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The Red Keep

I don't know if you've been keeping up with the Game of Thrones show on HBO, it's currently to Season 3. Before you start judging me, please let me say that I'm not a hipster in any other way, but now that everyone seems to love GoT because of the show I sit and whine to myself that I read the books over ten years ago, have been the biggest fan, and hate that these people who probably would never pick up a book in their life are hopping on the bandwagon now. I'm the GoT hipster.

Anyway, the most recent episode had a segment where Sansa was mourning to Littlefinger about how when she lived in Winterfell she always wished she could be in King's Landing and go to the parties, and see the Red Keep and be part of of "real life", the center of the world as it seemed to her then. Now that she's there, living in the Red Keep, all she wants to do is go back to Winterfell. That's actually a fairly accurate depiction of life in general, but it matches the sentiments of a book I just finished reading, so it resonated with me.

I just finished up Prague by Arthur Phillips, which was an extremely well written romp around Budapest in 1990-1991, right after the collapse of the USSR. Even the title matches the "Red Keep mentality" as it were, as none of the book takes place in Prague (they do go to Vienna for a minute) but there are constant references throughout about how Budapest is basically the backwater substitute Slavic metropolis, and all the real happenings are happening in Prague. The thought process is best articulated by one of the characters Mark, who is an academic expert on nostalgia, and is on a quest to find its true source, chancing madness in the process. He summarizes the process on how coffee shops or "cafes" became popular. Down-on-their-luck artists from every century migrated to coffee shops because their most revered heroes went to coffee shops before them. But those said heroes went to coffee shops because their heroes went to coffee shops, and so on and so forth. It turns out the original heroes went to coffee shops simply because they needed a place to be warm, because they were poor, which is the most rational explanation for any of it, but over time it turns into a mythical Valhalla of creative potential.

Anyhow, in application to real life, a lot of times we are willing to turn a blind eye to all of the good we already have in our lives because there is something on the other side of the hill that seems more remarkable. The question we have to ask ourselves is, are we that remarkable? If changing lanes was a sign of some fated destiny, wouldn't it be a little less common? As I look around at the people I share the world with, I see serial monogamists, 50-year old pizza delivery boys and plenty of starving artists.

It makes me think that the resistance against doing what life tells you to do is what's common. It's a rarer thing to find someone accepting what life hands them without a struggle.


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