Not In My Stars

Last week’s blog didn’t capture enough interest to fill a jam jar. It was by far the least read blog since I began writing them in January. I’m not whining; I’m just observing.

It’s too hard!” a friend complained. “I don’t want to think about all that: whether there is an after life, all my preferences and prejudices. It’s too much.”

The fault, dear friends, is not in my stars, but in my writing. How to make the ideas of eternal life, evolving souls, liberation and self-awareness more lighthearted? More appealing? I just couldn’t get there, which lets you know what a novice I remain at this business of communicating through words.

There is a writer who can do this; one who can, through engaging story telling, skillfully balance between the light and the dark of this life with words so simple and beautiful and characters so complex and beguiling that I am awed.

You have heard of the book/movie, The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green. You must have. Even though Green writes Young Adult literature—the only growing segment of published writing in America these days----yes, young people are reading---those of us over fifty must be paying some attention to this aspect of our literary culture.

I have read The Fault In Our Stars and marveled that an author could write such a heart-twisting book with so much love, humor and grace. Then I read Looking For Alaska and was blown away by Green’s ability to create characters that, whatever our age, we can all recognize and feel compassion for. Alaska is also a sad story but one of redemption and hope as well. Green never seems to leave us without hope.

And if I had his skill as a writer I would have wound a story around you, my friends, with that last blog of mine as tightly as Green winds the story of adolescent “Pudge,” the protagonist in Looking for Alaska.

Pudge is a brilliant, friendless, nerdy guy who, wanting more for his life, goes off to boarding school in search of the “Great Perhaps.” At Culver Creek he finds friends who turn him inside out, friends whose life situations educate him far beyond the classes he takes.

At the end of Looking for Alaska, a solemn and pensive Pudge writes for his religion class final exam: “I believe now that we are greater than the sum of our parts. And that part has to go somewhere, because it cannot be destroyed.” “ . . . one thing I have learned from science classes is that energy is never created and never destroyed.”

“We cannot be born and we cannot die.” Pudge continues. “Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations.” “ . . . that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end . . .”

The above quotes are from Looking For Alaska by John Green. I cannot reference the page numbers, as I should, because I read this book on my Kindle. But what I can say is this: no matter precisely where in the book these thoughts are expressed, about the after life, John Green and I are on the same page. 

Written by Cecily Stranahan, our companion on this journey of reflection and self-discovery. Visit Cecily's Blog at