I’ve been working on a review for a book called Learning to Be. I’ve posted a posted a blog and a podcast with some of my initial thoughts and impressions, as well as some of my reservations around doing book reviews as a whole.
I don’t take a traditional or straight ahead approach to doing book reviews. I don’t quietly read a book, hidden away from the sight of the public eye, and then emerge with a single cohesive statement of my overall thoughts on the book. Instead, I read deeply and meticulously, and I share my thoughts of and on reading the book as I am in the active process of reading the book.
I was discussing this with someone on twitter, and they told me that, although they were scholastically qualified to offer book reviews, they too were apprehensive about doing so. They said it was because they “read too immersively” and that because of this they would only be able to offer their “experience” of the book.
But, I don’t see that as a problem or a deficiency. In fact, something about that feels exactly right to me. I think that books are intended to be read immersively. We should be immersed in the process of reading. We should find ourselves immersively enveloped within the experience of the worlds and stories contained within books. Reading is an experience. Books are and should be experienced, and experiences are best when they are shared.
I have been trying to immersive self in Learning to Be, but so far I’m not particularly impressed with the experience of the book. Its an easy read, but it feels a little flat and one-dimensional, its not captivating, and I think it fails to deliver the emotional weight of its proposed subject matter.
It’s been a struggle to stick with reading it. Friends of mine, noticing the strain, have suggested that perhaps I should just let this one go, that perhaps it’s time to put it down. There are those who will accurately advise that its best practice not to continue reading a book that you find boring. I’m inclined to agree, after all life is simply to short to read shitty books But, for better or worse, I can’t help but think that if the author took the time to write it, and I took the time to start it, then I should take the time to finish it. The writer pushed through to the end, then maybe I should as well.
I don’t like to give up on books. I always hold out hope for books because I know that sometimes it doesn’t take much for things to change. Sometimes it doesn’t take much for you and I to be changed. Sometimes it’s just one page, just one paragraph, just one sentence, just one word, that turns everything around. Sometimes I will trudge my way through a book I’m not enjoying because there might be some redeeming moment that somehow not only redeems the book, but in someway also redeems me as well. And sometimes redemption comes in the simple understanding that the depths of our pain, our plight, and our predicament is something deeply known and understood by another. Sometimes the most invigorating experience is when we see that an experience that we thought was so specific to ourselves is an experience also shared by someone else.
With that being said, I have come across a few passages in Learning to Be that stirred-up a feeling of something familiar. Juanita Campbell Rasmus writes that “Perhaps some of us are poorly charged for the tasks of life awaiting us.”
I’m well acquainted with the sense of entering the world already partially depleted. It’s as if part way through my charging cycle someone pulled the plug and threw me into a painstaking barrage of tasks and traumas that further exhaust my already exhausted amounts of aliveness. Ill-equipped and ill-prepared I stagger through the daily onslaught of obstacles and obligations. Born with nothing in reserve, insufficient from the start, the fumes of my deficient vibrancy strain to keep the needle above “E”.
Maybe you know that feeling too. Maybe, like me, you’re feeling that way even now. And maybe, right now, as you’re reading this you feel a spark, a spark that speaks to and, perhaps even, for the voice of the quiet tired that bears its leaden weight down into the marrow of your bones. That spark is evidence of an unknown an inexplicable energy, the energy that comes from not being alone, a vitality that arrives in the presence and proximity of kindred fellowship.
I hear you. I see you. I can feel your weary angst and your worn down frustrations. I can feel it because it so closely resembles my own. I can’t promise you that it gets better, or easier. I can’t assure you that you will be rejuvenated or revitalized, or that you will someday find rest, but I can tell you that you are not alone; you have never been nor will you ever be.
Between all of us, we can bear the weight of the exhaustion together.
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