Thoughts from a Coffeeshop

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People are boring. We avidly resist change. We find comfort in routine and familiar scents.

We tell ourselves that that we are unique, one of a kind. There is comfort in telling ourselves that we are here for a reason, and that we are put here in order to fulfill some pre-planned destiny.

But aren’t we just pouring gravel and plopping buildings on top of our ancestors’ footsteps and then walking around like we are some sort of hero?

 

 

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Bystander

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I watched as the autumn wind carried the golden leaves down and away, and wondered how time had managed to pass so quickly and to take so much with it.

How?

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I am currently obsessed with a passage from a book we are reading for English class. It is a novella titled Reunion by Fred Uhlman. ‘Tis one of the best things I’ve ever read in any English class.

“Now the crucial question no longer seemed to be what life was, but what one was to do with this valueless, yet somehow uniquely valuable life. How should one spend it? To what end? For our own good alone? For the good of man kind? How was one to make the best of this bad job?”

I have yet to find an answer to that one, Hans.

Girl

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Make sure you get up in the morning so that your brother won’t be late for school; this is how you heat up your brother’s lunch; this is how you make him his French toast bagel for breakfast; don’t leave any homework to do in morning, you simply won’t have the time; did you finish studying?; you should really go check with your tutor about meeting times this Saturday; should I email him for you or should you email him?; why don’t you email him; have a good day at school, sweetie, make sure to look over your math test, don’t make any careless mistakes;  call home when you are ready to come home; actually, let’s try to plan your schedule around your younger sister’s, because I don’t have time to make two trips tonight; how was your day?; how was your math test?; I won’t know until it’s graded; this is what I would do if I were in your situation; didn’t you already go for a run today?; this is why you should listen to me; you don’t want to get sick, you have essays to write; this is how you shut your laptop cover when it’s distracting you; I’m just writing that essay we were taking about; your friend called again today about the concert; yes, I know you want to go; tell her you’ll get back to her during the weekend; do you realize how lucky you are to be the oldest child?; your sister admires you; your brother admires you; your cousins and aunts and uncles are proud of you;  tell me your plans for tomorrow; this is what time you should go to sleep tonight; why are you still up?; nothing is more valuable that your sleep and your health; goodnight; this is how you make sure to set your alarm clock for the right time tomorrow morning.

Together They were Infinite: A Comparison of Hazel and Augustus

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Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, the two main characters in The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, first met at Cancer Kid Support Group. Support group was a place where kids who were ill came to meet other kids who were will, to pray for each other and to appear to be okay, for each other’s sake. Hazel and Augustus had accepted the fact that their lives were not going to outlast most teenagers. Once they met, however, Hazel and Augustus found themselves discovering beautiful things during the time that they had each been blessed with.

Like many people, Hazel and Augustus saw life and death as a clear beginning and end. Yet, their views on the time in between the beginning and end differed. As far as Hazel Grace knew, her endpoint could have arrived at any unexpected moment.

Hazel was diagnosed as a thyroid cancer patient at age thirteen.  As a young girl, she went through countless treatments in attempt to shrink the tumors within her. The doctors around her did not have high hopes in her survival. The treatment methods did not work on seventy percent of patients. Nevertheless, the tumors shrank, and Hazel managed to continue living on what she calls her “miracle drug”. Although she survived, she lived with the constant fear of death. She didn’t let herself go, and she refrained from creating new relationships in fear of causing them pain once she reached her end. As an only child, Hazel hated the idea of her parents being sad, alone, and childless. Her oxygen tank was with her at all times, reminding her of her situation, and weighed her down, keeping her away from being fearless. She accepted death and the power it had over her. She said, “Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.” When offered the chance to make a “wish” as a cancer patient, Hazel, afraid that she was running out of time, immediately chose to go to Disney World.

It was Hazel’s mother, after having noticed her inactivity, who suggested that Hazel should start attending Support Group. That was where Augustus Waters entered the picture.

Augustus met Hazel while he was remission from a past diagnosis of osteosarcoma. While Hazel lived with her faulty lungs, Augustus had lost his left leg during treatment. As Hazel lugged her oxygen tank around with her, Augustus sported his fake leg. Although Hazel had accepted death as the ultimate winner, Augustus refused to let death take away his purpose in this world. He yearned for the complete experience of life. A piece of his daily schedule was dedicated to his favorite video game, similar to other teenage boys. He treated his loved ones normally, and did not creep around them hoping that by him doing so, they would hurt less once he was gone. He loved his parents, and unlike Hazel, decided to live and interact with them just like he had before his sickness. He believed that death did not have to be the endpoint, as long as he conquered oblivion. He did not think about death as often as Hazel did. He thought about what would happen after death. Augustus Waters feared oblivion. Much of what he did was in hope of establishing a name for himself, no matter when the deadline may have been for him. When offered the same “wish” as Hazel, Augustus Waters chose to not use it until he found something truly worthwhile and life-changing.

When Hazel saw Augustus walk in that day into Cancer Kid Support Group, she hadn’t yet realized how much she had to learn from the limping boy with the mesmerizing blue eyes. Like Hazel, Augustus would find that he did not have life figured out. Through each other, Hazel Grace and Augustus discovered beautiful things about themselves and about life that had once been overshadowed by the power of death.

These discoveries were not by accident, however. It was the mutual understandings of life that they had learned alone that allowed them to help and learn from each other once their paths crossed.

Hazel and Augustus both understood the fragility of life and the unexpectedness of death. They had first-hand experience in the fact that, in Augustus’ words, “the world is not a wish-granting factory.” Having been in and out of hospitals, they had both been acquainted with people who had undeservedly reached death at a young age. They had learned to live life without talking it for granted, and for that reason, they cherished every moment that they spent with their loved ones and with each other.

Augustus says, “Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.” Death meant pain, even if not for the victim, certainly for those around them. Both Hazel and Augustus were brave and strong enough to get by the original phases of pain that came with cancer. Together, they both discovered that although pain was inevitable, they had the power to decide how much they hurt. As Augustus wisely states, “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.” Hazel and Augustus overcame their fears of pain, and therefore were able to love more effectively.

Amidst the threat of pain and suffering, Hazel and Augustus found through each other that love was one of the few things that did not weaken along with their bodies. They both had been loved, and they now knew what it was like to love another.

Most importantly, in the end, Hazel Grace and August Waters both saw beyond beginnings and ends. They understood infinity. Hazel Grace says, “There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities…But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

Hazel and Augustus had both been wrong. Life and death were not endpoints. Instead, life and death were actually part of the biggest infinity either of them could have been granted.

Unimaginable

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“We think that what we write matters, but for the most part, in America no one cares. It may be different elsewhere on the globe – – – Ossip Mandelstam once maintained that only in Russia was poetry respected because there it got people killed. Here, we don’t get killed, but we’re dying anyways.”

There used to be a time when young men and women dreamed about becoming writers. To be literate to that extent was a privilege. Now, if teenagers dream of writing, it is often in the form of pop songs or raps. True literature has lost its place as the central part of our culture. Other aspects, such as technology, has taken its place.

There is no guaranteed success for any artist, including writers. J.K. Rowling, author of the world-renowned Harry Potter series, is one of the most well-known and respected writers  of our time. It is one thing to be able to find inspiration from one’s own mind, but it is another to find an inspiration that will touch the inner story-listener of millions around the world. Most people aren’t that lucky.

Artists are trapped in their own minds. Painters and drawers are given the wonderful gift to recreate everything they see down to the last detail. The ears of trained  musicians hear things that the ordinary eardrum does not process. Writers sit inside on rainy days writing as much as they can in order to empty their minds, or rather, a tiny fraction of it. The lives of artists aren’t easy. They don’t get paid on a regular basis. Many of their works are not dug out into recognition until they pass away. Those involved with the daily lives of these artists, spouses, family, or friends, struggle as they are unable to see the world through their eyes, ears, and minds. All fight for the view breakout spots, the spots recognized and respected in society.

The God-given gifts are a prison. These people do not ask for it. They can only hope that last drop of sanity and the care of those closest to their heart will keep their head from drowning completely. Because once they are under, the fight out is unimaginable.