A series of books, dilapidated and faded, sit bundled together. Most of the bindings are separating from the yellowed pages, but each is at home in its battered state. Their wrinkled pages and discolored skin tell not of old age, but of a good life. These books, unlike so many others, were not just read, but revisited, loved, and experienced.
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Things are never as they seem. A person. A Mark. A statement. They are always deeper than we perceive, like walking in the ocean and suddenly dipping under the surface because the bottom has disappeared beneath your feet. The water appears shallow until you are suddenly flailing around beneath the surface, desperately searching for stable ground once again.
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That is normal... To be afraid. Do not let anyone tell you any different. No one can ever say that what you feel is right or wrong, or pointless or unworthy of your time. That is a truth for you to decide. Ignorance is bliss, but there comes a time when you must open your eyes and face the truth-when you must be honest with yourself.
I cannot detain Love, holding him captive so that he may never break my heart. No more than I can stick Guilt in a pot so that I may boil him until all of my sins are vaporized, rising alongside the screaming steam. I cannot hold Sorrow in my arms and rock him to a fit and endless sleep. Nor can I search for Joy and effortlessly find him beneath the pink-dusted sky of late afternoon, where he waits for me with open arms.
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That is life, isn't it? Fate. Luck. Chance. A long series of what-if's that lead from one moment to the next, time never pausing for you to catch your breath, to make sense of the cards that have been handed to you. And all you can do is play your cards and hope for the best, because in the end, it all comes back to those three basics. Fate. Luck. Chance.
Life is not a matter of choices! Life is handed to you, a couple of cards that have cycled through the grimy hands of hundreds of players before you. There are no aces hidden up your sleeve. There is no shortcut to success and happiness. Sleight of hand will only earn you a bloody nose and a thrashing in the alley outback. So instead, you play the few good cards you have and do what you can with the bad, and you play fair. There is no choice.
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In that moment, the moon and the sun shared the sky. For all of eternity, the moon and sun have chased each other around the world. Long into the future, they will continue this chase, merging the days into months into years into centuries, until the day the sun cannot take the separation any longer and she shatters, engulfing the moon and everything else in a burst of light. Most will call it the day of final judgment. The end. To the sun and the moon, it will only be the beginning. For the smallest of instants each day, they pause in this chase. They pause and look back at one another, smiling as if sharing a secret. Two lovers that can never exist as one, except in that single, brief instant. Lying there, Persephone smiled too. And as quickly as a smile parts two lips, the two sky wanderers parted ways. The chase was on again. Night gave way to day. That is true love, she had always thought. No force but love can impel one to step willingly into the shadows so that the other may shine.
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People are always quick to call evil what they do not know. The unknown sprouts fear. It spreads like an infection, burrowing into every facet of their lives. They need a scapegoat, someone to blame. Fingers are pointed, accusations are made, and a target lands on somebody's back. They grow angry. They turn violent. To history, human nature must be a stubborn and tiring student. No matter how many times history tries to show it the error of its ways, it never learns from its mistakes.
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I believe in the ability to choose. I believe this life is made up of our choices and their consequences- the good and the bad. I do not believe in letting anything up to fate. We are the makers of our own destinies, our own futures, our own paths. To blindly follow is an insult to the miracle of being human. To be human is to make choices; the moment you allow others to make decisions for you is the moment you do an injustice to not only mankind but to yourself.
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Without their uniforms, they were probably nobodies, rejects. Give a man a uniform. Give him a few sparkly badges, a purpose, a gun... and suddenly, he was no longer just another kid trying to make it through life without being ridiculed. Suddenly, he was a part of something. Something important. Something powerful. Something greater than he could ever be on his own. It was amazing how empowering the group could be.
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That had always been the beauty of the wind. It could only be seen through its actions, its effect on others. A gentle reminder that reality does not only exist in the seeable, the palpable, the understandable, but also in the figments and daydreams, the steadfast beliefs and unexplainable uncertainties. Reality is seen and yet unseen. Wholly and absolutely relative. The wind had taught him that.
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On a cloudy day, when the dim dance of the firelight and the warmth of the sconces are not enough, the books shed their own form of light. By the hundreds, they fill the shelves that stretch across every inch of exposed wall. They rise up to the ceiling, warriors of an impenetrable army, encircling my over-sized armchair and keeping me safe as they whisper their stories softly in my ear.
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Butterflies are nature's tragic heroes. They live most of their lives being completely ordinary. And then, one day, the unexpected happens. They burst from their cocoons in a blaze of colors and become utterly extraordinary. It is the shortest phase of their lives, but it holds the greatest importance. It shows us how empowering change can be.
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Later that night though, as I stayed awake into the early hours of morning devouring the second novel in a series, I understood what it meant to befriend a book. The books knew me, far better than I knew them; they knew my fears, my doubts, my dreams. They gave words to feelings I did not even realize I experienced. They listened. They consoled. They kept me company. The books gave me a life outside of my own.
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This was where war happened, in someone's backyard. Sometimes it was yours. Often, it was someone's a world away. But it did happen. In this moment. In the next breath. Every day. Every day, someone lived in the midst of destruction and chaos. Every day, someone's flower boxes filled with gunpowder's haze, a child's laughter turned to tears. There had been a day when someone watered those flowers in the evening's peaceful quiet and the children caught fireflies in mason jars. And that day will come again, when the crickets and the bullets no longer have to compete for the night's stage. But for now, all anyone could do was fight on the crickets' behalf.
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And it seemed as though for a moment, the world encapsulated them in a giant sigh. As if the world was exhausted by humanity-by the bellows of war and bullets, of hateful cries and grieving tears. Of all the pain, the endless pain humanity had brought into its peaceful existence. A great heaving sigh to wash it all away. But like the sea, when washed away, war only crashed harder, a surging line of arched backs and brackish tears.
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I can see her struggling to find the right word. Death seems so harsh. Passing so oblique. Some things are beyond words, I suppose, and she never finishes the statement. It seems right, that her words should fall into oblivion; after all, she-like me, like everyone-has no words for what follows, for the unknowable, only her hopes and prayers and an unwavering faith in something more.
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It was the most fleeting time of day, and maybe that was why it was her favorite. Because if you blinked, if you closed your eyes or turned your head for even the briefest of moments, you might just miss it. And like most things in life, the transient, fleeting nature of the moment made it all the more special.