Finding Beauty in the Every Day

I REMEMBER TWO YEARS AGO roaming the aisles of a San Francisco bookstore when a cover grabbed my attention. Autumn, by Karl Ove Knausgaard.

I could feel the tinge of cold air the painting on the cover evoked. I thought of being a kid and picking up pieces of smooth sea-glass from the sand.

That moment, when my eyes subconsciously latched onto the picture of rolling green waves in a foamy white ocean, would be a rock in the foundation of my memories.

I’d discovered Karl Ove Knausgaard, my modern literary hero who, in his normalcy and passion for expressing life as it is, ignited my love for writing.

I wrote the title down and researched Knausgaard. His emotive autobiographical series My Struggle came up as his most prominent work. And so, the odyssey began.

Six books and 3,600 pages later, I firmly uphold the central undercurrent of the series as well as the rest of his work: we all have a story that deserves telling. 

ON LIVING

My Struggle is about the honest relationship between Knausgaard and his father. He doesn’t hold anything back, and the reader can feel that it’s truly genuine. 

He (Knausgaard's father) had been dead for more than ten years...

Knausgaard writes.

That only made the writing possible, it didn't justify it. Everything took place intuitively. I began with a blank page and a will to write and ended up with the novel as it was.

The books illuminate his inner turmoil from childhood until adulthood, where each book represents a different stage of his journey. Knausgaard wrote for the very reason which makes writing a blessing to me — it provided a way into his heart.

As I read each book, I drifted further into my soul, as if caught in the tide on the cover of Autumn. As Knausgaard tells his compelling story, I found the courage to tell my own.

I connect with the books so strongly because I share the curiosity which Knausgaard seamlessly integrates into the narrative: an ardent study of history, philosophy, and art.

He has an incredible sense of capturing the minute subtleties of living. The sheer fact that we’re alive is a wonder — able to lose ourselves freely in the power of nature, individuals in this collective human experience; Knausgaard’s narrative exemplifies this ideal. 

His books say we’re in this fight together.

There is something all of us experience which is the same for all human beings, but which nevertheless is seldom conveyed apart from in the private sphere.

Knausgaard writes in Book Six.

All of us encounter difficulties at some point in our lives… These things are not represented, and seem not to exist, or else to exist only as a burden that each of us must bear on our own.

No matter who has come before us, we all have an original perspective. The most challenging thing to do is to find the nerve to start communicating it.

When I graduated from college three years ago, I got a journal and started writing to find clarity in my soul. I began reading insatiably as well — I re-discovered the joy of being a kid and losing myself in a story.

A novel can be about anything our imaginations conjure up. Without school, I attached to books because I felt like my life could now be about anything I created. 

Yet, life in itself is fascinating enough. Our voyage from existing day-to-day is the ultimate adventure.

As people, we share the details of every day, the mundane as well as the significant events. These notable moments serve as anchors of our lives, where we believe, if we can survive until then, we’ll be happy.

Seldom do we consider the moments in between as beautiful, the weekdays as well as the weekends. Knausgaard brilliantly illustrates that those mundane moments are meaningful, not by saying it outright, but by taking the reader through his experience.

The high points, as well as the low points, do serve a purpose. It’s in the low points that we connect as humans, where we realize we all are fighting together. How we approach the highs and the lows of life takes work — but we’re all painting a picture.

The facets of our modern-day serve as a canvas; we paint a picture based on how each of us individually approaches the art of living.

AUTUMN

Autumn is the first of a four-book-series that parallel the seasons. While My Struggle is acutely introspective, he writes to his unborn daughter to describe the temporal details of the world in this series.

I wanted to write about the simple pleasures of life,

Knausgaard says in an interview with PBS back in 2017 around the launch of Autumn.

I want her to see the complexity of the world and that everything is somehow valuable. When I would sit in front of something and wanted to write about it, for instance, a toothbrush, there's not much to say about it. But then you start to write, and something happens, things open up, and you see it's loaded with meaning.

The peacefulness of cooking, the spiritual cleansing of minimizing around the house, the universal insight of looking into a starry night and feeling insignificant — the life which takes place all around us is a gift. Reading Knausgaard makes me ask: what do we take for granted?

When something makes me think, I immediately feel the need to write it down. This relentless urge to capture something about our reality, I realize, is why I love to write.

The novel is not hierarchically superior as a pathway to understanding, but coordinate with all the other elements in it. The room in which it is conceived is as important as the thought itself,

Knausgaard writes.

The reality we live in, the room, is what makes writing worthwhile. I don’t live to write — I write to better understand the art of living.

Still, fear creeps into my psyche and tells me that I can’t be as original as the great writers of the day, or my style isn’t as profound as writers of the past. That’s the enemy who does what they can to keep us in the dark.

By being vulnerable and being unapologetically ourselves, we step into the light.

What I write is my congruence of thoughts between my soul and the earth. I strive to create something with my writing by giving that relationship a pulse. I know whatever I’m going through, others have been in my shoes before. Moreover, I guarantee others are now.

We live in a day where if you want to have your voice heard, you can. We have the means to progress as one. 

Reading The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig made me realize how fortunate we are. His autobiography reflects the period between the early 20th-century and the midst of WWII when he wrote the book.

We are confronted with the amazing fact that if wishing to know how the young of the last century and even the century before that fought their way through life, a young man of today picks up the novels of the greatest masters of those times,

Zweig writes.

He will find nothing but sublimated and toned-down events described there, for the entire generation was inhibited in its freedom of speech by the pressure of the times.

Our modern-day feels like we’re all in this fight for the betterment of humankind. That comes from connectivity, from being vulnerable and courageous.

Karl Ove Knausgaard opened up my eyes to the world’s essence, which we often glance over without a thought. 

Writing is being able to share in the human experience which we’re all living; We don’t only have a right to tell our stories with freedom like never before— we have a reason to. 

We all have a story to tell. 

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