JulNoWriMo reflections

Screenshot Sims 3

Helge-Dag Ljoset, the Sims 3 character I am currently playing, and the spiritual leader and would-be savior in my JulNoWriMo story. Green light of nature and harmony!

The month draws to a close, and as expected I have not written 50 000 words of novel. Actually it is more like 17 000. “A lot of things happened” as the Japanese use to say when they can’t explain something without creating even more misunderstandings. Or perhaps they only say that in anime.

Speaking of anime, excessively faithful readers may remember that I have made several attempts to write novels inspired by the animated movie “Rebirth of Buddha”, based on a book by Ryuho Okawa, founder of the unusually cheerful new religion “Happy Science”, who also produced the movie. The movie takes place in an alternate universe where the Buddha reborn is not Ryuho Okawa but Sorano Tayou – a name that just happens to be pronounced exactly like the Japanese phrase for “the sun in the sky”. His family name, Sorano, would translate as “of the sky”. It is used throughout the movie without the slightest hint of irony. Makes you wonder what Okawa Ryuho means. But as a master punsman, I am pleased to see this particular feature.

Anyway. While my first writings inspired by this movie were pretty close to fanfic, I have gradually moved further away from the Rebirth of Buddha universe; this year, the story has the working titleĀ Green Light. As the name implies, in this alternate world it is not Buddha who incarnates to save the world in its hour of need: Buddha’s light is golden, after all, not green. Instead of Buddha, the reborn savior is our old friend Lao-Tzu, author of Tao Te Ching and all round cool dude from the Axial Age in China. He is wielding the Green Light of Nature and Harmony.

In Happy Science, the organization that exists in our world, there is a substantial focus on Master’s earlier incarnation as the Greek god Hermes. He also lists a couple other, less famous or totally unknown, incarnations before Hermes and Buddha. I don’t remember any mention of this in the fictional universe of the movie, but I have a parallel in my story. The would-be savior of the world reveals himself as a reincarnation of the Norse god Freyr, the god of prosperity and pleasure. (And fertility in its most physical aspects, but I’m keeping this family-friendly.)

Unsurprisingly then, the Master of the Green Light has chosen to reincarnate in Norway, rather than another northern temperate country consisting mostly of islands and coastline. When he consecrates his life to saving the world, he changes his name to Helge Dag Ljoset, a perfectly normal-looking Norwegian name unless you are fluent in New Norwegian. Helge and Dag are common Norwegian male names, and surnames ending in -set are quite common (it may be related to the English word to settle, and is a common name for farms from a certain period in Norwegian history). But when read as words rather than names, “helge” means sanctify, “dag” means day, and “Ljoset” means the Light. So basically his name means sanctify the day to the Light, or the Light that sanctifies the day. I am pretty happy with this one. ^_^

Due to the different colors of the lights, the fourfold path of Love, Wisdom, Self-reflection and Progress has become Love, Wisdom, Objectivity and Harmony. The goal of the HLI – the Heavenly Light Institute – is to extend love and harmony to the whole world through the teachings from Heaven, ending all war and strife on a global scale and inaugurating an era of worldwide peace, harmony and sustainable living.

To this purpose, Master Ljoset has written exactly 1000 books, heavy tomes all, filled with luminous prose. The first is theĀ Book of Truth, a comprehensive overview of the teachings he came to this Earth to spread. It gives a perspective as if from a very high point of view, starting before the creation of the universe and giving an overview of time, space and a bunch of other dimensions, then focusing on Earth and its history and the people and spirits that fill it, then detailing the various areas of knowledge that are useful to mankind. The following 999 books expand on these things, the first still on a very high level, then gradually more detailed and practical. The structure of the Books of the Truth is like a tree, starting with the trunk and spreading outward, some boughs and branches larger than others. In the Book of Truth it is explicitly said that the Truth is like a cosmic tree, its roots in Heaven and its branches on Earth. A reference to the World Tree Yggdrasil is briefly mentioned.

As you can see by now, this is not a simple fanfic. The people and teachings have taken on their own unique flavor. One example is the Freyday.

The members of the HLI pronounce Friday as “Freyday” in memory of Freyr and indirectly of his more recent incarnation as the founder of their organization. But unlike the Sabbath and the Christian Sunday, Freyday is not a day of rest! Rather, the believers get up early, gather in front of the altar and consecrate the day to their god, before eating the Freyday breakfast and going to work or school. The idea is that on Freyday, they will do everything at their workplace or school as if it was done for God or Heaven or the Light. They are encouraged to imagine Freyr or one of his subordinate spirits watching them as they do their job this day, and do everything in the spirit of love, wisdom, objectivity and harmony, not out of greed or glory or habit.

The second aspect of the Freyday consecration is that the income from Freyday’s work – in practice 1/7 of any wages or salaries – is also considered holy and set aside as a Freyday fund. Those who are particularly well off may donate this to the Institute, but common people are encouraged to use the Freyday Fund to purchase the Books of the Truth, as well as auxiliary materials such as comics, tapes/CDs, videos, and to finance going to meetings, conferences and retreats.

That’s pretty original, isn’t it? At least I haven’t heard of it before.

The story is told entirely from the point of view of a guy who becomes a member of the Heavenly Light Institute at the age of 15, when his cousin rescues him from a dreadful life living with his spiteful and hypocritical grandmother after his parents have died tragically. His cousin is a HLI member, as is her family, and he goes to live with them in Norway during his high school years. We get to see the Institute (and Norway as well) through the fresh eyes of an outsider. The downside is batches of unprovoked explanations and proselytizing interspersed in the narrative. He also uses foreshadowing fairly liberally.

I want to portray a living religion, but not exactly my own. People these days often wonder if there can be any reason for being religious except for stupidity and inertia. I try to portray people for whom their religion is something fascinating, like being alive in world filled with wonder and magic, as if a role playing game larger than life was superimposed on the mundane world, adding glow and excitement to even ordinary things. There is also the part where the Institute is a close-knit society, mostly in the positive sense. It is a place where people belong, where they have their family and friends, where they share the same values and ideals without dissolving entirely into stereotypes. Rather than bricks in the wall, they make up a colorful mosaic.

This part of course is based on my own experience, but I have gone to great lengths to make sure all characters are fictional. So if I ever decide to publish this in any way – and that is a big if – it won’t be anything like my life story or that of any of my friends.

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