“You’re Reading the Classics!”

I was with a client a few weeks ago and after a session we were conversing about life and he noticed my John Steinbeck book and noted, “Oh…you’re reading the classics!” It was a simple observation. Yet it meant something much deeper for me.

Most people who know me would classify me as a reader. However, my reading is limited to a few key learning areas. To be truthful, I’ve never been drawn to novels or classics. My wife reads them rigorously. Per her consistent urging I may read one autobiography or history book a year (Last year it was Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.) She repeatedly tells me that I should expand my reading horizon, “It would be good for me. I think you will really enjoy them.” Her chastising has fallen on somewhat deaf ears. That is, until this summer.

As my son, who loves to read as much as if not more than his mother, and I prepared for our second annual “Man-Cation” my wife inquired which book I was taking. I was silent and then hemmed for enough time for her to shove Steinbeck’s East of Eden into my hands. Expressing just enough compassion combined with earnest intent, I got the message. My client made the comment just days later.

Here’s my confession. I had never read this classic before and not only did I read it, I enjoyed it. My wife wryly smiles at my admission. And, she is right, it IS good for me!

Parenthetically, yesterday I reconnected with a friend of mine who I haven’t seen for years, himself and avid reader. Of course, he inquired about what books I was reading. When he asked the question I noticed my overall response was more receptive. I spent the next minutes absorbing not only his interest in books but taking as many recommendations from him as I could. If it’s a sign, I got it!

With all that in mind, I share with you a quote from East of Eden – which most of you have probably already read – that I read for the first time and now on which I am reflecting:

“In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted shortcuts to love…We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.”

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6 Responses to “You’re Reading the Classics!”

  1. Wallace says:

    Good choice, Mark, and great quote!

    I was really intrigued when I read it by Samuel Hamilton. He sort of models the perfect father figure for his family, yet when he dies in many ways the family falls apart. I could never decide whether you were supposed to want to follow in his example or not. Ultimately, I went with viewing his family as an example of how even the perfect father figure can’t command an ideal outcome.

    Also, did you find Lee a convincing character? He was almost too conveniently capable and caring.

    • Mark says:

      @Matt – Thanks for your comments and weighing in about Samuel Hamilton. The messiness in sorting out and understanding his character may be one of the reasons I enjoyed the book. It reminded me that life isn’t one successful ride of happiness but truly a journey through the painful and joyful realities of life. Samuel’s character followed his passion even in the face of ridicule. He was a broken man and yet compelling; truthful and raw. And…as a dad fell short in ways every father does; yet still admired.

      I was wondering about Lee’s character until his story was revealed. There’s something about going through the crucible and coming out on the other side with a depth that is almost “other-worldly” and with a sense of being grounded that is compelling.

  2. Mike Limauro says:

    Great story. I love your honesty. Great quote. I guess that’s why it’s a classic. Everything in this world passes away in time. Only love transcends time and space and is therefore eternal. If we all withdrew our attention from our “to do” lists and reflected on this truth for just a few minutes a day, we would be filled with an unconditional love that would wash all of our worries away.

    • Mark says:

      @Mike – Thank you. I appreciate your insight on love and its transcendence, as well reminding us of the importance of putting rhythms in our life each day to stay grounded and indeed receive unconditional love.

      Isn’t it great that as coaches we get the privilege of journeying with people who invite us into their lives!

  3. farouk111 says:

    amazing quote Mark
    i am like you when it comes to reading, i read about certain topics and up until recently i used to think that novels are a waste of time but now i changed my mind 🙂

  4. Mark says:

    @Farouk – Thank you for your feedback. I just got some great ideas for summer reading. I began last night with one and enjoyed it: Wilbur Smith – historical fiction writer.

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