Everywhere I look, there is a great open space surrounding the small train. Everywhere I look, there are houses and streets surrounding the large yellow train. Everywhere I look, there are trains. The Great Railway Bazaar proves how many there are in the world.
I like trains, or at least: I like taking the train. If I have the possibility, I take the train to work, or to visit people. It gives you a great opportunity to get some work done, to read something, or to just stare through the window and watch the landscape pass by. It is this feeling of freedom, a moment to relax and let your thoughts drift by like clouds that Theroux describes so well in The Great Railway Bazaar as he travels through Asia, and because of that it is one of my favourite books of all time.
The story about Robinson Crusoe is world famous, but what if someone were to tell it a little bit differently? Foe gives a whole different spin to the classic tale, and shows different sides of humanity while doing it.
When reading about Foe, most I could find was about the use of language and the meaning of language in the story. However, quite quickly I noticed that the elaborate language did not seem to fit Susan Barton. Then again, you hardly get to know the woman, or any of the characters at all. They talk a lot, you will be able to draw a map based on all the descriptions given, but when asked a question about Susan, or Crusoe, or even Friday there will not be one straight answer to be given. Coetzee really tried to rewrite Defoe’s tale, and with that attacked the language instead of the story.
There is one other aspect Coetzee might have touched upon, that Defoe might have forgotten a little. While Defoe is made the antagonist of Coetzee’s Foe, there seems to be a twist in the story in which all sides and people are turned upside down. Halfway through Foe one is being led on, and strayed from the original story. Crusoe suddenly plays but a minor role, while Susan (and mostly Susan’s demons) are becoming the focus point. Because if one is always surrounded by a total silence, and one lacks normal daily interaction, how is one to stay sane?
Mindfulness is not for me. I don’t know why, but I’m not buying it. That was until I realized mindfulness does not have to involve yoga, and that instead it can involve loads of laughter. Frazzled is mindfulness with humor.
Okay, I’ll admit it, I have done yoga. But although it did clear my head a bit, it did not help me ‘find inner peace’. It just made me hungry at the end of the exercises. That’s why I’m not into the whole mindfulness much. Inner peace is not something I’ll find through meditation, since I’m not made for sitting still for long periods of time. Therefore, I never touched mindfulness-books or magazines. Until I got my hands on Frazzled. Why did I pick it up? Mostly because the cover looks cool, and ‘frazzled’ is a funny word.
Every person I know, will at some point deal with major stress. We drive ourselves crazy, until our heads explode. I’ve hit that figurative wall a couple of times myself, where it showed that the biggest problem was slowing down my own mind. When you are driving yourself insane, it is hard to go back to the rational and sane side again. That is what Frazzled is all about: people driving themselves insane, and helping them to prevent it. And Ruby Wax steps into this topic with humor as well as personal stories. She shows that everyone can go nuts, even when you have everything to live a perfectly happy life.
Frazzled makes you laugh, helps you see things in perspective, which are both good things against stress. It isn’t fuzzy, it isn’t vague and about being able to stand on your head and feel like you’re part of the universe. The message of the book seems to be that there is only one you, and you have to live with you in a relaxed way while being happy with who you are. Does it help? I don’t know yet, but I have started the six-week-plan by now, and I have laughed every week up till now.
Five hundred years ago no-one died of stress: we have invented this concept and now we let it rule us. Rest has become a dirty word, and our idea of satisfaction is answering the last email. We’re sleepwalking through our own lives. Ruby Wax shows us how to wake up from this stupor with a scientific solution to modern problems: mindfulness.
Ruby Wax. Frazzled / Penguin / 9780241186497