Saturday, August 6, 2011
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
I just finished a book I hope I can convince you to read. In fact, I think I'm going to draw a line in the sand here. If you read this book, I will reward you in some special way - your choice. Maybe it's one of those ABTS* chocolate cakes you dream about that you only get once or twice a year at my dinner parties, or maybe you just want me to buy you lunch. Or maybe you need a pair of pants hemmed, or your masterpiece read and critiqued? I would be willing to do these things for you if you would read this book and then curl up with me in my sun room, coffee or tea in hand, and talk with me about it. Those of you who honor this request will bask in the glow of being in my inner sanctum. Those who don't will sadden me but I'll still be your friend.
So what's the book? It's called The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, written in French but well translated into English. Here's one Amazon reviewer's observation that closely mirrors my own feelings:
The Elegance of the Hedgehog" transcends excellence. It is one of those rare books with a special inner quality that makes you ponder over life in a way only very few others can. After turning the last page, I was left staring into space, feeling bereft. I wished there was more to read, yet its ending befitted the whole tale. I now understand why it received so many wonderful reviews in France recently and why it became such a literary success. It fully deserves it.
As most of you know, I'm in turbulent waters these days, negotiating the rapids of a love affair that was over almost as soon as it started - first a blissful day out on the river, then choppy, dangerous waters and finally where I am now - hurling off the falls to jagged rocks below. On top of that, I'm working through financial challenges as I work to reinvent my business one more time, a divorce that is taking too long, adult kids living at home testing my patience, and more. And yet, there is so much to be proud of and grateful for: I have three amazing and interesting daughters, I'm healthy - having lost 125 pounds the old fashioned way, I am incessantly creative - singing, writing, cooking, entertaining, gardening, I have loved and been loved, and I am fortunate to be living in one of the greatest cities in the world. I am also blessed with a treasure trove of amazing friends.
I am starting this new blog as an inspiration to myself and others - to remind myself daily what's important and what's not. To exhort myself and others to suck the marrow out of every day. To bear witness to the beauty and absurdity of life. To make connections. I hope if you read this you will take the time to make a connection back - share your thoughts in the comment section. I would like to think that we can, together, create something meaningful here.
So, The Elegance of the Hedgehog. For me it addressed some tough questions - the whole "meaning of life" thing troubles me almost every day. I won't pretend to have the answer now, having read this one thoughtful book, but I feel closer. It's kind of like therapy. I am lucky to have an amazing therapist, Kaveh. Kaveh says that, without exception, people become therapists because they suffer themselves - they were patients first - anyone who states otherwise is not being honest. He tells me he is on the same path as I, but just a bit further along. And so, he reaches back and offers his hand to me and together we walk that scary path to mental wellness - he leads the way. In the same way, I read this book and felt a hand reaching to me from the pages, inviting me to walk a path in search of meaning.
Many of my friends derive comfort and meaning from their spiritual/religious beliefs - I do not count myself in that group. For me, an atheist, agnostic or whatever the heck I am, the whole "meaning of life" thing looms and haunts me. I seek my own kind of "religion" in unlikely places. After seeing the movie, American Beauty, I declared that movie was my new religion...seriously. And then my all time favorite movie, Babe, Pig in the City - now that is a movie worth worshiping!. Sometimes, for those of us who are unconvinced in the existence of God, answers come from unexpected sources - an encounter with nature, a life shattering event, a perfect day, a good book.
This book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog is one I will read again, and probably again. It is worthy of your consideration. If you are reading this blog, you are probably one of my eclectic, strange and wonderful friends - an "off the path" person. But you may be stuck too, eager for meaning, ripe for something transcendent. There are two types of people I think. Those who "wait and watch" and those who "do". I like that I'm a "do". When my friend Carol says, "here's a book for you", before I close her e-mail I click onto Amazon and order it or reserve it at the library. When my friend Carla says, "drop everything and come with us to see..." I put my chores on hold for another day and go with her. It's all about saying "yes" as much as you can. This is my challenge to you today. Say "yes" even when you would normally say, "no". Be a "yes-man". Before you close this blog entry, buy or reserve this book and then write me a comment.
And be sure to let me know if I need to fire up the oven for your cake or get my darning egg out to mend the holes in your socks!
*ABTS = Almost Better Than Sex and the picture is of a special brush I have that looks, to me, like a hedgehog. It's specifically for cleaning clay potting pots.