Monthly Archives: November 2014

Happy Hunger Games!

English: A map of the fictional nation of Pane...

English: A map of the fictional nation of Panem from Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And may the odds be ever in your favor!

I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to Suzanne Collins for creating a trilogy that actually kept me as enthused as the Harry Potter books did. And that’s saying something considering the seven long years it took between the day a boy in my fifth grade class, Michael, beseeched us all to read Sorcerer’s Stone and the near-transcendental moment when Deathly Hallows entered my grasp at a Barnes and Noble midnight book party.

I did not think such a Herculean feat would ever be possible, but she managed to pull it off. Sure, I was at first highly skeptical of this futuristic world called Panem in which children fought to the death on live television while most of the North American population teetered on the edge of starvation.

It sounded charming. Who wouldn’t want to read it? Apparently everyone else was eagerly flipping pages and thinking that dystopian governments were the cat’s pajamas. In fact, I was probably the only college English major for miles and miles who had not cracked the glossy front cover of The Hunger Games.

But thanks to the incredible enthusiasm of my dear friend Caroline who insisted I read the series, so I could chat with her at-length about its philosophical ramifications–we’re liberal artsy like that–and my amazing friend Jacqui who patiently explained the premise of the first book when I went to the movie premiere with her, I became curious enough to start reading. Then just like everyone else, I got hooked. So hooked that after finishing book one at the beach, I jay-walked across an eight-lane road just as the sun was slipping from view to see if either the Food Lion or the Rite Aid across the street from my hotel had a copy of Catching Fire.

Before I watch part 1 of the final movie in the series, I’d like to reflect on the final novel.

It might come as a surprise that I dragged out Mockingjay for as long as possible. I didn’t want it to end, and I was convinced about halfway through the war-against-the-Capitol bloodbath that either Katniss or Peeta would probably die. This was too depressing to me after Katniss had already lost her father, numerous fellow tribute-friends, chunks of flesh the size of playing cards and quite possibly, Peeta, whose mental health was certainly suspect. I think I wanted to freeze the book when Peeta begins to return to his senses in the tunnels underneath the Capital right before Finnick dies, tell myself they all somehow lived as happily ever after as it’s possible to in Panem, and close the book for good.

But alas, I persevered. And to my surprise—since I am usually a sucker for happy endings—I was not saddened by the conclusion of Mockingjay. Prim’s death didn’t move me the way it probably should have and while I wanted Katniss’ mother as well as Gale to be emotionally stronger, more resilient, and maybe even better people. Their swift and abrupt exits left me with a personal sense of relief even though the exits were executed like a narrative nightmare.

Sure, I was thrilled that Katniss and Peeta got married, had children, and settled into a quiet and seemingly secluded life in District 12 (even though a small and delusional part of me thought they might become King and Queen of Panem despite their lack of political ambition), but to me the ending felt rushed and unsatisfying.

Endings always flow from what comes before them, and while it was a stroke of sheer brilliance for Collins to have Katniss kill Coin rather than Snow, I disliked the apparent trust and covert agreement spontaneously forged between Katniss and the man she wanted dearly to assassinate throughout the entire tale. The scene in Catching Fire where Snow states that it would be easier if the two didn’t lie to each other after the 74th annual Hunger Games seemed to me like a sneering remark from Snow to press through Katniss’ deception. This was also the man who orchestrated hundreds of children’s deaths, forced Katniss into a bridal gown—not to mention another round of games—and threatened Gale’s life. I never thought she would take his words to heart at the end of the trilogy and make life-and-death decisions based upon them.

Nevertheless, even I doubted Katniss’ true motivations and loyalties when Coin suggested one final Hunger Games to punish the Capitol’s favored children and their parents. When she agrees to the Games “for Prim” and states that now is the moment when she will see how much Haymitch really understands her and how alike they are, I originally thought she wanted still more bloodshed and was repulsed. After sorting through the ending though, I believe she and Haymitch agree because they are quite crafty at this point and seek to lure Coin into a false sense of security to make her believe they are on her side and will support her new regime. But could Coin’s assassination really have been premeditated by Katniss? It’s hard to say.

Perhaps it was a stylistic choice on Collins’ part to represent Katniss’ increasingly fragile mental health throughout the war by giving the reader less and less access to her thoughts and desires. Katniss was more confused than ever with her home in smoldering ruins and her loved ones in constant danger, and that’s understandable. But as her hair was singed off and her body broken by explosions and gunshots, I couldn’t help but think that I was losing a sense of her identity. In a way, Collins is smart here because one of Katniss’ chief complaints is that she is always a pawn in someone’s games—as a tribute, a star-crossed lover, and a mocking jay.

At least for the first half of Mockingjay, I really believed that all the drugs she was taking for shock from the Quarter Quells were altering her narration. What if all the confusing, broken narration and mentions of reality-altering drugs were also a way to keep readers removed from any hint of the surprise ending? We see Katniss hazily, as if through a veil, a confused and broken girl losing her savvy determination – not to mention things worth fighting for.

While that might have been the author’s intention, I think the Katniss we see in Mockingjay, the girl who carries off a master assassination plan with Haymitch at the novel’s conclusion, is very much the same girl who managed to beat the Capitol at its own game with the berries she finds via her hunting instincts in the first arena. After all, she’s still willing to be front and center in the battle of District 8. But Snow’s death shows how you don’t always need a hero to save the day and kill the villain. Sometimes, man’s thoughtless inhumanity to man is enough to get the job done by mere trampling. I felt like this death was a metaphor explaining how darkness lurks in humanity and, in a moment of manifestation, overcame Snow in a single, crushing wave.

Most importantly, Katniss softens fully over the course of this last leg of her journey. She’s willing to claw at Haymitch’s face when he fails to deliver Peeta safely to District 13. She is even willing to defend the Capitol stylists’ character to Gale when he mocks and sneers at them. Like Peeta, she is having trouble understanding what is real and what is not real – but somehow, the boy with the bread becomes her family, gets under her skin, and softens her. Gale tells Peeta that Katniss will choose whichever man she needs most. In a world of brutal warfare, starvation, death and pain, she needed the first dandelion in spring.

 

 

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Good Karma

photo.PNG-2“Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. Look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true. Think only of the best, work only for the best, and expect only the best. Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others. Live in the faith that the whole world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you!” – Christian D. Larson 

It’s easy to get bogged down in stress and worry, in our jobs, school assignments, and friend and familial obligations. A day will always come around when something’s off with your car, you can’t figure out your homework, or people just aren’t as nice or forgiving as you’d like for them to be.

It’s harder to remember your repetitive thoughts about situations become your beliefs and that your beliefs become real.

Today, for a class assignment on ethnography, I visited a local farmer’s market with two sweet girls in my year. It was utterly relaxing and normal to be surrounded by peaceful customers who wanted nothing more than to find a great fresh vegetable for dinner or to discover some yellow pansies to plant in their yards. Everyone seemed relaxed and in no hurry at all. I might have seen four cellphones flash by although I passed dozens and dozens of people. Shoppers called out friendly greetings to the vendors, whom they clearly had interacted with before. Young children played with toy cars and bright blocks in a gazebo centered right in the middle of the market.

I felt a bit like a reporter again, carefully observing the scene and writing down what seemed interesting or unique.

The sun was out, the air was crisp, and the whole atmosphere was one of community and welcome. Although I was busy scribbling in a notebook noting everything from people’s conversations to their shoe style, even I was pulled into a conversation by a farmer named Patrick who noticed my alma mater name on my coat. It turned out his wife’s aunt worked as an economics professor at my college, and we had a nice chat about that for a few minutes.

I was trying to be inconspicuous and stand on the edges of the crowd but was pulled into the action. That’s the way life is, too. Sometimes we just have to let go and move with the current that’s flowing strongly around us.

I can’t be perfect. You can’t be perfect. The squash crop isn’t perfect either. But it’s still beautiful. Not everything is going to get done exactly when we want it to, exactly the way we want it to. The assignments are always going to be there, or your kids are always going to be there needing your help. Or those bills are always going to come along and need to be paid.

But life isn’t at its core about any of our stressors. It’s about the simple sense of community and well-being that can be found at a local farmer’s market.

We too have to foster harmony in our relationships, look for commonalities, try to be as warm and hospitable as we can, and ask for forgiveness when we haven’t been stellar humans. We are like the vendors waiting at our stands, trying to make a good impression and build a bridge of connection to customers as they stroll by.

I recently interviewed my aunt for a multimedia project, and she gave me a great quote to use in the film I’m creating. “I honestly believe in karma, it’s what you throw out in the world you get back. If you give good, you get good. If you give evil, evil comes back to you.”

It’s so simple yet so true.

Do I miss being able to write frequently? Yes, yes I do. Do I know at the core of my being that being a writer is who I am and was as a little girl and always will be most likely? Yes, yes I do. When I heard those two girls talking about writing classes that they hope to take next semester, was I a little nostalgic and sad? Yes, yes I was.

But I’m going to trust that everything’s working out the way it’s supposed to and that switching into the public relations track from the news & reporting one was a good life decision. I can’t see myself running around for the rest of my life, wired on coffee and in hot pursuit of the Next Big Story. I love to listen, but not quite that much. I like to travel, but not like that.

So I hope these two worlds of mine – the journalistic creative writing side and the problem-solving world of strategic communication and public relations – will blend together beautifully like the colors of the earthenware mugs I saw at the farmer’s market this morning.

Because I want to breathe deeply and fully all the days of my life. I want the sense of peace that allows me to lie down in the sunny spot on the couch and drift off into a crystallized world of daydreams and meditation just because. I want to spend three hours lost in a fascinating conversation about the meaning of life or curled up with a good piece of fiction. I want to build relationships with people worth knowing and keeping in my life.

I want to send out enough good will vibrationally so that the energy rises up like a sparkling purple net to catch and overtake any negativity that lingers around myself and the people who surround me.

Here’s to trying to be a good person today and to believing in the unfolding process of life.

 

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