Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: book review Page 2 of 3

Hesitant to Admit

Each time I start a book I take a picture of it and post it to Facebook and Instagram. I was hesitant to post this one. Why? Because so many of us are taught by our church leaders not to question the bible. That the scriptures are the infallible Word of God and therefore cannot be questioned. I’m sorry to say that many of my traditional Christian friends are very close-minded and judgmental of other points of view. I’m not saying they are cruel, mean, and wrong, I’m saying they aren’t willing to consider possibilities. And that’s not a Christian trait, it’s a human one.

My question has always been, if God created man in His image, gave him a soul and discerning mind, why would He not want us to question the world around us? If the bible is so crystal clear, why are there so many vague and seemingly contradicting statements? And if Jesus wanted us to take Him at his literal word, why did he speak in parables and why didn’t he write out the words He wanted us to keep sacred? The answer I’ve come to so far is that He doesn’t, that he wants us to discover Him on our own, one on one, on our own terms. He wants us to come to Him. And He’s been trying to reach us since creation.

So I read, and I read a lot. I read about different religions, other points of view, old writings and new. And I pray. I spend some time each day in meditation and prayer, allowing myself quiet space to hear and experience that still small voice inside me, the one our creator put there. And I come to my own conclusions. And I hold those conclusions lightly. I know many people have a problem with this, but I cannot for the life of me see why. I have decided not to spend my energy trying anymore. There are some things I just cannot understand and I’m ok with that.

Once again, I cannot remember how “The Pagan Christ: Is blind faith killing Christianity?” by Tom Harpur came to my attention or why I added it to my reading list. It was likely an article I read, another book, or a podcast that I heard, but somewhere in my studies this book was dropped into my lap. The title, of course, is intriguing, and the subtitle is something I’ve considered as well. I wanted to know more.

On first glance, if someone were to insist that the stories and themes from the Old and New Testaments were not original, you’d assume that the person was trying to show you why they believe they are fakes, stolen from other more ancient works, not created by the true Son of God. But that isn’t what he’s trying to say at all.

I’ve heard from Christian teachers throughout my life that the similarities between older scriptures and unrelated teachings from other religions were put there by Satan to confuse and distract us from the truth. But that doesn’t resonate with me at all, it never has. When I come across these similarities, it doesn’t discount my faith in one creator god at all. It encourages me to dive deeper into the past, to read more, to pray more. I want to be closer God, to know who or what He really is. The similarities connect me with the past, with other cultures, and with God. They are the common denominator in the equation of life.

When I read about ancient Egyptian myths and their similarities to Christ stories, I think, “God was here too. Of course He was!” When I read about Buddhist teaching stemming from the same timeframe as Jesus, I think, “He was here too!” If God is the creator, that piece that connects every living thing that I believe He is, why would he not be? The common denominator in all scriptures across time and physical space, is the Truth.

I feel that we put a limit on God when insist that one group of people, one time, one person, one group of writings are the only time that God attempted to communicate with His creation. If I am to consider the bible as a completely historical document, it feels ridiculous. There are books that are clearly not historical and we accept that. There are also parts of books that are clearly not historical, and there are parts that we used to consider historically accurate that we clearly do not now. And then there are the parts that are clearly cultural and limited in scope. How can we assume that now, all these thousands of years later, we have distilled the bible and Christianity to what it was always meant to be?

Seeing the bible as a “Truth” document, one that can help me get a part of the picture of what God really is but never the complete picture, resonates in my heart and inspires me. God gave me a mind and a heart, one unlike any other creature He created, one like Him. I intend to use that gift.

This book added to the picture in some big ways. I’ve sifted through it a couple times after reading it, looking for quotes to jump off from and write about, but most of the pieces I highlighted or noted were personally enlightening or so complex that once I pulled them out of context, they didn’t have the same impact. But I will leave you with this one,

“Things are not simply true because someone somewhere first said them, or because they are collected in books such as the Bible. They are true because they ring with full authenticity on the anvil of our souls.”

When I read this and then sat reflecting on it for a bit, my question was, “What if it rings true to my soul alone? Or what if it rings true to a small collection of people but no one else?” My opinion is, then it isn’t Truth. Truth is the same for all people, in all times, in all cultures. The common denominator. What meets that qualification is broad and vague. To me it boils down to, love the creator and treat others as you wish to be treated. Apparently, that is more complicated than it sounds.

You Can’t Make Me WANT Your Social Gathering!

I had the book “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community” by Robert D. Putnam on my reading list because it was on Mark Manson’s list of “5 Books That Explain Why it Seems the World is so Fucked.” SEEMS is the operative word here, by the way. It really isn’t and he was right about this book! It’s a great read for those that think that social media is what is killing our desire for community. The book was written in 2000, before the advent and spread of Facebook. And he writes about things that have been in decline for the previous 30 years or so. He writes about my generation, the one that seems to have picked up the anti-community ball and ran with it.

The first thing that I found so intriguing about this book is that I have always believed I was in the minority when it came to my feelings about social gatherings of all types. I have never been a “joiner.” I have never wanted to be part of a club of any kind that wants to meet on a regular basis, other that maybe a book club or writer’s club…which also doesn’t seem to exist anymore. And even if it did, I’d be too scared to attend without a wingman. When I have been coerced into joining something, I find the group so desperate for leadership and volunteers, that I feel like I’m on a sinking ship trying to escape with my life. It turns out I am not in the minority at all. It’s more of a generational thing.

It also turns out that a lack of community isn’t a new thing. It looks to be cyclical. It isn’t that the world has always been a wonderful hodgepodge of community involvement and now because of social media addiction, everyone stays home. It rises and falls in popularity, mostly during times of crisis or scarcity. When there is a big war or famine, people tend to group together tightly for a generation or two, then the feeling wanes and we go back to our independent loner natures for the most part.

Weird to find, once again, that we aren’t in the throws of end times, but merely experiencing a low in the natural cycle of humanity.

There is one problem that I see becoming prevalent. Humans have a natural hormone response to being near each other, it doesn’t work through the computer. Bonding with and caring for others doesn’t happen through pictures and written words the same way it does through interpersonal contact. Is social media bringing us closer? In some ways yes, but not if we limit our interaction to online.

We should be spending some time together in a physical way: dinner parties, bar-b-ques, and community projects, are all ways we can build social capital that allows us to trust each other. It makes us happier people. In the past, we (most of us anyway) felt compelled to put in the effort of going to see each other. How else are you going to know what kind of a monster your cousin married? How would you get to know your nieces and nephews? And how would your Mom know you were happy and healthy? But now we have social media. We can see what everyone is doing without actually going. But it shouldn’t replace actual, in person contact. It should be enhancing it.

We can’t blame social media for what’s happening. It’s only building on how our generation has been feeling. It’s escalating our isolation from each other, but it didn’t create our need to isolate ourselves. That is a whole other ball of wax and this book gets into the patterns that have been manifesting themselves for several generations. And it does so without making us feel negative and hopeless at the end!

The answer isn’t more or different government, more voting, social media/internet bans or regulation. The answer is more socializing. And we have to want that ourselves. We cannot be coerced into it or made to enjoy it. We have to become aware that we need it and then seek it out. Personally, I think it’s a cycle we will work our way through all by ourselves sooner or later. Eventually, a few of us will get lonely enough, unhappy enough to want to change things. We’ll start seeing people more often, doing things together in small groups that build up into larger groups again. These things will build trust between us and will open us up to relationships and happiness we can’t get alone. We’re social animals after all and, contrary to popular belief, I think we’re smart enough as a species to know when we need to do something for our own immediate good. Those that aren’t and don’t have friends and family to pull them along, won’t make it. Evolution is alive and well.

The whole time I was reading this book, I kept thinking about when it was written, 2000. What would the author think about the state of community today? Has it gone the way he imagined it would? Does our current situation surprise him at all?

One really funny thing before I end this! I keep notes about the books I’m reading in a paper journal. I keep the journal and my favorite mechanical pencil with the book, underlining passages and making stars where I have a note in my paper journal as I go. While reading through my notes to refresh my memory about this book, I found myself trying to use my finger to scroll up on the paper page! I think I’ve been spending a lot of time reading articles on my phone lately.

“Everything is F… – A Book About Hope”

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I’m so far behind on book reviews that it’s just ridiculous. Should I just give up on the pile of just finished books I have here on my desk? Start fresh, so to speak, and simply review the one I’m currently reading when I’m done? That would be the easy way, wouldn’t it?

I think I’ll go ahead and do “mini” reviews for these books. I’ll pull out an idea or two from each and leave it there. Here we go.

I started to write a review for this over a week ago and realized I just can’t. First of all, I should have written it last month when I finished it. That would have been ideal, when the ideas were fresh. I sat here thumbing through looking at the words I underlined and getting a glimpse of the awesome

When I listened to the interview, he said the book would trigger anger in some people. His first book was gentler, this one goes for the throat, right to many people’s most sensitive spots. He got me too and I was prepared. I found myself thinking, “Hold on just one stinkin’ minute, Mark!” But then set it aside to wonder what it was he was really trying to say.

When you go to a doctor about a pain you have, say in your foot, he feels around that foot looking for the pain. He pushes on it in small increments until he pokes it right where it hurts most. “Sorry. I know that hurts. But now I know where exactly to put the medicine.” That’s what the author is doing here, I think.

To find a cure for what ails us, we need to look at all the pieces, all our life narratives, all the things we hold dear, to see which one, and then which part of the that one, is really causing the trouble.

This is one of those books that I’ll have to read again to get more meat off the bone. There was just so much to digest.

Here’s just one idea that I fell in love with!

“…why don’t we do things we know we should do? Because we don’t FEEL like it. Every problem of self-control is not a problem of information or discipline or reason but, rather, of emotion.

…emotional problems are much harder to deal with than logical ones. There are equations to help you calculate the monthly payments on your car loan. There are no equations to help you end a bad relationship.”

His caricature of humans as a consciousness car, driven by a feeling brain with a thinking brain in the passenger seat is just beautiful. Our feelings drive us, and our brain justifies and explains why we’re doing the things we want to do. That’s why we keep doing things we know are not logical. We eat when we’re not hungry. We throw tantrums instead of using our words to communicate needs. And we ruin our long-term relationships, knowing full well that we could navigate the waters a better way.

What can we do to fix it? He goes into some ideas and why they work. Some I’ve heard from my own kids. And some I’ve thought of myself. The big one being, sometimes we have to replace habits instead of kick them.

The book is just awesome. I was looking through my notes and found “How can one book have so many awesome ideas?!” I’d probably have written a thousand page essay about all the brilliant things he said if I had done the review last month when it was all fresh in my head, but instead, I’ll enthusiastically point you in the direction of it so you can read it yourself.

Don’t let the title and sarcastic tone make you think it’s a negative tale of doom. It’s not. Society, government, religion…all the forbidden dinner party topics, wrapped up in 232 pages. You won’t regret it!

“Tell Me Lies” Book Review

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I got this book, not because I heard of it or the author before, but because the cover caught my eye at Barnes & Noble and when I read the back, “The wrong one. The one you couldn’t let go of. The one you’ll never forget.” I had to have it. Let’s just say we’ve all been there, right?

Funny side note: The first time I read ALL the words on the cover of this book was just now, as I was adding the picture I took to my post. It caught my breath. Why did I not notice before?

A few weeks later, when I finally got around to reading it (my to-read pile was already pretty deep), I was initially disappointed. Shallow college kids and their party antics? Not really my thing, even when I was a college kid. Even back then I was shaking my head at the kids around me. Is this just something everyone does because they are finally out from under their parents’ thumb? It struck me as ridiculous, even to the 19-year-old me. So, I wasn’t enjoying the story because I couldn’t relate. I couldn’t get into any of their experiences but I kept reading. Then I realized what kind of a person she had fallen in love with; a narcissist with no real regard for other humans, someone who regularly, and in every context, only uses the people around him as a means to an end, like tools you find in the shed.

I’ve recently found myself interacting with a person like this as well and it is excruciatingly painful. You spend so much energy trying to reach them. There has to be a person underneath all that pain that has made them act out like this. You know that everyone has their own agenda, their own needs and goals, maybe you can help them through to the other side, maybe you’re the one that clears the shadows out and makes him a better person. That just isn’t possible and it’s not about what you can do. It’s him. It’s a personal journey that only they can travel.  You’re just a site along the way.

But it’s so hard for an empathic person to give up and let go. You don’t want to be another painful experience in their life. You want to be the healing for them, the medicine. But the more you try, the more he slips away. It sucks.

The book became personal for me once I got about two-thirds through, as you can probably tell. It was also eye-opening to my situation and healing for my heart, even though my situation was really the same as the characters’ in the book. As I put it down, in tears, something dawned on me. We can’t go looking for the things that help us heal, we have to be open to healing. We don’t know where a path will ultimately lead. We can’t just give up at the first sign of trouble or boredom. We have to follow it through and see where it goes, learn from what we find.

That’s what I did with this book and with the relationship. At first, I was frustrated and then angry, then hurt, but now…well…I can see the important lessons that I was able to learn about myself. I learned how to interact with another type of person (book) and how to learn and react faster next time. I won’t close myself off away from any danger, books or people. I guess I can’t learn much from doing things the way everyone else does, the safe way. I learn best from risk, even though I’m a risk-averse type of person. I’ve been starting to wonder if I was born that way or learned to be that way: a reflection for another time for sure.

Favorite quote:

“Sass, you learn almost everything from your relationships,” CJ said. “They’re how you figure out who you are.”

Some people may take offense at that idea but they’re missing the real point. It’s not that relationships define who you are. It’s more like you can’t really see who you are directly. You can see part of you, but not all of you, not without a mirror. The relationships you get into and out of are like that mirror. The more you have, even the unsuccessful ones, the more glimpses you get. I wish I had known that earlier in my life. I spent my teens and twenties getting into and out of relationships, not to learn about myself but to find a partner to take care of me. How could I find someone to take care of me if I wasn’t sure of who I really was? I did the same with co-workers and friends. “What can you do for me?” was typically my thinking.

Lucky for me, the man I chose just happened to be a perfect match, but I didn’t always think so. We’ve been learning who we are together for the last twenty years. But I’m not talking about only a marriage relationship. Friends, lovers, co-workers, etc. all teach us different things about ourselves. We can’t do it alone. We all learn from each other.

I’ve met a lot of very emotionally immature people lately and I’ve learned something different about myself from every one of them. Hopefully they learned something about themselves by dealing with me. I won’t cut myself off from human contact just because some people can be lame. No one will get anywhere that way!

Bird Box – Book Review!

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The first most terrifying book I ever read was Stephen King’s IT. My heart sped the entire time, culminating in the most horrifying “boss fight” I had ever read, before I even knew what a boss fight was. (for those older or non-gaming readers, a boss fight is the big battle at the end of a video game level.) When the mini-series came out (for those younger folks, that’s what we used to have before “Netflix Original Series”), I was so excited to get to see that same level of horror on the screen with actors I loved. Tim Curry, people! You couldn’t ask for a better Pennywise.

I have no idea why, but scary books and movies were my favorite “comfort food” growing up.

And then I saw the movie.

It wasn’t that the movie was bad. It was just that, for some reason this book just couldn’t translate onto the screen for everyone the same way Kujo could. The point of the whole book was that the monster was specific to you. It was what horrified you the most. Your own personal nightmare. To see it on the screen was a letdown. That was someone else’s nightmare. Watching it felt like waking up from a horrible dream and explaining it to your brother. “Then a spider chased me with a balloon and grandma laughed. It was just horrible, this feeling of dread…” He’s laughing his ass off and you realize while you’re speaking that there was nothing inherently scary about the dream. Not that I’ve ever had that happen. I just imagine that’s what it would be like. Really.

The movie was such a letdown from the book that when they made the new movie, I didn’t bother to watch it. We’re talking about a 27-year letdown here. I hold a grudge when it comes to this kind of thing. Seriously.

Bird Box is the same kind of book. It. Is. Terrifying.

While searching for a new show to watch on Netflix recently, we watched the trailer. It looked awesome. You didn’t see any monsters, just the woman, blindfolded and wondering what was out there. My husband and sons are not into scary movies, but I was so intrigued by what kind of a nightmare it would be. Maybe I could watch it during the day while they are at work, I thought.

Then I found the BOOK! Oh. My. Gourd. This will be epic. I threw it onto my pile on my way to the register, even though I had already picked up my quota.

IT made my heart race. Bird Box made me stop breathing. I’m sitting there on the couch with the book up to my spectacled face, holding my breath. Every few pages I’d suddenly remember to breathe, sucking in lungs full of air. I felt like I was there, blindfolded and feeling my way. It was horrible.

And I loved every minute of it! I still haven’t seen the show. I doubt it could be as good as the book. It’s the same kind of thing as IT. To see the monster would ruin it. The only way they could make the tv show would be to have the scenes go black whenever people put their blindfolds on. It would make for a pretty boring visual experience.

Books aren’t visual experiences. They’re all in your head. That’s what makes them amazing!

If you like horror, you will LOVE this book.

“A Student of History”

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Why did I pick this book from the shelf at the bookstore? Two reasons: it said “student” and “history.” I’m not picky when it comes to novels. Most times I judge a book by its cover and its synopsis. Reading the inside flap of this one, I thought it sounded a bit like Sunset Boulevard, so I decided to try it.

I have to be honest. I wasn’t that impressed. It was a good mystery. There were some interesting parts. I liked the characters mostly. But it was a little predictable and not very deep. The history would be more interesting if I was more familiar with Hollywood and Los Angeles maybe. I didn’t really care for the main character. I felt like he just fell into what was happening around him, kind of naïve, but maybe that was the point?

“Maybe I’d learn something about LA history – I was, after all, an historian – although, stupidly, with what I realize now was the particular arrogance of the overeducated and underemployed, I didn’t believe that there was anything the wealthy could teach me.”

Familiar. I think most of us believe, stupidly, that people different from us have nothing to add to our lives. That seems so bizarre. How can you learn anything from someone exactly like you? It goes both ways. The rich have something to learn from the poor too.

“I avoided the pile of books on my desk as if they were a lover with whom I’d split but still shared an apartment.”

I just loved this because I have a pile of books on my shelf just like this. I need to get to work, but someone on Facebook is wrong and I must set them straight!

“If you can’t buy something outright, you can’t afford it at all,” she said.

“Mrs. W-,” Dalton, chuckling, “the price was four hundred million dollars. Not too many people can afford four hundred million dollars.”

“That’s right!” she said. “And those that aren’t rich have no business pretending that they are.”

I know a lot of people would disagree and find this snobby, but she’s not totally wrong. If you’re making payments on something, you’ve borrowed from the future in the hope that you will be able to afford it. Save up for it instead. Houses, I guess, can be the exception, I suppose. It doesn’t make financial sense to spend money on housing AND save up for a future house at the same time. But everything else? Save up.

“And yet here he was, and my mother too – who despite her simple clothing and Target-bought handbag did not believe she was lesser than anyone.”

Attitude is everything. I wish I didn’t care what other people thought of me. I wish I could feel that I “belonged” wherever I wanted to be.

“I thought for a moment about taking a picture with my phone, but noticed that nobody else was taking pictures. Apparently the event was so commonplace that it did not require documentation.”

They weren’t taking pictures because it would be rude, not because it didn’t require documentation. Sure I’d love to remember seeing Mel Brooks at the Rite Aid in Buena Park (if it ever happened) but it would be rude to take pictures.

I don’t regret reading this book and I would recommend it for light, fun reading. It’s a good book. It’s just not one I thought was as “edgy and spellbinding” as the back cover said. It did emphasize one truism though. The divide between rich and poor is not that great. We all have our troubles. We all hurt. We all screw up. The very rich and influential have the added bonus of being public. When they do human things, we all get to watch and criticize. It’s sad really.

Religious Literacy?

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You know, I really should write down where I found the recommendation for a book that I put on my Amazon wish list the moment I add it. I could easily put it in the comments and translate that to the book itself when I get it, but I have forgetten every single time. I’m not sure where I got the idea to read this one. I thought it was from a recent article that I read on a blog, but when I found that article it wasn’t in there. Oh well. Live and learn. I’ve left a post-it note for myself. Maybe now I’ll start!

“Religious Literacy” by Stephen Prothero

Many times, books that describe different religions can feel condescending to your own. I remember reading about different religions in high school and college textbooks and they always treat it like ancient mythology or fiction. There’s little respect for tradition. This book did not feel that way, at least from my Christian perspective.

It’s also not difficult to read and doesn’t get into deep details. It skims over the surface of history and points you in the direction where you can find more information throughout the book and in a “Further Reading” section at the back of the book.

Basically, it goes through a general history of religion in the United States, where we started and why, how it evolved over the years, and where we are now. It also gives great reasons why we should be generally familiar with all major religions whether we are religious ourselves or not. His thinking is that you can’t separate religion from history, philosophy, or science because it’s usually an integral part of why things have happened in the past. It’s a part of the story and if you throw it out, some things just don’t make sense anymore, or they look flat and uninteresting.

I agree. We can’t understand why the Pilgrims came across the ocean if we don’t know religious history. We can’t understand the slavery issue in the US, or Martin Luther King Jr.’s peaceful protests, or most of the issues in the Middle East, if we rule out any religious history study. As a Christian reading this, I felt a tad convicted about my lack of knowledge about my own religious history. You’d think we’d all at least know the differences between our own denominations, but most of us don’t.

I look at having a basic understanding of major religions the same way I look at any argument. We should define the terms before we start any discussion. If I don’t know that “Jesus” is not defined in the same way in all religions that know of him, then how can I even begin to discuss how we should be following him?

So now I’ve come to the end of another wonderful book with six more books and several Wikipedia pages added to my reading list. That means I got my money’s worth from this one!

“Rebecca”

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“Rebecca” is another book I got on my epic Barnes & Noble quest for great novels. I found it laying on a table as I was about to leave. It’s one of my husband’s favorite movies, one he rented for us when we were still dating, and I had no idea it was a book. Are all old movies from best-selling books?

If you know there is a book and a movie, which do you like to experience first? I usually like to watch the movie first. I’m rarely disappointed that way. The only time I am let down by a book after a movie is when the movie followed the book too closely. Mary Poppins was like that! Great movie, great book, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them both. I like reading a book that gives the movie far more depth.

The author of “Rebecca,” Daphne Du Maurier, wrote “The Birds” as well and a few other great movies. Now I want to read those stories and watch their movies too! I wonder if they are all as somber and mysterious?

Anyway! On to “Rebecca.” I haven’t seen the movie in nearly twenty years, but the minute I started reading the feeling of it came flooding back. Lucky for me, I couldn’t remember how it ended, so it was a total surprise. If you like mysteries, Alfred Hitchcock style, you’ll love this book.

It’s a mystery book, so I can’t really write much about the story without giving it away, but I did have one thing I wanted to mention.

The relationship between the servants of a big manor like that and its owner is so foreign to me. They revere the master of that house, the whole family for that matter. And some of them are just so irritated that he married beneath him. It’s weird. You’d think they would be happy for her. If I were them, I’d be proud that my boss isn’t too stuck up to fall in love with someone despite their class.

I must have written this out six or seven times and I still can’t get the words out the way I want them too. Maybe it’s my thinking that’s confused. What do you think about classes today? Do you think we have them separated as completely as we have in the past? Or are the walls easier to climb today?

Man’s Search For Meaning

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One of the books that has been suggested to me several times over the years is Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” I finally got around to reading it and I’m disappointed in myself that I did read it twenty years ago. My suggestion? Go out and get this book right now and read it. It’s a tiny book and will take you just a few hours to read, less if you skip the first part, which you should NOT. If there ever was a list of required reading for life, this book would be on it.

In the first part of the book he talks about his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. I’ll admit that I did speed read through this part of the book a bit. It’s sickening, really, and I’m not easily scared off from reading real horror accounts. I do highly recommend reading it. It gives powerful insight and background to the second part of the book.

A few of my favorite quotes from this part of the book were,

“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”

When I ask myself, ‘How can people behave this way?’, this makes sense of it to some degree.

“It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.”

My answer to those that lose their minds at those who poke fun at negative situations. If they can, I can.

“They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Think about this. If someone who spent three years in a concentration camp can feel this way, why can’t you? At every turn, we have a choice to make. Do we meet this day with a positive attitude, with kindness, with compassion, with pride? Or do we throw ourselves into the mud and wallow in depravity?

One more!

“We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and mediation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it consistently sets for each individual. These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment.”

This one hit me hard and it’s something I struggle with all the time. There is no general answer to “What is the meaning of life?” The answer may be 42 but we don’t really know the question. By the way, Douglas Adams was on to something there, so go read “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” if you haven’t already.

Why do we not know the question? Because it’s different for everyone and different every day of one’s life. My meaning now was not my meaning yesterday and it was never yours.

And then there is the idea of taking “right action.” What does that mean? Was my right action in my teens and twenties, finding a family of my own? Was it focusing on raising my children in my thirties? What is it now? Is it writing this? Volunteering? Working another job? Traveling? I just don’t know yet but I do get closer to the meaning every day, only to be farther along in my journey and have the meaning change again. Like he says later in the book, maybe we just can’t know what our meaning really is until after we’ve lived it. I like looking back at my life and seeing my collection of experiences and trying to make sense of it all. I can’t imagine what today will look like from twenty years from now.

The second part of the book is about his theory of “logotherapy” which really made sense to me. Should I go into it here? Why not? I’ll share a couple of my favorite quotes, but PLEASE go read this book for yourself. You will not regret it!

“Not every conflict is necessarily neurotic; some amount of conflict is normal and healthy.”

What? Please! You mean being sad for a moment, hours, or days, doesn’t necessarily mean I need to fix something?! Being angry or put out about someone’s behavior doesn’t always mean I have anger issues?! Feelings are transitory. See what they mean, learn from them, or don’t, and then let them go.

He talks about homeostasis being great for biology, but in human nature, not so much. Humans don’t like being bored. We can’t grow when we’re bored. We’re always moving from one extreme to another, ecstatic to depressed. I’ve kept a journal for years and I love going back and reading old entries. In my writing, I can watch myself rise to great happy heights and plunge to depressing depths, sometimes several times in a day. Each time it happened I was learning something about myself, about what I wanted in life, where I needed to go, finding my own meaning. I wish I could see it as it happened more often. I wish I could realize more quickly that my lows will be followed by highs again, but I guess that’s the nature of life. Transitory and partially blind.

Here’s another sweet one!

“Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree to which it is made a goal in itself.”

Pleasure is a side-effect of your trip to Disneyland, not the goal. The goal is to spend time with your children, experiencing the artwork, the people, the food, the smells. The goal is to get there safely, to not spend too much money, and to BE there.

“I’ve spent all this time and money to be here, YOU WILL be happy that we’re here!” I’ve heard something to that effect too many times to count. They’re missing the point and making pleasure the goal instead of the side effect.

All of life is like that. My goal today is not to be happy. It is to finish my work, clean my house, spend time in the yard, and eat dinner with my family. Pleasure will be the by-product of that.

And the last one from this part of the book…

“A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining.”

We are not things. A table is useful because it is level and solid. A house is a house because it shelters you. A human is a human, independent and free. It does not matter if he is useful to anyone else but himself. He is not less of man because he cannot walk or talk. She is not less of a woman because she cannot bear children or read.

Ultimately it is up to you to determine your own self-worth, your own meaning of life. We can always be moving toward that self-understanding in some small way and we should never give that up, even in the worst of circumstances. That’s what Viktor Frankl’s time in hell taught him and what he brought out of it for us.

For the Love of Books

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There are few books that are so good, so touching, so relevant, that I have to close them and get a grip on myself while I read. I couldn’t keep reading this book until I didn’t have any more time, I had to only read until my heart couldn’t take anymore and needed some time to recover!

How did I accidentally come across such a wonderful book? Did someone recommend it to me? Was it on a list of “must reads” that I found somewhere? Not at all. Once again, a book I sorely needed fell into my path and I picked it up. And I will never regret it.
A few weeks ago, you may remember, I had an urge to visit the closest physical new book store over 60 miles away. It was an adventure for sure. That’s where I found this book. I posted about it HERE.
I had started to read it in line at the bookstore and continued in the car while I ate lunch that day. I instantly fell in love…ok maybe I just lusted after a new book, I don’t know. The cover was so romantic and the back beckoned me to open it and dive in. Unfortunately, after that little taste of love, I had to go home and finish the book I was already reading, but that wasn’t too much trouble. I was loving The Brothers Karamazov anyway and had to find out what was going to happen to Ivan before I found out why Perdue was so lovesick!
Once I got started, I swam through it in under 9 hours. I devoured it with my eyes. It broke my heart and then healed it. So much beauty! To me, the best part was that these characters were older, like me, not young twenty-somethings. They had lived, lost, re-lived, and just started living. It praised patience, kindness, and various kinds of love under different circumstances. It showed me people who ran out and got what they needed when they needed it, even in their 50’s and 60’s. I loved every page of it and closed it in tears of joy.
“With all due respect, what you read is more important in the long term than the man you marry, ma chere Madame.”
True? I think so! What you read teaches you how to live with others, how to get along with anyone.
It’s going to be hard to limit my quotes from this book. I underlined a spectacular line on just about every page! Here’s another one:
“Books aren’t eggs, you know. Simply because a book has aged a bit doesn’t mean it’s gone bad.” “What is wrong with old? Age isn’t a disease. We all grow old, even books. But are you, is anyone, worth less, or less important, because they’ve been around for longer?”
How many times have I heard THAT argument? “This book isn’t relevant to our age!” While that may be true for instruction manuals, it is rarely true about anything else. To relate to each other today, we have to understand our past. You can’t set aside a book, or a person, because of their age.
One of the sweetest ideas in this book is his idea of a “Literary Apothecary.” He wanted to create an encyclopedia of little emotions. He prescribes books to heal ailments. Can you just imagine it? How about this one…
“Books are more than doctors, of course. Some novels are loving, lifelong companions; some give you a clip around the ear; others are friends who wrap you in warm towels when you’ve got those autumn blues. And some…well, some are pink candy floss that tingles in your brain for three seconds and leaves a blissful void. Like a short, torrid love affair.”
Human emotion, human relationships, are just so amazingly varied and delicate. I want that encyclopedia! I want that apothecary to prescribe just what I need and it seems he did through this book. It broke my heart into little pieces and I loved every second of it!
I’ll be here all day if I keep thumbing through and commenting on every line of this book. Go get it! You won’t regret it.

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