(i wrote this last night after returning from the TFIOS tour…alas, the internet failed to put it up then so i’m posting it a little late. i beg of your forgiveness)
Tonight, i saw John and Hank Green. Tonight, i heard John Green read aloud from his most recent work – what some are saying to be the best book he’s yet written – and scarcely breathed the whole twenty minutes he was reading it aloud. Tonight, Hank Green sang about how he wished his high school had been Hogwarts instead. Tonight, the show ended with the brothers singing (my most favorite song in the world) ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ by The Proclaimers.’
To say the least, i’m floating on a bit of a nerdy internet cloud of wonderment and thrill.
Together, as i mentioned in my Internet Blog Series Thingymabob, the Green brothers have created and fostered this worldwide community of nerdfighters. People who are reclaiming the term “nerd” as an insult and (to paraphrase John Green (again)): accepting such a term as a congratulation for being intelligent, informed, and inquisitive human beings. A community that celebrates intellectualism and silliness, stirring up conversations in radically new ways with the help of online communication – one i am so content to be a part of. Together, the brothers do this in their weekly videos, but more expansively they have spawned some incredible projects to fight worldsuck (which is exactly what it sounds like – things that suck in the world, like poverty) and increase awesome. Simple terms (the silly factor) that communicate truly intellectual and brilliant ideas: make the world a better place by being informed and living into your full capacity as a human being.
While i may reference the Green brothers all the time here, on this blog, and on my video blog found on Youtube, i’ve never really expressed overtly how much these two brothers mean to me. Both them in tandem, as the unit that is The Vlogbrothers, but also as individuals. Perhaps most of all, though, for what they stand for and what they, somewhat unintentionally, created in the globe-spanning community that is nerdfighteria.
John Green, as it so happens, articulates why i haven’t been so decided in sharing such feelings (until now) in his new book. (Note: this is from chapter 2, so it’s not a major spoiler). The main character, Hazel, is telling the reader why she feels hesitant about sharing what her actual favorite book is with people;
“My favorite book, by a wide margin, was An Imperial Affliction, but I didn’t like to tell people about it. Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless all living humans read the book. And then there are books like An Imperial Affliction, which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.”
As in so many things, precisely what John Green articulates here is often how i feel about books – and, in beauteous irony, several of these books are his own. I don’t tell people how much his book Looking for Alaska moved me – and still moves me – because of exactly what he (via Hazel) explains: it’s mine. Well, not so much now that i’m writing this for the MILLIONS of you out there reading this to read, but still.
I don’t share this love lightly, because it’s kind of like baring your Soul out a bit and risking the inevitable scoff from the inevitable snob who thinks the book is crap. And while, in a very real way, Looking for Alaska is not mine (as i had no part in its rendering) John himself said tonight: books belong to their readers.
This idea of an artist slaving over a piece, giving of herself or himself in a way that their very Life is pouring into it, translates for me to works on a broader scale than just books. Van Gogh is my favorite painter not because i understand the intricacy in the way he manipulated his brushstrokes or revolutionized visual art through conceptions of color and form (though, in fairness, i do like those attributes to his work). Van Gogh is my favorite painter because i can look at Starry Night and cry for the pain and wonderment at such suffering it expresses so intensely. In standing before Van Gogh’s work i see my own Self reflected back; certainly part of that is his own – the work would not be so moving were it to as inauthentic to not reflect the artist’s own hand. But i only know Van Gogh’s struggle through the lens of my own – through empathy, through learning, through my own dreaming of stars. John’s recognition of this moment for the reader or audience member or art appreciator augments my appreciation for his own work. If i may be so bold as to put words in his mouth, he sees that the art will forever be of the artist, but it belongs to the audience once it is released. Loving something means letting it go, to employ the cliché.
I guess what i’m trying to get at is that John Green’s books are more than just silly Young Adult fiction. Sure, there’s plenty of teenage angst and bad wine and high schooly romance, but the core of his writing is this emphatic and indescribable beauty made from his own attempts to question the cosmos. He is, to me, a philosopher. I don’t mean to idolize him (the man has faults (many of which i’m sure i will never know, as these things should be)) or place him precariously next to Socrates. What i mean to say is simply that, to me, John Green is more than an author. His books are more than words on a page. To use his own words once more, “I believe now that we are greater than the sum of our parts.”
So meeting him tonight was incredible, in the act of meeting him alone. The fact that he and his equally awesome and nerd-tastic brother, Hank, put on a show together simply compounded the exhilaration. For the act of sharing the space with two people embracing nerd culture and all the weirdness that comes along with it, for shaking John’s hand and telling him that his books move me to my core, for singing along and dancing in the aisles and being a total goof with hundreds of other people – this is what i celebrate.
And for these moments and for this time, i am so deeply grateful.
current jam: ‘high school (this isn’t hogwarts)’ hank green.
best thing in my life right now: the above.
fifteen things challenges completed: one (item #2: shake john green’s hand and tell him how looking for alaska saved me)