There are so many things I can say about this book, so many quotes I could post. I could rave about John Green’s sense of humour which runs rampantly throughout this book, both intentionally, and unintentionally (to be honest, I can’t say there are many ways that an illness like this can make anyone laugh, especially for people like me who have seen its effects on loved ones first hand, but by Jove, I laughed at so many places). Green’s stark contrasts of health, and illness; the varying degrees of being healthy we all take for granted; and his habit of prodding all the right places, do so much for the overall story. I can’t think of another novel about death, dying, illness, heartbreak, and the very real struggles of being both the “leaver” and the impending “leavee”, that offers such a balanced dose of moroseness, and sweet gratification.

This novel has “An Imperial Affliction“, and it is that you will fall prey to its hamartia. You will think, and you will muse. You’ll find yourself unable to fall asleep because you either can’t stop thinking about the book’s characters, or can’t stop musing over how any of the wonderful lines in there simply keep coming back to you over, and over again. Although you might think, “Well, this was a royal load of horseshit.”, you’ll remember the quiet wonder that comes from having that little “space” on the phone where only you, and the one you’re speaking to exists. You’ll notice things about death that you hadn’t noticed before. Though you’ll say, “None of this nonsense would ever happen in real life”, you’ll constantly remember that there was at least one part of this book, where you had “it”: that epiphany. That grandiose moment that returns over, and over again to haunt you, and remind you why you adore reading so much. I’ll simply end here, with one very teenage moment; nothing profound, or great, just two kids being kids:

“Do you have a Wish?’ he asked, referring to this organization, The Genie Foundation, which is in the business of granting sick kids one wish.

‘No’ I said. ‘I used my Wish pre-Miracle.’

‘What’d you do?’

I sighed loudly. ‘I was thirteen,’ I said.

‘Not Disney,’ he said.

I said nothing.

‘You did not go to Disney World.’

I said nothing.

‘HAZEL GRACE!’ he shouted. ‘You did not use your one dying Wish to go to Disney World with your parents.’

‘Also Epcot Center,’ I mumbled.

‘Oh, my God,’ Augustus said. ‘I can’t believe I had a crush on a girl with such cliché wishes.”

**Author’s Note: I tried to be as spoiler-free as possible. Forgive me if I wasn’t.

Early Morning Reprieve

5:09. The glaring numbers on my phone barely registered in my bleary mind. I rolled over, unhappy at the thought of leaving my sleepy cocoon. Sighing, I crawled out of bed. The sky had this strange grayish-blue tinge to it. I wondered if some rain was on its way to offer reprieve from this awful heat. Everything was just so quiet. If I was as late as I thought, why hadn’t **Uncle SLF started his preparations as yet? Happy to one up him on the bathroom flow (after yesterday’s debacle) I stepped into the shower.

By 5:22, freshly showered and feeling slightly cool, I re-checked the phone. For a moment I stood in shock.” Nooooo!!!!” I grabbed the bloody talking clock and checked that too. Feeling flabbergasted, I listened to the sardonic commentary of my subconscious as she laughed at me. The time had finally registered on me. Somehow, even though I saw the 5, my mind had tricked me into believing that it was really after six. With resentment my sardonic self and I glared at each other, her amusement clearly written all over her face. “Looks like feeling happy has you completely befuddled kiddo. You must have been pretty far under the cloud, since you’re even thinking of Sugar Clouds now.” I rolled my eyes at her smirking face.

 By 5:40, I was lotioned and dressed. I had no clue what to do with myself. Even uncle SLF was still sound asleep. Then it hit me, when last did I do anything unhurriedly in the morning?  I smiled contentedly and proceeded to pack my lunch and breakfast leisurely. I considered making myself a cup of tea, just to sit and enjoy the chirping birds. Unfortunately, it’s way too hot for tea. So, I did something I haven’t done in a really long time. I sat on my bed, and grabbed my Bible Study Guide. This week’s lesson looks at King Hezekiah and the battle against Sennacherib-the Assyrian King.

King Sennacherib had the people of Judah under heavy siege. He’d been winning battles against everyone around the area. In fact, winning battles was a family trade. His dad and his dad before him, and so on had been conquering surrounding nations for generations. Instead, of being afraid of him, King Hezekiah had the citizens of Judah repair the broken city walls, fix the towers, and block off the springs that led in and out of the city. He made and stocked up on weapons, and then he laid out a pretty interesting speech before his people.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him. For there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and fight our battles.” 2 Chronicles 32: 7,8

For those of you who don’t indulge in stories of war or read the Bible, think of it this way. You remember those times you had to hide from a bully, or from some punishment you just knew your parents/guardians were gonna lay on you? In the case of the bully, who’s probably beaten up like 20 kids before you, let’s say you grabbed all the rocks and sticks you could find. You hide them in your bag, in your shoes, in your pockets, in your desk, around the expected “battleground”. In your mind you keep telling yourself, “Hey, if anything goes wrong, if this shizzle gets too real, there’s one person who’s got your back.”

 If it’s the big blow-up with your parents, you get home early, stock up on food, and prepare your room. You call round to your friends. Then you call your favourite relative to ease things over for you. You pull yourself together, and although you’re a little shaky, you think, “Atleast aunty A/ uncle B is gonna defend me.”

 If you can’t relate to that, think X-box vibes. You’re in Gears of War and the Locusts have you surrounded. Or you’re in C.O.D. MW3 and the Russians ambush your team. You’ve got enough ammo, but your teammates have never battled a force like this. Bombs are aimed at you. Rocket launchers are waiting. Or You’re in C.O.D. World at War, playing Zombie mode. You’re trying to fix the walls and windows while keeping some really hungry zombies at bay.

By now, you should get the point. The people of Judah were completely outnumbered and surrounded by a group of tough, wiry, burly warriors who didn’t give a bum about those in the city. They just wanted another victory under their caps, well helmets. The Assyrian King was so certain of the victory, that he mocked the citizens’ confidence and preparations. His speech was longer than King Hezekiah’s so I’m going to spare you the details. Needless to say, the Judaeans made their phone call to the higher power pretty quickly, and He answered loud and clear. The Assyrians were annihilated. God sent an angel to rid his people of those terrifying Assyrians. (Yes, it is like getting to call in an artillery strike, or one of those amazing aircrafts in C.O.D. MW3). Then after losing the battle, King Sennacherib headed home feeling ashamed and lame. There he was killed by some of his sons.

A gory story to say the least, but it hit home the point for me. Something that I’ve been understanding this week. I have literally been waking up with pain each morning, not in my mind, but the kind of heartache that spreads through you till you can feel it actually hurting you physically. I talk to God, not as often as I should, but I talk to Him. The problem is, I don’t think I talk with Him. I trust Him yes, but while I let Him work, there’s still a constant desire to remain in control. Reading Sara’s post on Self-Harm- An Emergency Exit   made me realise that while I may not hurt my physical body, I torture my psychological one. In trying to control everything I feel and how I perceive myself, it hasn’t been about making myself feel better, it’s been about magnifying pain to balance out the shame and guilt I suppress. (See ‘Pain’ )This isn’t an entirely new discovery for me, but this is the first time I’ve seen how it affects my relationship with God and with people. After I unloaded a ton of crap on Adurna the other night, I realised that some issues I thought I had dealt with were still hosting a dance-a-ton on their open grave. Self-doubt, insecurities, lack of faith, inabilities to surrender and be vulnerable will always lay siege to my life. Those aren’t things that I can control. Trying to control them on my own won’t work. So I’ve got to send out that call for the heavy- duty artillery. I have to look to Him for the deliverance. Seeing those punch lines and the “other eyes” section of my quarterly have pounded that in. Seeing the title of this quarter’s Youth Sabbath School Bible Study Guide has impacted me just as much as the reading. It’s called “Unrequited Love”. I don’t think I’ve been returning the agape love God has poured on me, so the title suits.

Punch Lines- pp 47 (Cornerstone Connections, Youth Sabbath School Study Guide, 2nd Quarter)

“I lift up mine eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” -Psalm 121: 1,2 NIV

“Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you”- Deuteronomy 3:22 NIV

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” -Psalm 20: 7

“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s” – 2 Chronicles 20: 15 NIV

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?- Romans 8:31 NIV

“Other Eyes” -pp 47 (Cornerstone Connections, Youth Sabbath School Study Guide, 2nd Quarter)

Don’t waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson, 19th-century U.S. poet, lecturer, essayist.

“We gain strength, courage and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face…. We must do that which we think we cannot.” – Eleanor Roosevelt, 20th-cemturyU.S. humanitarian, United Nations diplomat, First Lady.

I’m not sure how long this epiphany will last, but it certainly has been a reprieve from the barrage of wounds I self-inflict. Who knew being off-kilter from peace could be this useful? Boy does it feel good to wake up without pain in the morning!

**not the uncle

C.O.D-Call of Duty

MW3-Modern Warfare 3

Kadeen Nichelle Oksana Waldron



June 22, 2012