The Golden Compass

In spite of the trials of the last few weeks, I really enjoyed reading The Golden Compass.  For me, reading fantasy is one of the most immersive experiences you can get.  In comparison to fantasy, reality-fiction or even movies are a bore.  Why should that be?  I’ve heard that the more difficulty people have dealing the world the live in, the more likely they are to embrace alternate realities.

Whatever the case, I relished every page of the book, and dreaded having to finish it.  The story takes place in an alternate universe, similar in many respects to our own; the most intriguing difference (in my opinion) is that every human has a daemon, which is an animal companion that is the equivalent of a soul.  A daemon is consciously bound to it’s human, and vice-versa.  The story stresses how comforting it is to have a constant companion who can share your thoughts and emotions- an interesting concept.  Whatever the nature of love is, I don’t think love attains the level of complexity and closeness that this bond represents.

I was also interested to uncover the purported anti-clerical motives in the book.  Specifically, I’d heard that the book railed against the abuses of the Catholic Church, portrayed by the sinister Magesterium that stalks the main character Lyra.  Frankly, I don’t see what the big deal is- the book is no more critical than a thousand other anti-Catholic texts, all of which contain a kernel of truth about the historical misdeeds of the Church.  I guess it’s the time we live in- the book was published around 1995, a time when the eternal religious hysteria combined with a newly-developing hysteria that criticism (justified or not) of any single group or belief was wrong (I recently read about another manifestion of this hysteria- a row over the Q’uran being on a low shelf in the library, next to the Bible and Torah.  Evidently, Islam dictates that their Holy Book must be placed above all others.  Pragmatic librarians and Christians disagree, for different reasons).

The story was well-crafted and the characters were complex, but I was confused by the writing at times.  Some things I had to re-read 10 times, just to make sure I understood the meaning (and sometimes I couldn’t understand even then).

Anyway, it’s a good read that I heartily recommend.

A misty enemy

It’s been two weeks since my Dad was diagnosed with cancer.  I was at work when he called to tell me; I remember it clearly.  At least, I remember the feeling of hearing the news- I have no idea at all what I said in return.  It was like every synapse in my brain had suddenly darkened.  My thoughts and emotions were completely suspended- I felt no fear, anxiety, doubt, not even sorrow.  Everything was completely still.

In the few minutes between hanging up and leaving work, I was inundated with thoughts of what might happen.  To clear my head, I decided to go for a walk.  The weather was beautiful, but there was no solace in a Spring day.  Until that day, cancer was a vague thing; now the meaning of the word had changed entirely.  I liken it to the rainforest: everyone discusses it , frequently but abstractly, and until you’ve felt it’s presence, it’s really only a word.  It’s much more than a word to me now.  I walked for hours, searching for something to anchor myself to, something to comfort me.  There were a dozen people I could talk to, a dozen shoulders to cry on.  Unfortunately, some things have to be reconciled from within; the sympathy of others is cold comfort.

Not long after getting the news, I accepted what had happened to my Dad because I believe he’ll survive it.  He’s young, healthy, and stubborn; what better armor to have for the fight to survive?

Worry was quickly replaced by genuine hope, but that doesn’t make cancer any easier.  For my own part, the most difficult part of the last two weeks has been worrying about my family.  My hitherto one-dimensional understanding of cancer was confined to the patient, but cancer gnaws at the hearts of everyone around the patient.  People can be undone by worry, especially since the popular face of cancer is the victims, not the survivors (of which there are many).

If the last two weeks were difficult, the next two should be a little easier.  The largest tumor has been removed with great success, and a little recovery time is in order before chemotherapy starts.