Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Fantasy

Peace on Earth, Herat, originally uploaded by frida world.

I loved this week's Sunday Scribblings prompt and had thoughts about it floating through my semi-conscious mind throughout the long, white night of insomnia on Friday.

But on Saturday I had the chance to get out and walk about in Herat for the first ime in many weeks and I chose that over my writing time. It was a very good choice. I had an amazing time enjoying the fresh air and sense of freedom, and through my camera's lens I saw Herat in a new and fresh light.

But I haven't stopped thinking about this prompt, and I've loved reading some other people's responses. SO I decided that, late though I may be, I would write something about fantasy.

When I first read Laini's prompt I thought about all the ways in which fantasy has enriched my life. I thought about reading "The Faraway Tree" by Enid Blighton as a child, and the magical possibilities that I imagined for my own life.

I thought about "The Hobbit" which gave me a new way to imagine my life, as a fantasic quest in which even the smallest player could make a real difference if she was brave and found loyal companions and stayed true to her principles.

I thought about my teen years, during which I read constantly - devouring books as though they were my sustenance, which in many senses they were. I read sci-fi fantasy and epic fantasy and fairy tales and myths. Sometimes I read to escape, sometimes to explore, sometimes to discover new truths. But mostly I read because it kept me sane in the midst of adolescent madness.

I thought about the years when I was at university and I worked as a "fairy storyteller" - dressing up as a sea sprite, a forest nymph or a fairy and concocting fairy tales and magical experiences for groups of children.

But now I finally find time to sit and write about fantasy, and there is a different kind of fantasy on my mind. A fantasy that sustains me right now.

Somedays I turn on the news and I feel that my heart will implode from the sadness and hopelessness I feel at the state of our planet.

Two nights ago I was on the treadmill in the bunker and BBC World news was on the television. There were stories about the massive explosion in Baghdad, and on the millions of Iraqi refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries. There was a story about the world's depleted tuna stocks, and another about the attrocities in Sudan. There was a trailer for an upcoming interview about Bush's plans to send 20,000 more troops into Iraq.

I was in tears on the treadmill. I wanted to shut off the television. I wanted not to know about these stories. I wanted to be ignorant.

But I'm not ignorant. I watch the news like everyone else. I've also seen first hand the impact that conflict and war can have on communities. The faces in those newsreel can never be anonymous to me, they resemble too closely the people I have met in refugee camps in Gaza and here in Afghanistan. They look too much like the people I saw fleeing fighting in Timor Leste.

Here in Afghanistan I have days when I despair at the lack of progress on critical issues like justice sector reform. There are days when it seems that impunity will be allowed to continue and that a whole new generation of victims will have to live with seeing the people who have violated their rights gain wealth, power and privilege while they conitnue to suffer and grieve.

And then, my imagination comes to the rescue. I watch a news item about the Police Ombudsmen in Northern Ireland releasing a report that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago. As I watch this item my imagination allows me to see this happening in Afghanistan one day. I can see Dr Sima Simar holding a press conference just like in the newsreel reading out the findings of a report by the Afghanistan Indpendent Human Rights Commission, knowing that her safety is assured by strong, professional and impartial state security forces.

I can imagine this, and I know that there are a million little steps that can be taken now which can contribute to making this fantasy a reality one day. So I find the strength to go and take one or two of those little steps.

I am also very grateful for my own current favorite fantasy show - The West Wing. I never saw this when it was playng on television, mostly because I didn't have a TV when I lived in New Zealand. But the Commander has introduced me to the show and in the past two months I've watched seasons one through to five.

What a delicious little fantasy this one is - what the world might be like if people like CJ Cregg and Toby Ziegler had influence in the White House. It's a fantasy, but one that I like to indulge in as often as I possibly can. I'll be finished season five just in time to go on leave in New Zealand and stock up on some more!


My Marrakech said...

A fantasy storyteller? Ah, but you're still that. All your readers see your magic, Frida.

Paris Parfait said...

I agree the news can be so disheartening. But it's impossible to ignore (although I know so many people who seem blissfully unaware or unconcerned). For me, to be aware of the ongoing steps brave, courageous people like you and other human rights and aid workers are taking to improve things is to maintain hope and faith in the human spirit, that the good in people will always make them strive to change things- against all odds. Amidst the rubble of war and the poverty in refugee camps, time and time again I've seen stories of hope and triumph emerge - and that's because someone cared enough to do something to help. Whether you know it or not, you and your work inspire others.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I really enjoyed reading this, from your thoughts on how fantasy fiction enriched your childhood and adolescence to the power of the imagination now to make life more bearable in dreadful times. Excellent, thanks for sharing.

Letha Sandison said...

Your posts are always so thought provoking and inspiring! I will re-read this one again to le it all sink in. I LOVE this photo, it is amazing!

Ok, if you guys can get art supplies there I should be able to find a way in Uganda! Thanks for the words of encouragement!

[a} said...

I LOVE this post!

Facing bare reality and then fantasizing about a better future

is the way for change, progressive change.


emma said...

It is indeed a quest, and the smallest players can make a tremendous difference -- you got it exactly right.

Thanks so much for your note, Frida. What a lovely bit of serendipity that you're from New Zealand.


Anonymous said...

I love this post so much--love the strength of character that marries fantasy with concrete action.

You are doing important work. You matter.

AND *you* are truly running with the wolves!

Regina Clare Jane said...

I find the news so depressing now that I truly cannot watch it. That doesn't mean that I am not aware of what's going on as I do have internet access, but I choose not to listen to news- just to read it- and then only the headlines sometimes. That may be a copout but it saves me from not getting any sleep.
We all need something to take our minds away from this world sometimes and I am glad that you were able to get out and enjoy what looks like a beautiful day, Frida.
You are doing so much to make this planet a better place to live- that would be my fantasy and you are living it!

Alex aka Gypsy Girl said...

I'm sure you were quite the inspiring fairy, Fri! And you still are! Coming to your blog makes me fantasize about how it would be like for me to do human rights work in Brazil! It warms my heart just to write it down...
(btw - I discovered an excellent Afghan restaurant in San Francisco. I'll have to check it out and compare notes with you.) x

Kristen said...

Thank you for helping to spread peace and understanding.