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.”