Switzerland…home of The Sound of Music, delicious chocolate, a pretty decent chunk of the Alps, and quite a few multilingual humans. I’ve always heard that it’s beautiful, and I’ve not been disappointed. We’re situated on the “Gold Coast,” overlooking Zürich Lake…not a bad view at all. And we’ve been super lucky with the weather, so that’s a bonus. However, getting to know Boy Kid (age 10) and Girl Kid (age 7-and-3/4) for the second time around has been the best part of this week so far.
Yesterday Girl Kid informed us that curiosity was one of the four secrets of happiness. Apparently she learned that from a series entitled Magic Tree House. I’ve asked to borrow the book…I guess I’d forgotten how much wisdom good kid lit tends to impart…here’s one I read only once when I was 8, but it mesmerized me so much I’ve just never forgotten it. I was never really one for re-reading books, anyway. Now my plan is to read Magic Tree House #38: Monday with a Mad Genius, courtesy of Girl Kid, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, courtesy of Boy Kid, before I leave to go back to France. Apparently the latter was made into a film which I’ve never seen (not even the trailer), so it’ll be all brand-spanking-new for me.
I’m in the mood for kid lit right now, particularly because I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the drama of grown-up-dom. That’s not to say that there’s a whole lot of difference between the anxiety of childhood (what if…???!!!) and adulthood (and then what???!!!). But for whatever reason, we work really hard to alleviate that stress for kids, and to attach meaning and wonder to the sentiment. Grownups feel irresponsible or selfish if they’re not carrying the weight around like a burden. Until they don’t anymore.
On that note, I’ve just finished reading an account of just such a journey – to that place free from anxiety and free of the guilt we’re supposed to feel for leading anxiety-free lives, or more accurately, to that place of acknowledging that such a place exists…because actually getting there is the stuff of legend. At any rate, it was an excellent read, particularly as a first novel, and happens to have been written by a friend of mine. He’s pretty self-deprecating about it, but I’m entitled to my opinion. It’s honest, engaging, heart-wrenching…the hero is at once cocky and headstrong, vulnerable and exposed. Any time a book has me wanting to grab a character by the shoulders and shake some sense into them, I think the author’s done something right.
I remember reading something Hubert Selby, Jr. wrote about his powerlessness over the paths his characters took (and if you’ve ever read Last Exit to Brooklyn or Requiem for a Dream, you know that his characters are often painful to read in action). As readers it’s sometimes hard not to wish an author would protect and guide her characters to a place of safety, away from cringe-inducing human error. Great writers can – and should – do no such thing. Max didn’t. And if you want to read Mind Bind, you don’t even have to pay for it.
Mind Bind’s message, though, isn’t probably all that far removed from the one I’m about to get from Jeff Kinney, the one I got all those years ago from Myron Levoy, and the one Mary Pope Osborne spelled out word for word: a life devoid of curiosity isn’t worth living. Curiosity is the good side of what if…???!!! Curiosity is the part of us that challenges the limits we thought we had – the limits we thought we saw in the world around us. Curiosity, as Girl Kid said yesterday, is quite truly one of the four secrets of happiness. I’ll let you know when I learn the other three.