Hi everyone…Boba here…Dad has granted me access to his blog and I’ll be sharing my adventures…finally some worthwhile ‘notes and photos’ here! … today was a good day, but not without some ‘trickery’ … Mom got me all ready for a walk this morning but something seemed a bit suspicious…once my harness was all secure, I lurched out the front door, ready to head to the park for some frolicking…I look to my right and see our neighbor dog Luna headed in the same direction…fun, we’re both park bound! … but something in her canine eyes tells me all is not quite ‘normal’ …sure enough, one glance to my right and there it is…the mobile dog grooming truck! … ahh, the bait and switch … I succumb… frankly, this is much better than the strip mall grooming venue … and, on the bright side, this grooming session will be accompanied with numerous treats once I tuck my tail between my legs and show the grooming lady my scared-puppy-eyes expressions…my final thought for the day: yeah, I was overdue for a trim, I just wish Mom and Dad would have considered a day when it’s not below 50 degrees F in Southern California … I’ll be staying inside on the couch most of the day! … check out my nails!
The focus on piano lessons is what initially drew me to this book. I “read” Lessons via Audible over the course of a few weeks, with many of those listening sessions happening late at night (alongside some bouts of insomnia). I really like the style of Ian McEwan’s writing, and this book delivered on that front. I also liked the story arc (is that a word) of this book, as it navigated many different historical timeframes and events (fall of the Berlin wall, Cuban Missile Crisis, Covid pandemic, etc). Roland, the main character/protagonist, is relatable in certain ways, and I’d say the parts of the book that stood out the most for me were those that delved into struggles with his inner demons combined with his perspectives and realizations across the different seasons of life.
Instead of reading notes (which are more suited for non-fiction) I’ll instead share my “summary” in a few paragraphs:
Overall, McEwan’s “Lessons” is a captivating novel that explores the depths of human despair and identity. The story follows an unexpected friendship between two people, a young boy and his eccentric piano teacher, that slowly unravels as secrets of their past come to light. The story unfolds across all seasons of life for the main characters, with many twists and turns (which mostly kept my interest). The compelling narrative conveys complex emotions of love, loss, guilt and shame.
A powerful combination of realism in the characters’ interactions is punctuated with sharp wit makes for an evocative read/listen. As I followed along with Roland’s journey, I was also brought face-to-face with many of my own innermost thoughts and emotions.
As with most McEwan books I’ve read, this one too evoked emotions like sorrow and pain alongside joy and pleasure – a testament to how good writing can capture both heart and mind.
I can’t remember which podcast interview featuring Chris Bruno (author) I listened to — it was one of many in the stream that accompanies me at the gym or on neighborhood walks with our dog.
But I do know his words resonated, and appealed to many of the nuances I’ve been navigating on this current pathway into midlife. Morgan Snyder, an author I appreciate on many fronts, wrote this about Sage – A Man’s Guide Into His Second Passage:
“Curated with clarity and care…[a] timely message for men who deeply desire to experience the full portion of masculine maturity, build an enduring legacy in the second half of life, and finish well.”
To become a Sage is to offer generative life to the world.
The full realization of our humanity is not measured by the battles we fight, the wealth we accumulate, or the kingdoms we rule, but by the depth of soul we grow in the second half of life.
Old men who do not become Elders merely become elderly.
Your greatest legacy will be found in the recovery of the glorious masterpiece God has written into your life and putting it on display for all to know the Master – that is the true measure of a man.
The enemy of our hearts wants to hijack our masculine power and castrate our potency, to overrun our kingdoms and take us and those in our care captive.
Boys are born, but men are made, men do not automatically become Sages with age. Sages too are made.
No one can enter the second half until and unless he is willing to take responsibility for his own identity and meaning.
As the body cannot live without food, so the soul cannot live without meaning.
Our wives, jobs, children, church, community, parents, and friends will fail to provide us the meaning of our lives. We must relieve them of these duties and free them to be who they are, not who we need them to be for us.
Not midlife crisis…midlife awakening.
[Something to ponder] – The life I’m living may not be the same as the life that wants to live in me.
The true weight, the true richness of who we are, cannot be held in first-half containers.
Every man is called to take heed of the changing seasons of his life and mark them with purpose and intention.
Your concern is not so muchto have what you love anymore, but to love what you have — right now.
The Sage of the second half has moved away from the constant drive for bigger and better and finds joy in the gift of the present. It truly is the secret.
[As a Sage] we have enough inner stillness to seek the kingdom found in everything and everyone.
A significant indicator of a man’s intentional movement over the threshold into his second half is the degree to which he divests of his ego’s need for elevation and instead finds his way back to the dirt.
There is space inside the Sage for others to find rest.
The first hallmark of the Sage is his settled contentedness, which then creates within him an inner spacious hospitality for others.
Second half Sages move toward the mystery of God, not away, and welcome God’s victory over their first-half theological egos.
Sages are not either-or thinkers, but they bathe in the ocean of both-and.
Grief and suffering are a crucible for the soul, where the white-hot flames of pain and sorrow transform a man’s heart, fundamentally moving him forward in life’s journey.
Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame.
The tentacles of contempt do nor easily release a heart.
Rather than accept what is, let us be a generation of men who reimagine what could be.
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” [Jeremiah 6:16, NIV]
For men to move further into the second half, our younger parts must find their way back.
There’s an overarching theme that led me to purchasing this book … it’s the distinction between “resume virtues” and “eulogy virtues.”
As explained on the book’s dust jacket:
“Brooks challenges us, and himself, to rebalance the scales between our “resume virtues” — achieving wealth, fame, and status — and “eulogy virtues,” those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, or faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed.“
Success leads to the greatest failure, which is pride. Failure leads to the greatest success, which is humility and learning.
“Thankfulness,” the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey said, “is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.”
The inner struggle against one’s own weaknesses is the central drama of life.
Truly humble people are engaged in a great effort to magnify what is best in themselves and defeat what is worst, to become strong in the weak places.
British writer Henry Fairlie: “If we acknowledge that our inclination to sin is part of our natures, and that we will never wholly eradicate it, there is at least something for us to do in our lives that will not in the end seem just futile and absurd.”
[Some] had to go down to go up. They had to descend into the valley of humility to climb to the heights of character.
The ultimate joys are moral joys.
Don’t ask: What do I want from life. Ask a different set of questions: What does life want from me? What are my circumstances calling me to do?
“Inner Hold” — a rigorous control of one’s inner state, a disciplined defense of one’s own integrity.
A well-lived life involves throwing oneself into struggle…those who pursue struggle end up being happier than those who pursue pleasure.
Humility is the greatest of virtues. Is you can’t learn it, God will teach it to you by humiliation.
Sin is a necessary part of our mental furniture, because without it, the whole method of character building dissolves. People develop character by struggling against their internal sins.
Practice a gratuitous exercise of self-discipline every day. If you act well, eventually you will be good. Change your behavior and eventually you will rewire your brain.
Dwight Eisenhower [diary note]: “Anger cannot win. It cannot even think clearly.”
General Fox Conner: “Always take your job seriously. Never take yourself seriously.”
[Re: Moderation] Fueled by passion…policed by self control.
[Re: Moderation] A life organized not around self-expression, but self constraint.
[Re: Moderation] The best moderate is blessed with a spirited soul and also the proper character to tame it.
[Re: Suffering] Most people shoot for happiness but feel formed through suffering.
Richard Winn Livingstone: “One is apt to think of moral failure as due to weakness of character: more often it is due to an inadequate ideal.”
Holiness isn’t in the next world but is embedded in a mundane thing like a marriage, which ties one down but gives one concrete and daily opportunities for self sacrifice and service.
[Augustine] Say no to one set of desires and pleasures and rise to a higher set of joys and pleasures.
Only God has the power to orient your desires and reshape your emotions, not you.
The humble person understands that experience is a better teacher than pure reason.
Each struggle leaves a residue. A person who has gone through these struggles seems more substantial and deep.
Reminiscing on the many memories made in this wonderful vacation rental…long and lingering home-cooked meals, walks along the coast, morning green juice, laughter, stories, rest, front porch and rooftop feet-up time…Family.
I especially appreciate how the author, C.R. Wiley, stays clear of any sort of “self-help” style approach on the topic of the importance of the household, and its relation to the created order (i,e., cosmos). Instead, a thoughtful exploration unfolds, featuring provocative insights on piety, the natural family, and the economy of the household.
“The household is not just a shelter from a war zone; it is the command center from which we launch our attacks. It’s this vision of the world, with the Christian family at the heart, that modern parents desperately need to recover.”
Historically, the household has been the basis for the formation of all other social institutions — school, church, business enterprise, city, nation. As the household goes, so go all other institutions of society [from the Foreword via Nancy Pearcey]
Paradoxically, many of the other institutions in our society that once relied upon the household have turned against it. Everything from multi-national corporations to public schools now dismiss traditional household norms as retrograde and even oppressive.
If I were to sum up this book with a single idea it would be this: household piety is as big as the cosmos. It connects you to everything because it is at the center of everything else.
Essentially [historically] a household was an authority structure. The reason that authority was essential is because a household was an economy. The etymology of that word tells a story. It derived from two Greek words, oikos, meaning house, and nomos, meaning law; an economy was the law of the house.
Households produced food, clothing, and nearly else worth having. And on top of that, they were social welfare agencies, educating the young, and caring for the elderly. People depended on them for almost everything.
Today we largely think of our homes as recreation centers. That’s because in the Industrial Revolution most of the productive economy moved out of the house. Because of this, some people have wondered, just what is a father for? But in the first century a father’s authority was unquestioned.
This is why [now] fatherhood itself has been repurposed. Now dad is a buddy, or second mommy. The goal of the friendship and nurture is the happiness of the child, as in, “I just want him/her/it to be happy.”
It is hard to see how duty can apply to the modern family. Duty impresses a structured hierarchy onto our lives. Duty never says, “You be you,” or “Go ahead and do what makes you happy.” Duty says, “This is who you are; do what is required.”
[On honor] Honor bound the members of a household together so that what brought honor to one brought honor to all, and what caused dishonor for one brought the whole family into disrepute.
What we really need is a recovery of a way of life. The codes outlined a way to order our households so that they can serve as microcosms of the largest order of them all.
Once you know what a household looks like you can see that the Bible is a kind of handbook for the household.
For people in the first century the world was a cosmos, a sacred order; and it was filled with other beings, some of whom were people, while others were gods. And you owned them, piety paid its debts.
The thing about pietas that you can’t miss is its social character. It didn’t isolate you; instead it bound you to everything else. It was the glue of the world: things divine and human things, matter and spirit, the past and the future…and, the generations.
Being remembered is more important than you may suppose. It means that your story doesn’t come to an end when you do. People can get so bound up in your story that they hope for the same things that you hoped for, and live for the same things you lived for.
That a war could be pious is incomprehensible to many people. One of the reasons for this is that we don’t feel a compelling need to provide for our heirs. Modern life is more regulated and prosperous than ancient people could have imagined.
Our inability to understand this has something to do with the fact that people no longer see themselves as part of a line. Instead, we think of ourselves as points — disconnected, isolated, and seemingly self-contained points.
A valuable insight that is reflected in Latin is the word for house: the word domus. Not only is that the root of domestic, it is also the root of the word dominion. In the same way, the cosmos is like a great house, one that is divinely ordered.
A conjugal union is just the beginning; one flesh also refers to the natural issue of that of children. And it goes even beyond that: it is a union of interests, of goods, and a common future. It means that what goes for one, goes for the other.
It means that, in a real way, conjugal marriage is the end of the world. It connects this world to the next, it unites Heaven and earth, and it is a sign that reads, “This is the way the world will end, not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with wedding bells.”
[From the Epilogue] That little tune that your household sings is in harmony with the music of the spheres, and that harmony restores many things that the enemy has perverted.
[From the Epilogue] There was another garden to tend to. And there still is. Every household should hold something that husbands and wives can tend together so that they can be fruitful in every way. What they tend to should be theirs, otherwise they work for someone else.
[From the Epilogue] So fight the good fight. Go home, build a house, and if you do it in the right way, you will give the world a glimpse of things to come. There is nothing more terrifying to the principalities than this.
This book quickly became the most scribbled-in, highlighted, earmarked, among my collection of recent books read. Marginalia galore! I’ll be referring back to this tiny paperback often, and only wish I had discovered it earlier on (if so, I’m convinced many of the mistakes of my past, struggles and strongholds would never have taken root). Fortunately, letting go and practicing the virtues of faith, hope and love, have helped narrow my path and resulted in a much-welcomed interior freedom (this book holds the keys for those seeking such).
The topic of Interior Growth has been a focus of my reading over the course of the past year, and Jacques Philippe’s Interior Freedom has scratched the itch, and then some. It’s a challenging task to pull together Reading Notes for this one, as there are so many highlights, from nearly every page. With that said, here are a few:
We need to accept our limitations, but without ever resigning ourselves to mediocrity.
To lock ourselves in the past would only add another sin to those already committed.
The worst thing that could happen would be for everything to go exactly as we wanted it, for that would be the end of any growth.
Human beings were created for love, and they can only find happiness in loving & being loved.
Only love, then, can satisfy us; and there is no love without freedom. The kind of love that is the result of constraint, or self-interest, or the mere satisfaction of a need, does not deserve the name love.
Think how badly we react to our falls, mistakes, and failures, how demoralized and upset we become, how guilty they make us feel. Only under the gaze of God can we fully and truly accept ourselves.
There is no better form of “relaxation” than to rest like little children in the tenderness of a Father who loves us just as we are.
Modern culture doesn’t rate forgiveness very highly. More often it justifies resentment & revenge. But does that reduce the amount of evil in the world? The only way to diminish the suffering that burdens mankind is by forgiveness.
When we concentrate too much on something that isn’t right, and make it our main topic of conversation, we end up giving evil more substance than it has. Deploring evil sometimes only strengthens it.
Hope means trusting. When we hope we are not passive; we are acting.
Love is always a decision.
The people who are supremely free desire nothing, and are afraid of nothing.
Faith is the root of our cure and our liberation, the start of a life-giving process that heals the death engendered by sin.