Julie – in her loving and understated way decided that her Dad (me) would enjoy/benefit in some manner by reading a book titled “Narrative Matters – The Power of Personal Essay in Health Policy.” She loaned me her copy of the book. I wished to read it and return it quickly – out of respect and a desire to not be someone who is loaned a book and never returns it. The book was placed on my nightstand – since I tend to read (or do crossword puzzles) many nights before falling to sleep.
Several years later (and about 500 crossword puzzles later – the NY Times Sunday edition type puzzles) I glanced at the book for the umpteen millionth time – started to skim it and thought that it may not be a book that would interest me. It was not the typical business book or cutting edge technology book or sports book that I usually read. It did not look like a book that I thought reflected what I typically was motivated to learn about. So the next day I called Julie and said that I would return the book to her. I had had it for way too long – had not read it yet – and wished to return it to her – since it was quite unfair for me to have kept it so long. Her response was simple, sweet and so typical of Julie – “That’s OK Dad, I’ve read it already – take your time to read it.” I was surprised – and yet also relieved – the guilt that had been building within me for not reading the book – evaporated. The book remained on my nightstand for another few hundred crossword puzzles.
Ironically during most of my life (certainly during the crosswords puzzle era of my life) I had considered myself to be a person who read for understanding. I may only read 10 or so books a year and generally six to eight of them become referenced during one of my monologues. Several times I had been asked “How do you determine which books to read.” I respond – “I don’t need to determine which to read - because 90% of what I read has been a gift. Someone who knows me very well – gifts or loans or suggests a book to me. The fact that I then normally read these books and talk about them for years reflects the wisdom of others – the authors and the gifter.
So – last night – June 2, 2017 – I once again glanced at “Narrative Matters.” I picked it up read the blurbs on the back cover – flipped the pages, skimmed the index – randomly read a few paragraphs and was not able to convince myself to begin reading the book. The “tribalization of America” has been one of my current monologues and I tried to convince myself that this book was going to be a veiled attempt at objectivity when in reality it was going to be another diatribe. But – there was still some lingering guilt – it had not totally evaporated. I chose to try to read it and would continue to do so only if I could convince myself that “Narrative Matters” was taking an objective stand on “narrative” and the “matters.”
I read the blurbs and the cover – glanced at the copyright page (noted 2006) and read the contents pages (3+) – and then I read the forward and then then I read the preface and as I was reading about the authors I decided that rather than read about each sequentially I would read about them before and after I read the essay that they had authored. I was not yet convinced but I was hopeful because there were of statements such as:
I read chapter 1 – completely and then decided to go to sleep.
In the morning I awoke enthused I – I was committed to reading the entire book – and was going to set up an online discussion group to accompany it. I sent an email to Julie and told her what I was going to do and why.
And then I started to cry. Julie had gifted me with a book suggestion. If the book was a diatribe it would be a subtle way of telling me that I was diatribic. And yet our conversations (with imbedded Dad monologues) had included my questions about where could I find objectivity? – How could I challenge my objectivity? – Could we have the courage to learn from others whose experiences were different from ours? The tears reflected an expression of the understanding of truth – revealed by “The Wisdom of Julie.”