I just finished an extraordinary book titled Chasing Daylight. You can get it here. I had read about the book on about 500 blogs, so I finally said "what the hell" and bought it to see for myself if it lived up to the hype.
Well any book that brings me to tears lives up to the hype, in my opinion.
It's not a big book. It's not high literature. It's a plain, straightforward, sensible, humble memoir about death. As someone who thinks about death more than the average person (I have planned my funeral. Most of my friends know what to expect - fried chicken, a New Orleans band, dancing.) I was excited to read about it from the horse's mouth...from someone who was in the midst of the experience. As much as it was about death, it was also about living and acceptance. The art of acceptance. I am not sure there was anything earth shattering in this book, but sometimes it's the simple reminders that have the most impact. A few of the things that stood out to me:
- O'Kelly describes himself as someone whose "capacity to confront reality" served him well throughout life. This is an interesting trait, and something I aspire to. Confronting reality sounds simple. But much of our strife in life comes from not only not accepting reality, but not acknowledging it in the first place.
- He also discusses the importance of distinguishing passion from talent. I have a pet peeve - when people say they can be anything they want in life as long as they try, believe and have passion. Call me cynical, but my answer for this is "Maybe." Believe, be hopeful, work your ass off, but realize that certain things in life require raw talent. Accept it and be happy.
- There have been several books and articles this year on the topic of atheism and how crazy all of us are who believe in God. Perhaps. There are worse things than being crazy. And since we don't yet have a cure for the common cold, I can accept that there are things in life that cannot be proven, scientifically dealt with or tied up with a neat bow of black or white. I like shades of grey. In Chasing Daylight, O'Kelly confronts an atheist by saying "But I want to understand how you can't believe in God. Isn't that the same as consciously making the decision not to let love into your life?"
I found this last bit fascinating, and am still thinking about it. Love is hard to touch, see, prove, and describe. It's elusive. It does not always make sense. It is rarely logical.
So this is how I judge a book - am I still thinking about it, did I want it to go on and did it touch me emotionally. This is a solid yes on all three counts.