Monday, September 21, 2009

Book Excerpts: The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs

In attempts to not constantly write blogs bragging about my brilliant son, I'm trying some other posts. Today's contains some interesting excerpts from a book I just finished reading: The Year of Living Biblically: One man's quest to follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. by A. J. Jacobs. You can check out his book at your local library, or view his website here.


On Winking
Page 205
The Bible's anti winking bias (there are at least four warnings against winkers) is one of the least-studied scriptural motifs around. I found negligible literature on the topic. But it does seem wise and ahead of its time, the wink being perhaps the world's creepiest gesture, with the winker coercing the winkee into being a part of his little cabal.

On Community
Page 214
This year I've tried to worship alone and find meaning alone. The solitary approach has its advantages - I like trying to figure it out myself. I like reading the holy words unfiltered by layers of interpretation. But going it alone also has limits, and big ones. I miss out on the feeling of belonging, which is a key part of religion. I experienced this most keenly once before, during the biblical holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah back in October. I tried to do them alone. I fasted. I ate sweets. I sent portions to the poor. But I was doing it cluelessly and by myself, and it felt empty. I couldn't even bring myself to write a chapter about the holidays, because I failed to wring anything approaching the proper level of meaning from them. And many of my more profound experiences have come when I've joined a group, even momentarily, whether that group be huge (the Hasidic dance party) or small (Amos, Julie and I singing "Amazing Grace.)

On Prayer
Page 219
I have my head bowed and my eyes closed. I'm trying to pray, but my mind is wandering. I can't settle it down. It wanders over to an Esquire article I just wrote. It wasn't half bad, I think to myself. I like that turn of phrase in the first paragraph.

And them I am hit with a realization. And hit is the right word - it felt like a punch in my stomach. Here I am being prideful about creating an article in a mid size American magazine. But God - if He exists- He created the world. He created flamingos and supernovas and geysers and beetles and stones for these steps I'm sitting on.

"Praise the Lord." I say out loud.

On the rules of the Bible.
Page 223
And remember, the little rules are just as important as the big ones.

"If you were in medical school to study brain surgery, would you want to follow all the rules? Or just the 'main ones'?" Asks Gil.

On cussing
page 282
I'll get to the subway platform just as the downtown train is pulling away, and I'll start to say the F-word. I'll remember to censor myself. So I'll turn it into "fudge" at the last second. When I hear myself say "fudge" out loud, it sounds so folksy, so Jimmy Stewart-ish and amusingly dorky, that I can't help but smile. My anger recedes. Once again, behavior shapes emotions.

Hope you enjoyed them. Keep in mind the winking part - it IS perhaps the world's most creepy gesture.

1 comment:

  1. Don't eat cursed figs!

    Matthew 21:18-19