We are all tasked with building the Republic of Heaven here on earth, and it’s a philosophy that ends The Amber Spyglass and fits well into my view of life. Heaven as a term is re-appropriated here to mean something entirely different than its traditional definition. The Republic of Heaven exists in what you and I choose to do with our every waking moment in life. Do we choose to fight for those who are marginalized and left behind? Do we choose to further the pursuit of knowledge of our own world, whether through science, art, literature, music, or even the most personal and private discoveries? Do we cherish the land we live on? Do we cherish the interactions we have with the fellow humans who thrive alongside us? Do we instill values in our friends, our families, our siblings, our offspring, the strangers we pass on busy streets or in subway tubes or in bustling airports by treating one another not as disparate enemies, but with the knowledge that we are all Dust, all chemicals and particles that swirl into existence and fill the leaves, the trees, the lakes, the streams, the birds in the air and the beasts of the land? Do we stretch out our arms to accept the ferocious and unending beauty that does exist in the experience of being alive? Do we learn to embrace the desires, the loves, the emotions, and the sometimes fickle forces that bring our bodies joy and completeness and give us glimpses of something larger than ourselves but never better than the worth of a single life? Or do we turn our eyes to a world in the sky and simply hope that one day, things will be better than they are now?
I bid goodbye to the world of Lyra and Jordan College and dæmons and witches and mulefa and Will and Mary and the gyptians and I accept that it’s time the Republic of Heaven came to earth. And I type that with tears in my eyes, much like when I ended the Harry Potter series, but these are not tears of grief or loss. I have felt something in my heart that is rare and burning and loving for these characters, for this message, for this world, and I am merely in awe that I have had the honor of experiencing all of this. I want to avoid the usual end that I give to these series-ending reviews because I almost feel silly at this point doing such a thing. The profound respect and joy I feel within me for Philip Pullman almost hurts because I have found a soul in the world who knows how I feel without ever having lived a second of my life. That doesn’t happen with me, and the more I think about His Dark Materials, the more prepared I am to state that this is the best series of books I have ever read, and the more I wish that they could never end. But these things do end, and that’s why I know that I have to bring the world of these three books here to where we live, in this time we exist.
If I will take anything from this trilogy (and I do take a lot of things away from it), I will end this final His Dark Materials review with this: There is no experience quite like being alive, and I will continue to do what I can as one person to assure that everyone I meet can find the joy in this very fact. I hope you find the Republic of Heaven here on Earth.
Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?
We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.
They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to Middle-Earth.
"When such a mentality permeates all aspects of society, it’s a wonder that not more sportsmen and women succumb to the darkness of depression; after all why should they be exempt? Clarke Carlisle and Stan Collymore have been pro-active in highlighting such issues within football and have done so by eloquently recounting their own personal battles with mental illness. Just because someone is seemingly at the pinnacle of their profession who is paid vast amounts to essentially live out his dreams, it does not necessarily follow that that person should enjoy a mental equilibrium. Being verbally abused each week by strangers can’t help those afflicted with such conditions either. No doubt, the insensitive would suggest that people who suffer such afflictions should grow a thicker skin but it takes a small thing to trigger a downward spiral and everybody has a breaking point. Those same ‘dismissives’ would be less readily damning towards someone whose illness is physical rather than mental, I’m sure."
But I guess ultimately what scares me about marriage is where do you find this person? You know a lot of times, most successful relationships, people meet through work, school, mutual friends. But what’s most interesting to me is when people just meet in life, just randomly.
You know, I have a friend, he got married, I asked him like “Hey, uh, where’d you meet your wife?” He was like “I was leaving Bed, Bath & Beyond. I was looking for my car - I drive a gray Prius. I saw a different gray Prius, I thought it was mine, I walked up to it, I realized I had the wrong car, but I bumped into Carol, we started talking, that was that”. That’s unbelievable.
Think about all the random factors that had to come together to make this one moment possible - this one moment that changed these two people’s entire lives:
First off, this guy has to live in this particular town. Then he has to get a gray Prius. Then he has to need to go to Bed, Bath & Beyond. Then he has to go to that particular Bed, Bath & Beyond. Then there has to be another guy who also lives in town, also drives a gray Prius, also needs to go to Bed, Bath & Beyond, also goes to that particular Bed, Bath & Beyond at around the same time. Then they have to both park somewhat near each other, my friend has to leave before the other guy leaves, see the wrong Prius, think it’s his, walk up to it. Then the woman, Carol, needs to be near the wrong gray Prius for a million other random reasons. They bump into each other, they start talking, their entire lives are changed.
That’s the most amazing and terrifying thing about life.
It is, cause the amazing thing is that at any moment, any one of us can have that moment that totally changes our lives. You could be leaving the show tonight, bump into someone… it could change your life. You don’t know, that could happen.
The terrifying thing is… what if we’re all supposed to be at Bed Bath & Beyond right now?
Sirius is very good at spouting bits of excellent personal philosophy, but he does not always live up to them. For instance, he says in Goblet of Fire that if you want to know what a man is really like, ‘look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.’ But Sirius loathes Kreacher, the house-elf he has inherited, and treats him with nothing but contempt. Similarly, Sirius claims that nobody is wholly good or wholly evil, and yet the way he acts towards Snape suggests that he cannot conceive of any latent good qualities there. Of course, these double standards exist in most of us; we might know how we ought to behave, but actually doing it is a different matter!
Sirius is brave, loyal, reckless, embittered and slightly unbalanced by his long stay in Azkaban. He has never really had the chance to grow up; he was around twenty-two when he was sent off to Azkaban, and has had very little normal adult life. Lupin, who is the same age, seems much older and more mature. Sirius’s great redeeming quality is how much affection he is capable of feeling. He loved James like a brother and he went on to transfer that attachment to Harry.
One thing I know for sure about being a fan is this: it is not a vicarious pleasure, despite all appearances to the contrary, and those who say that they would rather do than watch are missing the point. Football is a context where watching becomes doing … when there is some kind of triumph, the pleasure does not radiate from the players outwards until it reaches the likes of us at the back of the terraces in a pale and diminished form; our fun is not a watery version of the team’s fun, even though they are the ones that get to score the goals and climb the steps at Wembley to meet Princess Diana.
The joy we feel on occasions like this is not a celebration of others’ good fortune, but a celebration of our own; and when there is a disastrous defeat the sorrow that engulfs us is, in effect, self-pity, and anyone who wishes to understand how football is consumed must realise this above all things. The players are merely our representatives, chosen by the manager rather than elected by us, but our representatives nonetheless … I am a part of the club, just as the club is a part of me, and I say this fully aware that the club exploits me, disregards my views, and treats me shoddily on occasions, so my feeling of organic connection is not built on a muddle-headed and sentimental understanding of how professional football works.
This Wembley win belonged to me every bit as much as it belonged to Charlie Nicholas or George Graham (does Nicholas, who was dropped by Graham right at the start of the following season, and then sold, remember the afternoon as fondly?), and I worked every bit as hard for it as they did. The only difference between me and them is that I have put in more hours, more years, more decades than them, and so had a better understanding of the afternoon, a sweeter appreciation of the way the sun still shines when I remember it.