I’ve read some great books lately, and they haven’t been for grown-ups. Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon, about a teenage girl with a life-threatening illness cosseted away from the world by her grieving mother; The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas – I couldn’t put it down – about a young girl who witnessed a cop shooting her best friend, and her struggle and eventual triumph speaking out about it; and Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds, a breathless tale told in rhythmic, musical verse, with a timeline of just one and a half minutes, about a terrified young boy desperate to avenge his brother’s death.
All have reminded me what it was like reading as a teenager, when you needed books to escape, to explain the world to you when the adults around you couldn’t, to reflect who you are, or help you find out who you are if you didn’t have a clue (still working on this, could be why I still read YA fiction). And to learn that it’s ok to be different or weird or that in fact, mostly, we are all normal, in our own abnormal way. When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, is a book about time travel, friendship, and the love between a mother and daughter. It’s beautifully written, and I came across in it as good a description I’ve found as any about meditation, or what can happen as a result of practising it:
‘Mom says that each of has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world… The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way. But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is… all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to. Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. Then they don’t have to depend on the wind anymore.’
Yes, there’s this veil we live under, and it does make things blurry, and we do sort of like it. Occasionally, in transcendent (sometimes painful, as often joyous, moments) it drops, or shifts a little. We can see past it, or rather see the world without it. I think I saw the world like that after the birth of my son; after the death of my father. And once or twice, after meditation.
Do we all need to learn how to lift this veil? Yes, probably. I don’t mean we all need to learn to meditate. We each find our own way to get a glimpse past ourselves, and there are a myriad of ways of doing it. Reading, running, looking at art, walking, being in nature, or with an animal, cooking – and a thousand more.
The best thing, something I aspire to, is not having to depend on that wind anymore. Finding a way to tether ourselves to what is real and firmly eschew what is not.