Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Put in a Good Word for Me

After yesterday's foray into burdens of proof and the worthiness of our justice system, maybe it's time I get back to something a little lighter. Since law school ended, I have had an inordinate amount of time to read. And not read about copyrights or wrongful birth or adoptions or anything else that someone else has decided I should read about. I started with Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I have had this book on the shelf for almost a year. It waited patiently for me to decide I actually wanted to read it. I never knew how much I really wanted to read that book.

So many things struck me about this book, but perhaps this most of all:

Giulio said, "Maybe you and Rome just have different words."
"What do you mean?"
He said, "Don't you know the secret to understanding a city and its people is to learn - what is the word of the street?"
Then he went on to explain . . . that every city has a single word that defines it, that identifies most of the people who live there. Whatever the majority thought might be - that is the word of the city. And if your personal word does not match the word of the city, you really don't belong there.
"What is Rome's word?" I asked.
"SEX," he announced.

Giulio was already on to the next and most obvious question: "What's your word?" (103-104)

When I read a book for pleasure, I still read like a student. I have a pencil in hand. I underline important passages. I write notes in the margins. I use an index card as a bookmark and write longer notes or things I'd like to look up or words I want to know or anything I feel needs further research. My index card for Eat Pray Love reads something like this:

Bali: caste system
It's not like tying the cat to the pole
How do I define pleasure?
What is my WORD?
St. Teresa
Sufi mystics
Sanskrit texts on yoga
Fred B. Eiseman

In trying to momentarily escape from my own mixed-up universe, I create more work for myself. This makes me think my word is MASOCHIST. Or maybe that makes my word CURIOUS. After all, George does have a friend named Betsy. But I haven't landed on one word yet.

Gilbert discusses a million things in this book: love, divorce, religion, God, friendship, soul mates, writing, meditation, soul searching - the list goes on. Gilbert put into words what I had been trying to articulate for years - a comforting thing in a book. I tend to get sucked into the world of a book very quickly and whole-heartedly (see this post for an example). I think it's my favorite part of reading. Gilbert made me want to go to Italy, India, and Indonesia without passing "GO" and without a second thought.  Maybe that makes my word IMPRESSIONABLE.

Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. -E. Gilbert, Eat Pray Love (260).

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