'The world is changing and the time has come to let go of the old ways, the ones that ensure the repetitions of history. Peace is a gentle thing that can no longer be fought for. Instead it will enter our hearts and spread from there like the ripples of a pebble dropped into a pond.'
Rosie Dub, Flight
I love the new year. There's a freshness to it, a tantalising sense of opportunity and new beginnings. This is a perfect time to publish one novel and begin another. Today, as I sat down to begin my new novel, Between Worlds, a box full of copies of Flight were delivered. It was a precious moment to finally hold this novel in my hand. Like the new year, it feels like both an ending and a beginning; the book symbolises the end of my long journey of writing, as well as the beginning of its own journey, into the hearts and minds of readers.
As I start work on Between Worlds which, like Flight, is set in the present, I find myself pausing to wonder about where humanity is heading. We've reached 2012 and many people are falling into fear over Mayan predictions of the end of the world. I have no doubt that this is a time of change – we can see it in the Arab uprisings, the global economic downturns, the changes in our climate, the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. . . The old structures are crumbling and the old powers are clinging onto the ruins, trying to ignore the fact that the people are now able to see through their ruses and will no longer accept inequity and abuses of power as a natural part of society. There is plenty of fuel for pessimism and fear but there is also plenty of fuel for optimism and hope. Each moment we have a choice to focus on one or the other, to see our glass as half empty or half full.
I'm turning fifty in a few days, so it is a natural time of reflection for me on the transitions of life and the inevitability of change. I know that I'm privileged to live in a relatively wealthy and stable society, though there's nothing to say that this will remain the case in years to come. I feel optimistic about the future of humanity and hope that I will be able to contribute in a positive way to creating a new way of living. Inevitably though, it is the younger generations who will bring about change and this is how it always is and how it should be, as is illustrated in the current upheavals around the world, the cycles that govern nature, and many of the greatest heroic myths. In The Myth of the Birth of the Hero, Otto Rank identified a common pattern of events in the life of heroes. The hero is usually a child of distinguished or powerful parents, and a prophecy usually accompanies his or her birth, warning that the child will cause the death of the father. Sometimes the father attempts to kill the baby, always to no avail. The baby is then put in a box and set adrift in the water before being saved by animals or people of low birth and brought up by them, unaware of his/her origins. At some point the hero must go on a quest in search of his/her origins and make retribution for the father's unnatural desire to halt change. It is necessary for the child to step into the father's shoes in adulthood, or on a cultural scale, for a new king to step into the shoes of the old king. When this potential is denied by the father then the cycles of life have been denied and stagnation sets in. It is the child's role to force change.
What astounds me is the integrity of today's young people, the extraordinary and mature way they are peacefully, but with determination, planting the seeds of change. From the crumbling ruins of the old structures is arising an amazing movement. No longer are secrets able to be kept hidden, no longer are lies upheld. Greed, inequity and corruption are being exposed. Eventually power will be something that can only be used with integrity, not kept for its own sake. I don't imagine it will be a smooth transition – change rarely is - but it will most certainly be interesting, which reminds me of the old curse – 'may you live in interesting times'.
The events that are happening in our contemporary world and the mythic theme of cyclic change are both deeply rooted in Flight, which begins with a prophecy concerning the protagonist, Fern: 'That one will be the death of her father. . . mark my words, the death of him'. This sets in motion a series of events which, as in myth, will inevitably lead Fern to her fate and hopefully to greater self-knowledge. Now, as I work on the sequel to Flight, I'm asking myself what the catalyst is that will force change by creating conflict and dramatic movement. But more importantly I need to know why there is a need for a catalyst. And of course the answer is that stagnation has set in. Fern has become too comfortable, she has failed to understand that transformation is a perpetual and vital process, not a product. As soon as the idea of self becomes crystalised, it must be transformed in some way, and if this transformation does not occur voluntarily, then it must be forced.
As with story, life is about change. So often we forget the cycles of nature, the waxing and waning of the moon, the course of the seasons, and the circular nature of our lives. Instead we cling to what we know, resisting the natural transitions in life, from child to teenager, to adult, to elder. Or more simply, we resist stepping from the known to the unknown. The wheel of fortune turns and we expend our energy on finding ways to stop it. Story is a reminder that change is natural, it helps us to link our lives back to nature and to understand that change is an intricate part of living. It also helps us to remember that life is a journey, which suggests movement, not stasis. By accepting the path of change, we develop. Like the seasons, stories remind us that life is cyclic, that change is inevitable. Whether or not we accept it, embedded in story lies the invitation to adventure, to journey, to evolve as humans - it's up to us.