August 13, 2013 — Somehow the three books I’ve been reading recently have coalesced to drive home one theme. Well, perhaps drive home is a bit of a reach. Maybe they’re just suggesting one theme, and maybe just in my own head.
The crazy thing is that the three books couldn’t be more firmly placed in three non-overlapping genres. They are the classic novel “The Brothers Karamazov,” Yogi Berra’s memoir “You Can Observe a Lot by Watching,” and a Christian sociological study called “The Road Trip that Changed the World.”
I’ll admit it’s a bit of a stretch, but all three seem to be either alluding to, suggesting or overtly hammering home the point that self-actualization is a bad goal.
At the risk of overstepping my bounds as an amateur literary critic, I’ll provide examples.
In “The Brothers Karamazov” the character Mitya’s lusting after his love Grushenka causes him to be accused, pretty convincingly, of killing his father. The character Ivan’s pride in his own intellect leads to the demise of his sanity. Meanwhile, Alyosha, who is constantly on errand to serve and save others, results in his being the only character who escapes the insanity of his brother’s trial.
In Yogi’s book, he basically extolls the virtues of being a team player for 220-something pages. I love Yogi Berra and if I could have a dinner with three people from the twentieth century, he would be on the list. But somehow the book was just okay. I mean, if I didn’t understand that it’s good to be a team player, then I definitely got it by page ten. Still, there were some interesting stories, especially regarding Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
But it’s “The Road Trip that Changed the World” that really brought the pictures together. So far in it (I’m only about 20 percent finished), author Mark Sayers operates on the thesis that Jack Kerouac’s book “On the Road” shaped a modern transient youth culture that causes people to value self-actualization through experience over the concept of home. Sayer seems to be arguing against the concept of life as a journey, which I’m having a difficult time accepting because that’s one of my favorite metaphors for life.
I’m not sure if I’m going to totally agree with Sayers or not. But I acknowledge that his ideas seem to fit with the ideas in “The Brothers Karamazov” and Yogi’s book and it’s hard to argue with those.
So here’s an idea that does make me comfortable and challenges me at the same time. Life is a team sport and I need to play my role to help the team. I’m just not sure who is my team and who we are supposed to be playing.
(The photo with this blog came from my trip to Fenway last week. It doesn’t necessarily fit the context of the blog, but they sure were good seats. Right?)