Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Three Books. Three Ten Ratings.

In the past month I've read three vastly different books, yet they all spoke to me on a deeply spiritual level:

The first was Cutting For Stone, by Abraham Verghese, an epic novel that spans continents and generations. The setting is Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in the reign of Emporer Hallie Salassie, with a later setting of the Bronx in New York. It's a story written from the viewpoint of one of a set of twins as he embarks on a journey of discovery. The twins were born conjoined by a small stalk on their heads, which was severed at their birth, and are the offspring of a nun and a medical doctor. The father freaks out(the nun had hidden her pregnancy under her habit)and as she dies he realizes he loves her, and is unable to save her. The infants become to him the cause of her death and he shuns them and leaves, never to return to Ethiopia but goes on to huge success as an American surgeon. Because of his absence and the death of their mother, the twins (who were adopted by two doctors)are fascinated with the stories about their birth, but also the inconsistincies, and the secrets. One twin grows to make incredible medical discoveries, the other twin (the narrator) becomes a surgeon like the father who abandoned him. It seems to me that they all suffered from Asperger's Syndrome or high functioning autism, and all three men, the father and the twins had extreme difficulty with relationships, and were focused exclusively on one thing.

At the heart of the story is an old African fable that tells of a miserly merchant who wore much repaired slippers even though they were a great cause of derision. When he finally tried to secretly get rid of them, pretending they were not his, he caused harm to others. The slippers in the story mean that everything you see, do, and touch, every seed you sow or don't sow becomes your destiny. The key to happiness is to own your slippers. Own the things you don't like. Own who you are, how you look, your family, your talents, or the ones you don't have. If you keep saying the slippers aren't yours then you'll die searching, you'll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more.

The young surgeon has many struggles in his life and does not really become a man, or a great surgeon, until he confronts and owns who his father is and makes peace. His father's absence in his young life was his slippers.

A great story and even at 500+ pages, it moves quickly. A definite 10 rating.

The second was, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. This story was originally published in Brazil in 1988. It has gone on to multiple reissues and sold millions of copies. I absolutely adored this book, and it is also in some ways a fable. It is simple at heart, the story of a young sheperd who takes a journey from Andalusia to search for a treasure at the pyramids, only to find the journey itself is the treasure. The writing is lush and magical and draws you in to where you are with Santiago and reliving your own dreams. Listening to your own heart. Following his footsteps and encouraging both him and yourself to find your destiny.

It is less than 200 pages, and is well paced. It also deserves a ten rating.

The third is, The Power of Now, by Eckhardt Tolle. This is non-fiction, and a wonderful addition to my spiritual library. I've always lived too much in my head, and allowed myself to be guided by my never-ending thoughts (some positive, but most negative)and never knew there was such a simple way to stop those thoughts. To live in the now. Tolle's language is easy to understand and the book is written in a question-answer style that provides a certain degree of intimacy with the author.

At 230 pages it is at first a slower pace, until you begin to discover where the author is taking you as a reader/student. Then the pace picks up and the pieces begin to fall into place. I had a distinct realization of "now I get it." One other thing I like is that the author is not aligned with any particular religion but seems open to all. He quotes from ancient masters, the Bible, Tao, and Kabbalah. His main message: there is a way out of suffering and into peace.

This book also gets a ten rating from me.

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