It’s interesting, isn’t it? The way what we read influences our moods, our thoughts, and our actions? I think our tendency is to think that what we read doesn’t really affect us, and to a certain extent we can learn to distance ourselves from media and view it objectively.
But what about the books that we do not hold at a distance? What about those books that we allow ourselves to become immersed in? I think they can color the way we view the world. Which is what is so great about them, and also why we need to be diligent about controlling what media we expose ourselves to. No matter how old you are, you are constantly forming yourself. Make sure you are forming yourself into the person that you’d like to be, instead of drifting tumbleweed-style into someone you never envisioned.
Why do I bring this up now?
I think it is because of the way a book I finished reading this weekend affected me.
The book that I have been reading (well, listening to on my commute via the wonders of Audible), is “Divergent,” by Veronica Roth. It is one of those ubiquitous dystopian YA fiction novels. I love it, because I relate so much to Tris.
If you haven’t read this book and want to, you may want to stop reading now. I’m probably going to have a bunch of spoilers in here, in order to explain how and why this book has affected me in the way that it has.
She lives in some future Chicago, where the society is broken down into 5 Factions, each with it’s own idea of what trait is most needed for a stable society. There is the Erudite (knowledge), Amity (friendship/kindness), Candor (truth), Abnegation (self-denial) and Dauntless (courage/bravery). So, at some point, these evolved to fight the evils of the world: ignorance, cruelty, deceit, selfishness and cowardice. In the world, when you turn 17, you take an aptitude test to help you discern what Faction you fit in best with. This aptitude test doesn’t decide for you, however. You can always pick whichever Faction you want. It sounds kind of idyllic, right?
Well. Not so fast.
First, currently (in book time), there is friction between the Factions, and pride in one’s Faction has morphed into something vaguely xenophobic and hostile. Before they choose, the kids grow up going to the same school, but they do not often interact in any substantial way with children of the other Factions.
Second, there is a saying that they have – “Faction before blood” – and this is taken quite seriously. Once you choose a Faction, there is no going back. If you choose a Faction other than the one in which you were raised, you effectively reject your family.
Third, once you choose your Faction, they have to choose you. If you don’t pass their Initiation, you become Factionless, or essentially homeless, with no way to support yourself.
Our protagonist, Tris, was born into Abnegation and eventually chooses Dauntless. The book consists mostly of the tests and training that she undergoes while in Initiation for Dauntless, the fearless Faction, which provides security and soldiers for the society.
This speaks to me, because I feel that I underwent an “Abnegation to Dauntless” transfer myself after high school when I joined the Navy.
Anyone who has been through any kind of formation experience can attest to the profound ways in which it changes a person. Boot camp and Navy life in general has been very formative for me. It has been years now since I have been in the Navy, but I don’t think you will ever get the Navy out of me. In a way, I will be a soldier forever. It has changed me.
But, just like Tris, it is hard to parse out what is innate in my nature (as I have had some of these personality traits since birth) and what has been formed in me by my Initiation into Navy life. That just made it all the more interesting to me to see the way she struggles with these questions and ponders how much Dauntless was in her all along, and how much Initiation has colored her perspective.
The first thing I noticed as I read the book was how the tone of my day changed. The more immersed I was into her experiences of being beaten, fighting, competition, dealing with physical pain, and learning combat … the more I was reminded of my own formation in these areas. It brought back that soldiering mindset, such that I would leave my car in the morning and see things in a different light.
Some things that the book highlights which I have noticed in myself are an efficiency in action, a tendency to ignore pain in order to get the mission accomplished, a particular sense of brotherhood with my fellow military members, a healthy dose of competition, and a certain degree of recklessness.
Sorry to ruin it for you, but for all of you who have seen me as “quiet”, “sweet”, or “shy” … I am not really that. I just contain it well.
But as the title of this blog, Paroxysm of Giggles, implies, there are times when it all comes erupting out of me. And then people tend to be shocked.
Bwahahahaha! (<— This is the real me.)
Back to how this book affected my weekend. Two things to keep in mind. First, I have a neuromuscular disorder. Second, I am very mission-oriented. Okay, so a friend asked if people would help her move into her new house and I agreed to do this. I was on the team at the new house, getting everything clean and ready for the movers. So, for hours I was washing walls. (The bottoms of the walls, her mother-in-law was on a step-stool and did all the tops). It's a big house and has a LOT of walls! 🙂 We didn't end up getting everything washed, but we got the vast majority of the walls, most of the closets, and two bathrooms done.
Toward the end of the day (about 3 or 4 pm), we were basically done and the movers were bringing things in from the old house. Since I hadn't had any cardiac issues so far, I had kept working and working and working…. I wasn't in pain and I wasn't getting out of breath. So what happened was really quite curious to me.
My muscles just stopped working. Like they just didn't have enough energy to do anything else.
When it happened, I was on the floor in the hallway between the kitchen and the formal dining room/living room. I had been washing the bottom of the walls there and was sitting on the floor to do so. It had been my habit to, more or less, sit on the floor and scoot around the rooms. It was easier here, as it was a tile floor, rather than carpet. Although I wasn't in pain, I noticed that my leg muscles were not working right. I couldn't use them very well to help scoot myself down the hallway. Then, I noticed my arm muscles getting fatigued.
I kept washing the walls.
It got to the point that I was moving down the hallway using the side of one foot and my fingertips. That's all I had left!
AND I KEPT GOING! Just like Mickey in the Sorcerer's Apprentice. My friend noticed and saw how ridiculous this was and told me to stop. And so I did.
After I finished washing the hallway.
Pain might have made me stop after a while. Cardiac arrhythmias might have made me stop. But this? What was this anyway? I found it all rather humorous, actually. I couldn't move my legs. I mean I really couldn't move them. I couldn't get up, so I just sat on the floor for a while.
Eventually, I got up and was able to stand and walk, although a little shaky.
I was supposed to go to a Whirly Ball game in the evening, and thought I had missed it. But when I got to my car and got cell service again, I saw that I could make it there and be just a few minutes late, instead of hours late. So I went.
If you've never played Whirly Ball before, essentially you are in a bumper car and have a plastic lacrosse-type net. You try to get the plastic wiffle ball into a goal (about basketball height from the ground). There are two teams. Each game is timed for 13 minutes, so you can get 4 games in before the end of the hour (you rent the court by the hour). I had missed the first game, but was able to play the other 3 games – about 45 minutes.
I am very competitive. 🙂 And I like zooming around. My aim was not too good with the lacrosse thing, but I was excellent (I think, anyway) at defense and rebounding. 🙂 I spent most of my time zooming around at high speeds trying to be in the best place to grab the ball so I could pass it to a teammate. And if all else failed, I would smash into someone else to try and defeat their ability to score or pass.
There's this metal stick that you use to drive the bumper cars and it sits between your legs. Well, remember that I have some serious muscle fatigue going on and I like to hit other bumper cars? Yeah. So that metal stick often got away from me and would smack into one leg or the other. WHAP! WHAP! I'm not kidding; I have some serious bruises from that!
We went out to a bar/restaurant after the game [MY TEAM WON!]. While I was at the restaurant – have you ever had a charley horse? – all of the muscles in my right arm spasmed and contracted. I gasped in pain audibly and clutched my arm to my body as it distorted from the cramp. OUCH! The muscle contraction faded after a minute, but I had some paralysis for another minute or so. Even after, my muscles felt odd and I had to rub them a bit.
My bruises were painful and my muscles were fatigued, so I sort of wobbled to my car and into my house at the end of the night.
What a fun night! 🙂