I took this picture, a little over four years ago, during my first attempt to read Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. Last July I began my second attempt.
Reading this 165-page book has felt like one long lesson in perseverance and so much more difficult than I initially thought it would be. Thus, it is with great gladness that I finally say, my perseverance has been rewarded and I have finished! 😀
I’m hoping to post further, regarding my thoughts, in the not-too-distant future. Until then, I’ll just leave you with this quote that sums up a lot of what Kierkegaard has to say about faith. It’s also one of my favourites from the book.
(As a side note, and along the lines of my appreciation of Kierkegaard’s writing in my last “Reading Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling“ post, “cold and clammy mollusc” is really a perfect way to describe a mixture of arrogance and pitifulness. 🙂 )
“Surely anyone with a speck of erectior ingenii [nobility of mind] cannot become so completely the cold and clammy mollusc as to lose sight altogether, in approaching the great, of the fact that ever since the Creation it has been accepted practice for the outcome to come last, and that if one is really to learn something from the great it is precisely the beginning one must attend to. If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin. Even though the result may gladden the whole world, that cannot help the hero; for he knows the result only when the whole thing is over, and that is not how he becomes a hero, but by virtue of the fact that he began.”
—Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
Here’s a look at the books I’ve finished reading since April.
- Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
- How to be Decadent by George Mikes
- Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
- A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
- Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl—A Woman’s Guide to Holding Her Own in a Relationship by Sherry Argov
- Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear , Larissa Volokhonsky
- St. Petersburg Tales (The Portrait, The Carriage) by Nikolai Gogol, Richard Pevear , Larissa Volokhonsky
- The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear , Larissa Volokhonsky
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
- The Miracle Worker by William Gibson (I read a PDF version)
- Full Moon (Blandings Castle #7) by P.G. Wodehouse (audiobook)
- Pigs Have Wings (Blandings Castle #8) by P.G. Wodehouse (audiobook)
If you’re like me, you may have immediately noted a rather jarring title in this list of books and thought that it seemed incongruous and a bit of an eye sore. 😦
A few months ago, I was telling a good friend about this very title and my struggles with the idea of including it on my “2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge” list of completed books. It was such a jarring and off-putting title and I didn’t want my friends to think that was the sort of book I’m interested in reading, because it really isn’t and it isn’t a book I would have chosen to read for myself. At the same time, I wanted to be transparent and unashamed about the books I read.
The truth is, during my trip to L.A., in May, I met up for brunch with a friend I hadn’t seen or been in contact with in years. Before we met up, I’d suggested that, after brunch, she could drop me off at at a nearby Barnes and Nobel, and I’d be happy to wait there for my ride. After brunch, she suggested we go to the bookstore together. It sounded like a great idea, but, at the same time, it also meant the books I was interested would have to wait, as our tastes in books are very different; instead, I’d be spending my time hanging out with her.
When we got to the bookstore, I asked her to show me the books she was interested in and off we went to the self-help, marriage and relationships section. Once we were there, she looked around for a minute, then said, “Ah!” (or something like it) and pulled a book titled Why Men Love Bitches from off the shelf. I don’t think I’ve ever had quite as quick of a knee-jerk reaction to the title of a book before. 🙂 I cringed and said that the title seemed exactly like a book I would definitely not be interested in. 😦 She immediately explained that the author’s definition of “bitch” is a strong, confident woman who knows what she’s worth and stands up for herself.
My friend wanted to sit down and read the introduction with me right in the bookstore, so we did. 🙂 We read and discussed and I still wasn’t very keen on it or interested, but eventually came round to saying that the book seemed sensible enough, if you could get past the title. She, however, was so passionate about it and interested in reading it (and yet she said she never buys books for herself). I really wanted to get her a copy, but I knew that the only way I could get her to accept it as a gift, from me, was if I also bought one for myself and made it a “reading project” of sorts. So that’s exactly what I did.
I still remember cringing as I went to the cash register with not one but two (!!) copies of Why Men Love Bitches in my hand. It was the first time I’ve ever been embarrassed about buying a book. It was such a weird and foreign feeling. I even deliberately chose the woman cashier over the man to avoid further mortification. 😦 Anyway, that’s how I came to be the conflicted owner of a book titled Why Men Love Bitches. 🙂
At the time, I also thought it could be a good way to keep in touch with my friend, i.e., we could read the book and discuss our thoughts. That last idea didn’t exactly turn out, as she’s not much of a committed reader. But I finished the book, immediately after my return home, and thus ensued the struggle about adding it to my” Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge” list, which I resolved, by just owning my decision and adding it to my list. Struggle resolved, I forgot all about it. Or so I thought…
Fast-forward to to the other day, when I uploaded the above picture on to my computer. I hadn’t noticed it when I’d taken the picture, but looking at the picture in Lightroom, all I could see was the jarring and garish title of Why Men Love Bitches sticking out like a sore thumb; every other title faded into the background. (Tom, see what I mean!? :() Immediately, the struggle returned stronger than ever. I can’t quite explain just exactly how jarring the effect was on me, but, suffice it to say, it was significant and the desire to retake the photo, sans the source of my mortification, was extremely strong and tempting. However, in the name of authenticity I resisted and decided, instead, that I would post the picture and tell my story. 🙂
And since I’ve said so much about the the title, I should probably dedicate a few sentences to what the book is actually like. It isn’t all as bad as it sounds. There are some good parts, pretty basic, nothing too revelatory. There are also plenty of bad parts which are, well, bad, cringe-worthy and dumb. For example, there’s a chapter called “Dumb Like a Fox”, that is exactly as dumb as it sounds. As something all “bitches” should strive to emulate, Sherry Argov gives an example of a woman who turns off the breaker in her basement and acts like a damsel-in-distress so that her man can feel manly by fixing it (!). 😦 I would hope that any man I was with would be secure enough in my opinion of his manliness for me not to have to resort to going around and making up problems for him to fix–life has enough problems as it is. As you can tell, I think it’s a pretty stupid and a completely inauthentic way to have a relationship. I felt like I lost several brain cells reading that chapter. 😦 Overall, it’s not really a book I would recommend to anyone.
Anyway, enough about bad books. 🙂
Getting back to the book list, sixteen books here, plus the ten books I’d completed in April makes for twenty-six books this year. Four more books to go and I’ve completed my goal of thirty books for the year. 🙂
These are the four books I’m hoping to have completed by the end of the year.
Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard
Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot
Dove Descending: a Journey into T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets by Thomas Howard
The Divine Comedy by Dante Aligheri
If I’m successful, it will mean, that I will have read T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets twice in one year. Though, by the time I’m finished Thomas Howard’s Dove Descending: a Journey into T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, I’ll likely have read it far more than twice this year, as I’ve been going over each section of each poem several times as I read Thomas Howard’s commentary.
Looking at the books I said I was hoping to read, in my last post, some I haven’t touched, but I actually managed to get around to finishing quite a few.
I’m also going to try to finish the last few chapters of Notes from Underground (A Norton Critical Edition) by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Michael R. Katz (Translator/Editor) before the year is out. I will likely also read some of the T. S. Eliot essays and commentary.
But N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God, Martin Buber’s I and Thou and Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Poetry will be sitting out the rest of 2017. Maybe I’ll have another go at them next year. 🙂
This post is really just for one Intended Reader (you know who you are 🙂 ), but it’s also for any die-hard Jordan B. Peterson fans out there who may appreciate this too.
So far, there are 5 parts (I’m halfway through the fourth) and Mr. Narrator has gotten to the end of section “2.2.2. Unexplored Territory: Phenomenology and Neuropsychology”, which is nearly fifty pages into the book–definitely enough to get started! There are a little over 250 view counts for part 4 and 150 view counts for part 5. The more views this audiobook gets, the more likely it will be that Mr. Narrator will continue to record, so feel free to help out. 🙂
Summer is in full swing and I don’t really have the time, at the moment, to write much more about Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief or this audiobook or Dr. Jordan Peterson. Maybe I will at some point. I just wanted to share this, as soon as I could, with my Intended Reader, as well as anyone else who may be intending to read Dr. Peterson’s book who may benefit from and appreciate and love this as much as I do.
If you aren’t familiar with Dr. Peterson, he’s a clinical psychologist and psychology professor at the University of Toronto. I wouldn’t really recommend this audiobook as an introduction to him, but I would suggest checking out his 2017 Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief UofT lectures as well as his current series “The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories”. Both lecture series are jam-packed with wisdom and insight into the human condition and what it takes to create order out of chaos, become a brave and well rounded individual, and find truth and meaning in this crazy world. I’d highly recommend his lectures to anyone interested in becoming, as Electric Youth (and College) so aptly put it in their brilliant tribute to Captain Sully, “a real human being and a real hero“. 🙂
If you’ve hung around me long enough to hear me talk about my philosophy regarding book reading, you’ve probably, at some point, heard me talk about my belief in the importance of reading a book when the mood strikes as opposed to arbitrarily reading it.
Something I don’t really talk about much, but that I actually think is far better than reading when the mood strikes, is reading a book when you feel it’s an absolute necessity to read–i.e., when you’re in a sea of despair or confusion or in the darkness and something draws you to a particular book and seems to say that it just might contain a lifeline or a light to help you find the truth, or wisdom, or consolation, or comfort, or faith, or the answer that you need at that moment. Sometimes, one passage at the right time is enough to resuscitate. I guess the reason I don’t usually include “reading out of necessity” in my philosophy about reading is because, the times that I find myself reading out of necessity are, for the most part, times that I really wouldn’t wish on anyone. The finding a lifeline part is great, the feeling like you’re drowning part not so much.
I’ve had a pretty rough month and a nightmare of a last week. It’s been difficult to find something I’m in the mood to read, because, really, I haven’t been in the mood to read anything. But read: I must. So I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what would be good for me to read right now.
I think I found my answer last night, when I suddenly felt it was incumbent on me to read Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. It isn’t too surprising as, lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about sacrifice and faith. I’ve also been feeling a lot like Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, trying not to look at the horror of the thing, but instead trying to hold on to the faith and belief that it’s the right thing to do and that somehow it will all work out for the best. I don’t know how Abraham did it. My sacrifice seems to make far more sense and, yet, half the time, having faith that “all manner of thing shall be well” still feels impossible. But all that to say, if ever there were a perfect time for me to read this book, that time would probably be now.
This actually isn’t the first time I’ve tried to read Fear and Trembling. In early 2014 I started reading it, but I skipped the 30 page introduction and jumped right in. That was probably a mistake, as I didn’t really understand what Kierkegaard was doing and what he was trying to say and I ran out of motivation to continue reading after about twenty pages. It was also probably just a matter of it not being the right timing too. I was pretty comfortable with my life and not being asked to make any leaps of faith or momentous sacrifices at the time. I came at it from a place of intellectual curiosity, but definitely not out of necessity. Right now, though, it feels like a necessity.
I’ve gotten twenty pages into the introduction, today, and, so far, everything I’ve read has confirmed that this is the perfect paper path for me to tread at this moment. I’ve also found myself thinking that this might be a good book to blog about, so I’m gonna try that, but I make no promises. I’ve tried to do this in the past, alas, so far, without success. Hopefully, this time around, I’ll be more successful. I guess time will tell.
Disclaimer disclaimed, consider this the first installment. 🙂
I was reading T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets today when this section from “East Coker” hit me right in the heart like a jolt from a defibrillator.
On it’s own, it’s an amazing and brilliant passage. But, in addition to that, it pretty much sums up everything I’m going through and everything I need to hear right now.
“I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away—
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing—
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.
You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again,
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.”
—T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets: “East Coker”
I can remember thinking, when I read it the first time, that this was a brilliant and deep passage, but it didn’t quite jump out at me. I guess I didn’t need it as much then. This time, reading it was like being resuscitated. Everything about it is perfect for me, at this very moment. It’s as if it were written just for me.
I’ve been learning to be still and sit with the discomfort, but it isn’t easy and I still needed someone to “say it again.” Who better to have say it than the supreme T. S. Eliot? 🙂