We're given raw materials, every day. What tapestry do we use them to weave?
My wife and I were in Costco the other day to get me some new sunglasses, and also to buy a cart load of household staples. She wrote a check to pay for the sunglasses and then realized that it was her last. We couldn't buy the cartload of stuff unless she went home and got more checks. My Mastercard and Visa were not Ok. She asked if I would wait with the cart. I quickly calculated that it would mean probably an hour of being stuck there with nothing to occupy my time. And I had stuff to do. But I quickly blocked out those thoughts and said, "Sure, Ok. You go. I'll be here looking at books or something." She suggested I also wander through the wine section. I still couldn't quite believe I was about to lose an hour of my life, but I've learned, most of the time, not to let useless negative emotions bubble up and take over. You never know when something that looks bad may produce something good. And, boy, did that ever happen.
The raw materials - An unexpected hour by myself in Costco. The challenge: What would I weave?
First, I found two great books I had never heard about, and bought both. One, I've just finished, a 624 page opus that's almost impossible to describe - The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell, author of the Cloud Atlas, that was recently made into a movie. It traces the life of a girl, Holly Sykes, from her home in England and family that she abandons at age 15, to run away and live with her older boyfriend, who, it turns out, has already dumped her before she gets to his house with a bag of her possessions and big dreams of love. When the book ends, we've seen threads woven in and out of her life, into her seventies, and up to the year 2043 or beyond. If I were pushed to say what the book is about, I'd venture this: It's an exploration of what spiritual powers may lurk mostly unseen behind the facades of everyday life. It's about how many of us have glimpses of something else, under the surface of things, whether we want to characterize our experiences as telepathy, or precognition, or in some other way. Occasionally, there's a voice, or perhaps even voices. Now and then there might be a sense of leading, or guidance. Maybe we have a quick flash of what is to come. In the book God and the Philosophers, I tell my own such story. And in Philosophy for Dummies, I tell others. Mitchell shows how these things enter Holly's life and how she deals with them.
It's hard not to be fascinated by a book that purports to pull back the veil of the ordinary, and show glimmers of what might be out there, or in here, beyond. Mitchell is an excellent writer, and the book is strangely compelling. There are meditations throughout on such things as power, and death, and meaning - great stuff for philosophical readers like me. But there also turns out to be more of a supernatural thriller story waiting in the wings than you might ever imagine at the outset. There end up being passages that have a sort of Harry Potter flair, but for older readers. The end is a bit dystopian for my tastes, however realistic, given current world politics and environmental degradation, but the road to get there was pretty fascinating.
And, yeah, I also got another book during my wait at Costco, one that I'll start today - The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nine George, a bestseller in Germany, Italy, Poland, and the Netherlands that just made it to our shores. Apparently, it's about an old bookseller who gives people books to help with their lives. I'll report on it later.
And I would be remiss not to mention my few minutes in the wine section. My wife and I had just watched Red Obsession, on Netflix, which is about a spectacular year in Bordeaux, when the conditions were perfect for great wine. That was the year many newly affluent Chinese discovered the top Chateaux there and began bidding up the price of the wines beyond all reason. But in Costco, I found one of those wines, of that year's vintage, that was not at all a crazy price, but a super low one. I bought it, and was amazed at what you can experience from that year, for under $20. I may identify it later, once I've gone back and bought more.
So that time at Costco that was almost sure to be a wasted hour, that I assumed would feel like three or four hours as I waited and waited? It felt like ten minutes, and produced books and a wine that have already enhanced my life. Plus, we have enough paper towels to last through the century.
It's amazing how a new thread, however it at first looks, may end up enhancing the weave of our lives.