Friday, February 21, 2014

The Year of Living Biblically

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
A.J. Jacobs
Weight: 1lb
Method of Disposal: Leaving near a bookstore

I have been thinking about how to write about this book for the last three days, and I am still not sure so, as usual, do not expect greatness.  I picked it up years after it was given to me to read.  I am ashamed to admit that I was suppose to read it so I could tell customers in the bookstore about it and recommend it, but I see that it did quite fine without me.  How many sins did I commit then?  I am fairly certain I was suppose to return the copy to the store once I was done.  The store I worked for is closed down now so I cannot give it back.  I guess the next best thing would be to leave it near a bookstore now so someone can find it. 

The book was amusing, and it gave me lots of new information.  I was speaking all sorts of Bible talk to people at random for days, and it felt good.  People would just look a little stunned, a little confused, and then try to engage, though skeptical. 

I had no idea that their was a group called RECAP that existed for men who wanted to get back their foreskin after circumcision.  The group still exists with a different name.  Here.  I will save you the Google search:
But it is not a great conversation starter over sushi with friends.  I learned that last night.

There are people out there that will drive dangerously slow in order to abide by the laws and thus not lie.  And, by dangerously slow, I mean the speed limit.  There are also people that believe Noah took dinosaurs on his ark.  Only God knows what sin they committed to get knocked off after completing that journey.  The grandmother of an ex-girlfriend once told me that dinosaurs did not exist, with full conviction, because they were not biblically accounted for.  I loved that woman.  She also liked the way I colored.  With crayons.  It was far more beautiful than her granddaughter's style.  We were adults at this point--just to clarify.

I fell in love with A.J.'s wife.  She was quite endearing when she would pop up, and I loved her use of the word "helmet" to let A.J. know that he was being an overprotective parent, which happened with regularity.  I appreciated that she sat in every chair in the house while on her period, inadvertently forcing A.J. to buy a stool to carry around with him.  I cannot imagine being intimate with the man who has the biblical beard and that is relieved when he does not have to touch impure women--and later men.  I know she struggled, endured, and believed in something--love, I guess--to get through that year.

And, at one point, I connected with A.J. in a way I have not discussed with many people.  It happened on day 271.  He writes about how in high school he was concerned that girls he liked might be watching him...while he was at home, chilling.  He would try to look extra cool doing mundane things, act rebellious for no reason, and listen to music he did not necessarily like.  I did this too.  For years.  Is this normal?  Can someone tell me?  I would randomly flick off the window or flash the woods behind my house just so that THEY would know that I knew THEY were there.  You can imagine that discovering masturbation was both a blessing and a curse.  Oh the joy.  Oh the shame!

All of that being said, I am not sure what I wanted from this book, but I know I did not get what I was looking for.  I enjoyed it, and it was amusing.  Like I said, I appreciate my new and rare trivia, but it all just felt so incomplete.  Like A.J. said, it would be impossible to take on the entire Bible in a year, and really everyone who is interested is forced to pick and choose which parts of the holy book they pick out, follow, or speak about, but I still wanted more.  I think my wariness started with the proclamation at the start of the book that he would not buy into the crap while he studied it. 

On the one hand, I liked to see him talk about how it affected him far more than he thought it would and was glad that it even made surprising improvements in how he is as a person when dealing with others.  But, I couldn't help but feel like the whole year was just to get a laugh.  It would vaguely irritate me when he would do rude and/or ridiculous things like not shake people's hands when we all knew good and well he was avoiding all sorts of other shit he didn't want to deal with.  Why should that bother me though?  There was SO much for him to follow and what's wrong with a sense of humor? 

He explored some extreme subsets and did some weird shit, but it was all just the tip of a very massive ice berg.  I cannot tell you why I was hoping to get something deeper from the book.  I am not religious.  I guess it was just so obvious that he was focusing on the surface level of everything and not really trying to delve into the meaning, which was a little off putting since he complained all the time that he was not really feeling God.  I never got the impression he was really, truly trying to so what was he worried about?  I am not hopeful about the Bible and yet I could tell I was let down at the end, and there was that point, before the end, where I started wanting to skip pages.  It wasn't so much that the New Testament was rushed.  I can appreciate why, but it was disoriented and not as coherent, which felt weird since that is when his lovely neighbor died and his amazing wife gave birth to his two sons.  Maybe that was it.  Life got real busy, real fast, and he was on a deadline. And it was obvious.  Whatever it was, I lost interest and when my curiosity would get peeked by some little tidbit it would be over a minute after I started reading it, which was a letdown. 

At the end of this rant, I must confess that I am slightly nervous A.J. or someone he knows will stumble across this one day and be aggravated.  How sweet is it that his dad marks negative Amazon comments as unhelpful?  I love him.  I think it is clear that, despite my problems with the book, I really enjoyed it and had fun reading it.  I think A.J. can be proud and if you want to learn a bunch of random things about Judaism and Christianity then I recommend that you pick this book up.

No comments:

Post a Comment