I didn’t expect much from A.J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically – I thought it would be funny and ligh. It was, but he had some great things to say, too. So, rather thanÂ give you a book report, I’ll just show you a few of the quotes I liked best.
“Bertrand Russel – the famously agnostic philosopher – said there are two kinds of work in this world: altering the position of matter on earth, and telling other people to alter the position of matter on earth. I like doing the former.” So do I. It’s nice to be able to see what you’ve done at the end of the day.
“There’s something relieving and paradoxically liberating about surrendering yourself to a minimal-choice lifestyle, especially as our choices multiply like cable channels.” I agree again. It can be soothing not to have to make decisions.
“Sigmund Freud, a Jew who, as a child, regularly attended Catholic mass with his Czech nanny, believed that religion was ‘the universal obsessional neurosis of humanity’.”Â “Religion – especially ritual-heavy religions like Judaism and High-Church Christianity – have three key OCD traits. First, the repetition… second, the fascination with taxonomy… and third… the fixation on purity and impurity.”Â “I’ve been doing my own rituals less and less frequently, as the Bible rituals take over more and more of my time. And why not? People have been doing these Bible rituals for thousands of years. They’re time tested. Why should I try to invent my own ceremonies, when my heritage provides me with a book full of them?” Religion as a cure for OCD? It makes sense. Perhaps OCD has come as we’ve lost religious ritual in our lives. We’re wired for ritual; why not stick with those handed down from – maybe – God?
“This year I’ve tried to worship alone and find meaning alone. The solitary approach has its advantages – I like trying to figure it out myself. I like reading the holy words unfiltered by layers of interpretation. But going it alone also has limits, and big ones. I miss out on the feeling of belonging, which is a key part of religion.” “Maybe I have to dial back my fetishizing of individualism. It’d be a good thing to do; the age of radical individualism is on the wane anyway. My guess is, the world is going the way of the Wikipedia. Everything will be collaborative. My next book will have 258 coauthors.” An argument for not going it alone – in religion, in writing, and in everything else, too. I like it.