The sun, bright and terrible and blazing. It is not the huge ball of light she is so accustomed to: it is like the sky is a sheet of thin yellow paper, and someone is standing behind it holding an oily, flaming torch.
This land is lit by an ancient fire. Yet who started it?
City of Stairs
This quote (that is not at all representative of City of Stairs btw) nearly feels like a koan. I’ve been reading a book of koans recently, which has been both important and scary and lightly irritating. It also relaxed me so much that I spent most of my weekend napping¹.
I don’t really care for “who started it?” questions right now, no matter if they are practical or metaphysical. I’ve written about my aversion to origin stories before. If the land is lit by an ancient fire, do you really need to know who started it? Can you not enjoy the blazing of bridges burning down (or try to put out the fire, choose your poison)?
On the other hand, I’m a history nerd, so of course I care who started the fire. I want to know who they were, and where they came from. How they grew up, what influenced them, how they perceived the world, the type of torch they would choose, the food they ate, the truths they believed. I have a deep, nerdy, passionate interest in people and their stories. What I’m arguing against is handing those stories too much power.
Now, some of my favourite authors consistently tell me about the power that stories have, and I think they are right – and I think acknowledging the power of stories is important – but reducing it is also a good idea. Do I make a choice because i really want to make it right now, or because it fits in with a larger narrative of myself? Am I feeling anxious because there’s something on my mind right now, or because I have bought into “If X happens, I feel anxious”? When I react with anger or annoyance (most often annoyance): Is this the genuine feeling I experience (sometimes, yes) or is it a reaction that fits in with a pattern that I’ve come to present and repeat and believe?
¹ Absolutely why I did not write notebook posts.