I’m riding a tour bus across the Danube and I’m thinking of Nietzsche. He had the reputation of being a depressing godless existentialist where I was raised, and only as an adult have I learned of the many uplifting things that he had to say.
One of my favorites: That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
I am thinking about this because I can’t see out of the bus all that well, because I am in an aisle seat and my sister has the window. She loves the window but she would take turns with me if I wanted, but I don’t. Like Lola, my hero of x0, I too was trapped under a canoe a few years ago and was lucky to live through the incident. Lola used the experience to help her grow into a strong telepath Me, I still find myself uncomfortable being anywhere for very long where I cannot easily get out. After berating myself for being silly and forcing myself to endure mildly uncomfortable situations, I’ve finally just accepted the new me and now I keep plenty of open space between me and the exit. So, no window seats.
I have decided that I love the Hungarians. I love the wild violin music and the rich food and this hilly city called Buda pushed right up against the Danube and the flatness of Pesht. This happens to me a lot when I travel. I tend to fall in love with whole cultures and pieces of the earth.
I am fascinated with how these warriors on horseback arrived in Europe the 800’s (that’s right, 800 not 1800). After hundreds of good years, disaster struck. The Mongols passed through, killing most Hungarians and burning their villages to the ground. Tough times.
It took a couple of hundred years to recover from that, but the Hungarians did. Then the Turks came through, killed and burnt as before, and stayed for a couple of hundred years. The Austrians showed up and kicked out the Turks, but then they milked the Hungarians dry before they pulled them into the losing side of World War I. After the war, Hungary lost two thirds of its land and half its people as punishment.
A guy named Hitler came along and promised the Hungarians their land back, and they made an unfortunate alliance. Once they learned to know their ally better and tried to end the relationship, Hitler simply invaded and occupied Hungary. But not to worry, the Soviets showed up and pushed Hitler out. The Hungarians were so happy that they made then statues of thanksgiving. Then, the Soviets imposed their own stern totalitarian regime on the Hungarians for decades, behind a political artifact known as the “iron curtain”.
Today, Hungary is a sliver of its former self, fighting to regain its economic footing and cultural cohesiveness. Our tour guide quips that “really we’re just hanging around to see who is going to invade us next.” My science fiction brains is already thinking about an alien invasion story that begins in Hungary. It has promise.
I think that what Nietzshe said is technically true regarding germs. I wish it was true more generally. I think we should all be resilient and not leading lives of fear. Survive and grow stronger. It sounds good and when it happens, it’s great. But the truth is that what doesn’t kill us, sometimes damages us. To deny that fact doesn’t help.
If there is there a message in there for those times when what doesn’t kill leaves marks instead, I think it must be about the need for us all to be far more gentle with each other. We’re strong But as people and as societies, we are fragile too. We’d all be far better off if we did less damage to each other to begin with.
If you would like to read other posts from this trip check out “One person’s tourist destination is another person’s home ….. thoughts from Bucahrest “ on my blog for the novel y1. Also check out “A lot of pissed-off people ….. thoughts from Belgrade” on my website for the novel z2.