It was recently suggested that a good way to start the day would be to read the psalms, but I’m going to disagree. (And try to keep away from religious argument in the process.)
Let’s say someone has been brought up ‘in the judeo-christian tradition’ and religion was at least there in the background of everyday life for most people in his part of the world. He grows up and ventures into the wider world ouside to the extent that he finds himself expressing dissatisfaction with values and goals accepted by the people he left behind. It’s not their religion he has problems with, but their general approach to life, and wishes for their sake that they would learn more.
He’s a good guy, moved by compassion, who has moved on from his roots and is maybe still trying to make sense of the world. In fact, he’s actively seeking advice from a wide circle of people (who are mostly well-meaning) on all sorts of issues. And he does appear to have issues to resolve, problems with his life which indicate that he hasn’t yet found answers that work for him.
I don’t believe that advising this person to seek answers in the bible is actually very helpful. It may give him some solace and support, but if it was going to provide him with answers then why doesn’t he already have those answers? He’s trying to move on from his past, and even if he ultimately comes full circle doesn’t he owe it to himself to first explore new ideas and alternatives to the tradition he has grown up with?
The total of what he has grown up with has not been enough for him. He’s expressed dissatisfaction with it already, and he doesn’t seem to know enough yet to run his own life to his own satisfaction. The problem is not necessarily his religion, but does he really even know what the problem is or what questions to ask? What is missing from his growth so far that he still has problems?
I put it to the forumosa community that instead of advising those with difficulties to take solace in the familiar we should propose a more radical solution. That the individual should recognise that he has to manage and direct his own growth, to seek out new points of view and ideas, and to step outside his comfort zone.
What books, instead of the bible, would you recommend to someone embarking on a long and arduous journey of the mind?
Something subversive like ‘The Dice Man’?
Something traditional and uplifting like Joseph Conrad’s ‘Youth’?
Ursula LeGuin - ‘The Disposessed’?
Ah, how about Paul Theroux - ‘Saint Jack’? There’s a book that’ll put the fear of growing old into any ageing ex-pat.
What have you read that has made an impact on you? What did you more good than going back to where you came from? What took you back?