The transition I’ve undergone over the past months kept me reading, but also kept me from writing about the books I’ve read. So here’s to catching up, sorting out where my reading has taken me so far.

[1] The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life

James Martin, SJ

This book should be REQUIRED. TO EVERYONE. Especially those who have taken Jesuit education, or who have encountered in one way or another, St. Ignatius de Loyola and/or his Spiritual Exercises.

I remember reading this during the Christmas holidays, and learning that I had no prayer structure in my life. That my relationship with God has been abstract, even if I did consider myself more spiritual than I thought (so, I did reconsider that).

The book allowed me to understand what it meant to pray through creative imagination, how to pray through work and silence and noise and joy and sadness, and how to have a relationship with the Bible. And most of all, despite my theology and philosophy classes back in my Jesuit college education, how to expand my relationship with God from Him being a miracle-giver and justice-giver, to a friend.

Trying the exercise of imagining Jesus in front of me was scary. I never thought of that before at the depth described in the book. What would I say? How would I behave? And the most intense with the exercise was, what do I imagine He would say to me? Limited sharing: trying out this exercise led me to John 15:16.

[I know, I know. I shouldn’t do parts of the Spiritual Exercises alone. But that part was described in the book. That it can be a way to pray. So why not try it? Absolutely worth it.]

Again, this book should be required reading to all.

[2] Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life

Eric Greitens

I believe I got this book on Kindle because there had been points over the past months that I felt like I needed to be told what I already know. Some call that “advice”. HAHAHA Regardless, I am thankful I found this book and benefitted from the wisdom generously shared by the author.

The book is written similar to the tone of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. The author was writing to a friend, someone with whom he shared deep and trying times in their stint in the US SEALS. The friend, who is coded as “Walker”, is spiraling with his life, and the author was communicating with him with genuine, tough, encouraging, and brutally honest (at times) love that could only be possible with a friendship as deep as theirs.

I would not consider this a self-help book. But really, it’s a writing with the spirit of Rilke’s work. The entire book is a strong reminder that there is nothing in life you can’t conquer. That there is always hope. Hope is the foundation of resilience. But resilience is an exercise, a choice that must be done every day.

[3] A set of re-reads:

3.1. Letters to a Young Poet (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Because of Resilience. Plus it’s always a pleasure returning to this one.

3.2 The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)

I have lost count how many times I read this one. Absolutely my favorite novel of all time. I think I will be eternally fascinated by how one simple man, deprived of chances for happiness and fair advancement in life, was able to turn the tables around and receive the justice that was due him.

3.3 A handful of Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Little Briar-Rose, Little Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, The Frog King or Iron Henry, Faithful John, Rapunzel, The Water of Life…

I return to this great compilation every now and then. There is indeed something magically sleep-giving about reading fairy tales at night. Whoever said that is meant only for children has some dark evil spirit in him.

3.4 The Trial and Death of Socrates: The Four Dialogues (Plato)

I believe I returned to this because I had to reconstruct my life path and recreate the meaning I would chose to test and hold onto. And that journey always begins with, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This was core reading in our Jesuit philosophy classes. The insights stick with you, forever.

What is different in my round of reading the Trial is a new-found appreciation of Socrates’ dedication to the laws of the City-State. That even if his defense was a-m-a-z-i-n-g, and he was offered options to not have to go through death, he still chose to die. He loved and respected the laws so much that he chose to uphold the law and the justice system even if it did him harm (REAL harm). Given the context of today, given the insanity of what is happening, Socrates’ dedication to Athens is an ideal I would like to keep on remembering.

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I read a couple of journal articles and briefs informing my appreciation of the new adventure where I’m at, but that is the writing stuff of tomorrow.

For now, I say thank you to all these books that have journeyed with me at the height of the storm.

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