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Of course this has its positives, but can also sometimes be negative. I like helping people. I view people, things, and situations, from different perspectives, and try to remain in a neutral position. Our present digital world can be somewhat intimidating, but is rather promising at the same time. It is best to exercise the right balance in our lives.

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Book Details. Language : English. Format : Softcover. Dimensions : 6x9. Page Count : ISBN : Format : Hardcover. Format : E-Book. About the Book. About the Author. My reluctant atheism gave me no sense of superiority or pride in my intellect; to the extent that it separated me from others, it made me feel horribly alone.

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I had stepped into a world drained of comfort, of hope, of meaning. I stayed up at night rocked with a full-body terror of the approaching void, and wore myself anxious with the existential vertigo that accompanied the dissolution of my apparent moral foundation. What scared me most was the newfound emptiness of the world: without the invisible thread of faith that had once bound existence into something legible, what could reality be beyond an infinitude of atoms senselessly colliding?

Where was I to find not only love, morality, and purpose but even a justification for seeking those things? The convert, reaching the end of a road of trials and exhausted by despair, picks up a Bible or meets a preacher or wanders into a sermon; then, having received the gospel, he feels the emptiness in him begin to heal, filling him with such joy that his life is forever changed.

Well, I had already read the Bible and heard many sermons. Instead I met Lyra. But the ending holds up: I was never the same. After years surrounded by a belief system to which I had long since lost access, I took high school as an opportunity to flee for more secular environs. In retrospect the magnitude of the transition stemmed from a host of things I was leaving behind — religion, sure, but also an insular community, plaid skirts, the chafing sense of being considered a known quantity, childhood itself.

But at the time I had an easy line to explain my relief to my new friends: Listen, I went to Christian school, okay? It fit with the persona I was trying out: foul-mouthed and free-minded, artistic and ambitious, smugly disdainful and fond of what we in those days called snark.

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This version of me loved His Dark Materials in the distanced, intellectual way I was trying to love everything. The questions I was struggling with could not be answered with dispassionate reason. They were questions of purpose and meaning. She needed what we always give to children in the dark: a story. The questions I was struggling with were not questions that could be answered with dispassionate reason. They were questions of purpose and meaning and what it meant to be alive — the same questions myth and metaphor have so often been called on to resolve or to illuminate.

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And like many myths, it was at heart the story of heroes. Our first hero is Lyra: an orphan, eleven years old, rude, impatient, charismatic, fiercely loyal, quick to anger and deep in her love, stubborn, bright but incurious, bold, not always kind but basically decent, and prophesied to make a choice on which the fate of several universes will hinge. The other, from our universe, is Will.

Pullman is not precious or preachy about what it takes to survive, and the tools Lyra and Will bring to the trials before them are the tools you will find in our oldest tales: wits and fists. Lyra, true to the resonances of her name, is a skilled and enthusiastic liar whose gifts for telling tales keep her and others alive in hostile territory. Together the two of them, fabulist and fighter, form a matched set out of Homer: a prepubescent Odysseus and Achilles. In another trope inherited from myth, each receives a tool to aid them in their travels. Will bears a knife which can cut not only any physical substance but the space between atoms that opens a door between dimensions.

Taken as a pair, these fantastical items offer exactly what I was craving so desperately when I found them: a path to a deeper truth, and the sharpness it takes to undo your reality and leave the world you know behind. Their obsession is that pivotal moment of becoming no longer quite a child, the moment which recapitulates for the individual the consequences of the Fall: knowledge and shame, toil and death.

In the name of protecting children, they remove that which contains their deepest selves. Years later I would find that David Foster Wallace in his famous commencement speech at Kenyon College had captured the dilemma in which I found myself:. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism.

There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships.

The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

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I could sense but not articulate this: that without some kind of framework I would be subject to a long inner unraveling. And this is what the books gave me: permission to worship. If you know nothing else about the His Dark Materials series, you may know that Lyra kills God or allows him to die and the book celebrates her for it.

But the God of the books is in fact revealed to be no God at all but merely a very old angel, who pretended he was the Creator of all things in order gain power. A straightforward attack on religion, as the books are sometimes accused of being, would leave the story there: God as a wicked and false idol needing to be destroyed. Wonder and relief: this was how the story healed me. These imaginings are imperfect; the author Lo Kwa Mei-en has delineated some of the stereotypes that mark the text.

Even so, the vibrancy of the world is its own argument for the beauty of life.

When Lyra and Will, following in many mythic footsteps, journey to the land of the dead, they are struck by the colorless stagnation of the ghosts. They decide to free them — a freedom which will dissolve the forms they have, but return them to the fabric of life. Listen to how one ghost convinces her brethren to follow her to this undoing:.

Reading this for the first time, it was like someone had reached into the abyss inside me and gently sutured it closed. And so came relief: that life on its own was enough to love. That poetry, beauty, grace — these things could still give shape to the roiling world. That there were still things worth worshipping, things like courage and truth and kindness and love, and whatever else aided the work of spreading joy and easing pain.

In crafting a universe both godless and divine, Pullman freed me to see my own in exactly those terms. After their journeyings, Will and Lyra come across Mary, who has befriended a settlement of wheel-riding quadrupeds whose existence is threatened by the slow leaching of Dust from their world. Mary tells the story of why she stopped being a nun: she met a man at a conference, and remembered what it was once to have danced with a boy she liked. And when she looked for the belief that would justify abandoning the world of these feelings — I know this well — she found nothing there.

That Eve is a holy figure. That the acceptance of labor and death is the price we pay for cherishing knowledge and pleasure. That we should cherish these things, the wild abundance of the world and how beautiful it becomes looked at truly.


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An angel confirms: what once she did by grace, she must now regain, if she wants to, from a lifetime of work. The healthy, thoughtless child has become — must choose to become — a deliberate, thoughtful adult. As a kid this made me rage; now it means more to me than almost anything. I think I always would have come to love this story best of all: the story that teaches us that the best things in life are worth the effort with which they are entwined, that shows us the pains of growth are better than the false security of fantasy and fear.

That tells us nothing real can be as terrible as a life wasted running from the world.