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Buzz Aldrin What Happened To You in All The Confusion? is a novel by the Norwegian writer,  Johan Harstad. An aery yet tangible story about the desire of being second best in a world where attention-seeking is getting an obsession. In this book we then see deserted, far and almost lunar landscapes show their appeal, as safe landing where one may disappear to reappearing only later feeling more authentic.    

Faroe Islands

The story is set in a kind of lunar environment, namely that of the Faroe Islands, a North Atlantic archipelago located northwest of Scotland, halfway between Norway and Iceland. As often occurs in literature the image of the island is a meaningful symbol in itself as it is something that separates us from what we know and by doing that it provides that analytical clarity one needs to have access to a higher level of awareness and developing a greater emotional intelligence.   

It is in this kind of environment that Mattias, Harstad’s main character, finds the right place to reconcile two of his opposite inner drives: that of disappearing and that of affirming himself. At the Faroe Islands he discovers that he is not the only one to struggle in harmonising the dissonances between these two forces. In fact, he meets a small group of people who are living there and who like him are trying to balance different ways of being: being everything with being nothing, doing with imaging, staying with leaving and being normal with being insane. Paradoxically this encounter will help him to reach the right equilibrium.

Capitan Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin

In a world where attention-seeking is one of the fundamental drives of human behaviour, being second best can be easily read as fear or lack of self-confidence, in particular when, like Mattias, one has a big artistic talent. He can sing very well but he does not want to be a rock star as his best friend.

He wants to stand on the sideline. As capitan Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, who on July 20th 1969, right when Mattias was being born, was the second man to walk on the Moon, Mattias wants to live staying out of the spotlight.

The image of the astronaut has always been illuminated by a very peculiar light, able to fuel the dreams of children, the fantasies of teenagers and the imagination of any adults who when looking up can hardly avoid to be overwhelmed and profoundly moved by a desire for the infinitive. Thus, in a way astronauts represent the emblem of the desire to be successful and being the best. However, the image of Buzz Aldrin as pictured by Mattias, appears to be entirely different.

Being second best

To Mattias, Buzz Aldrin, being the second man who walked on the Moon, grows to represent a superhero for all those people who do not like the spotlights. The life of Buzz Aldrin shows metaphorically the value of standing on the sideline. It shows that it is not an easy place to be but that on the contrary it requires a huge talent and great sensibility.

“One needs a strong willpower, and fortune, and ability to be the first. But you need a great heart to be second best.”

Telling about Mattias’ unease in being the first, this book makes us reflect on the necessity to balance the natural drive to affirm our individual experience with a sensibility toward the other people. Through the story we realise that the origin of Mattias’ inner troubles is hardly related to emotional problems but to his inability to find the right balance between himself and others and we find that balance only when we find the right people to stay with, those who accept who we are without forcing us to pursue what we are not.

Reading Buzz Aldrin, What Happened To You in All The Confusion?

This book combines an intimate atmosphere with a rock soul offering a nice story on being second best and anonymous without going into total isolation.

We see Mattias getting to know the limits and the value of this drive, getting to know that once well balanced being second best may be the proper way for him to activate and give space to his capacity to see things and life in all its depth and verticality.