The first book that I recall making me cry was Charlotte’s Web. The love and need of that relationship unlike any outside that with my mother. I thought all friendships would be that of Charlotte and Wilber, but spinning is required of all of us in every relationship, and I had little temperament to commit.
The last book to illuminate the little understanding I have of myself was The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes novel of life sometimes ending before one’s physical manifestation disappears. Barnes’ novel came at a time when I acted as if life were over.
Today I finished a novel, that in 337 pages illuminated my greatest fear and deepest faults. In those same pages, I also found courage and guidance to recognize that I am evolving but moving little.
George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo is an unexpected, imaginary, uplifting tome of humanity; I surrendered to his words and floated through the story simultaneously sobbing in both anguish and relief, my sadness morphing into hope.
Lincoln in the Bardo is a crystal ball into what holds up back when the mind can only focus on our own sorrows. My wish is to walk a little lighter before leaving this world.
There are people who test my abilities to remain positive while also creating an Atlas-like struggle to acknowledge their contributions without the filter of exasperation due to the extra work they create.
Today, following an effort that seemed to bring me to a new place, I found myself abandoned and used, filled with resentment and bitterness. I reached my precipice and angerly watched as my ‘rock’ slid behind and away – Atlas my friend – frustrated, I asked,
“What more can I do?”
I retreated and found a solution in Psalms 56:4 (verse of the day on Bible app).
“In God, whose word I praise —
In God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”
I realized that this person did nothing to me. I let circumstance and my perceptions, real or not, infect me and who controlled my emotions and character. I quickly grabbed my ‘rock’ and found the burden of this mortal to be light.
The Book of Joy is a discussion between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama on what creates joy. How do we obtain and keep joy while enveloped by a “me, me, me” world? Beyond being spiritual leaders, both men share personal suffering experienced on a global scale (apartheid in South Africa and Chinese occupation/exile of Tibet).
Their stories and many others illustrate joy being obtained through forgiveness, compassion, and generosity. Offering concepts of joy from both a religious perspective and a secular, more human interpretation, the dialogue is complimentary yet stark. It matters not what religion or spirituality governs one’s actions, to both men, and the science provided, humans are innately generous and compassionate when the material, the competitiveness, and the fear of this world is overcome.
“People are seeking joy in the wrong places.”
They are generous in their estimation of today’s world, more so than I, but I am just discovering the power of letting go of self and seeing outwards. Experiencing the respect and kindness between the other’s words illustrates that a world connected by a universal desire to heal can overcome many obstacles.
It is a grand book to mark a new year and a new way of looking at our place and purpose in the world.