Book of Joy, by Douglas Abrams

I’ve been struggling to summarize my thoughts on this book. There is a lot there. For one, I am deeply moved by the stories of both men, who have done so much…have withstood so much. I appreciated the partial histories of their lives, while at the same time being a very personal book. The book seemed to revel in the minutiae of their interactions, the jokes, the smiles, how they touched one another. It was intimate and unique.

I was first and lastingly touched by the Khata, the scarf Archbishop Tutu received on his arrival to Dharmsala…it’s length reflecting the ‘esteem that one holds for the recipient’ (16). Here, through the craft of a maker, was a reflection of appreciation and love. It takes more time to make a longer scarf, a lot of time maybe, to make a really long one…and I love that the scarf says: you have earned through your life the extra work of my hands. I’m in the midst of taking a few theory classes right now, they all seem to be surrounded around Capitalism at the moment…which tells us to speed up, be more efficient, make it quickly, don’t care about the recipient. This is the opposite of that, it is about gratitude and appreciation for another.

This is a lesson I think they hit on time and time again…almost to a point of redundancy, that we need to focus on other people. This will make us happier and more joyful, it will put us in a proper context: that all people suffer and a lot of people suffer a lot more than we do. Given their personal stories, that they are able to still love others…their enemies in particular, despite what they have gone through is a real testament to their greatness. I like that their greatness though is based in humility and peace and vulnerability. We need more of that kind of greatness.

There are a lot of great quotes in this book that I would like to try to remember, but in some ways, that’s a little hopeless. I am not a put quotes up on the wall kind of person. What I’m hoping I can instead retain is the memories of their personal stories and struggles, and then…despite them or as is mentioned in the book, maybe because of them, they still loved life. How they interacted with one another, how lovingly they talked to each other and how sad, profound and joyous their parting…these are images I think I can retain and remind myself that their greatness came from positive resistance, from sharing and selflessness. They are models to follow and I’d like to remember them as I move forward in life.

October 4, 2018
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