A tale of two books

I’m reading two books: My Grandfather’s Blessings, by Rachel Naomi Remen, and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

The first is on loan from a friend who (correctly) thought I would like its “stories of strength, refuge, and belonging,” as the subtitle says. The book defines a blessing as a “moment of meeting” and of wholeness—a mUntitledoment when someone or something helps you remember who you are, and when you do that for someone else. The author is a cancer doctor, and she talks a lot about healing.

The Fault in Our Stars is a novel about teenagers with cancer. I borrowed it from my daughter because she recommended it as a well-written and effective tearjerker, and I need to cry. A lot. I’m not yet far enough into it to start crying, but the two books do have me thinking.

The other night I read a scene from The Fault in Our Stars where one teenager says to another: “Don’t tell me you’re one of those people who becomes their disease.”

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Who you calling evil?

Over lunch, I was telling a friend about my inner critic: the voice that tells me I’m not good enough, the voice that demands that I should do more and better of whatever I do.

“That’s your yetzer hara, she replied.

“Piru” by Jäinenbanaani – Tietokone. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

I was startled by that context for the Hebrew phrase meaning “evil impulse”—the Jewish version of the cartoon devil on your shoulder. I considered my inner critic to be well-intentioned, if overly harsh. Sure, it calls me names sometimes—lazy, selfish, irresponsible—but isn’t that simply a misguided effort to help me be the opposite of lazy, selfish, and irresponsible? Isn’t that voice trying to help me do good things? How could it be evil?

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