I usually breeze through books.
I read Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman in four days. And it has math.
I read Eric Greitens’s book The Heart and the Fist in two days.
Why did it take me over a month to finish Resilience?
I’m not sure, but here’s what I think.
First, the book compels action. How could I read this paragraph without writing a blog post?
If we are trapped in a life where everything is provided for us, our minds fail to grow, our relationships atrophy, and our spirits deteriorate.
Isn’t that the perfect indictment of the entitlement state? Of the SSI debacle? Of the five percent unemployment rate with a shrinking labor rate? Of course it is. So I had to write.
But the real action-impulse comes later.
In the most prosperous moment in human history, tens of millions of people fail to flourish for lack of noble work to do, for lack of meaningful, hard, struggling engagement with the world.
Who could avoid doing something of meaning immediately? And I think I had some personal forgiveness to ask when I read this:
The Greeks recognized that great people could fail terribly and still be great. Wise people could sometimes be dumb. Courageous people could be cowardly. Honest people could lie, and compassionate people could be cruel.
Today, in a culture that should know enough to be forgiving of human weakness, we often fail to remember that people are not great all the time. People practice greatness. They perform with greatness. People practice courage. They perform with courage. And then, one day, they don’t. This does not make them cowards. It makes them human.
(Maybe that’s why I refrained from commenting on the sad episode in the Missouri House of Representatives last week.)
Resilience compelled other activities, too. Like learning.
Uncle Pat gave me a copy of Meditations of Marcus Aurelius when I joined the Navy. I read parts of it, memorized a few choice quotes, and kept it prominently on my bookshelf for years–so people would see it and marvel at my erudition.
When I read the chapter on Philosophy, I felt like a fraud. So put down Resilience and picked up Meditations. This time, I read more diligently. And Meditations led me to read Senaca’s Letters From a Stoic and a shorter compilation of Epictetus’s thinking called The Art of Living. (I recommend them all to everyone.)
Those diversion took time, but I learned a lot.
In the meantime, the book was working on me. I was changing. Well, not changing so much as doing things that felt uncomfortable. I wrote about this. I’m working on being more courageous and more fair and more honest, and I can tell you that it’s hard work. It gets easier, but then I have to confront a more challenging obstacle. And it gets harder again.
I would love to tell you that you can live a life of wealth, ease, and comfort by following Greitens’s advice. I’d be lying.
Resilience doesn’t teach the easy life; it inspires the well-lived life. Resilience doesn’t come from having a big house and a big boat and the hottest fashions and the hippest friends. Resilience means earning what you have and taking pride in the earning, not the having.
I would have scoffed at this book had I not known the author’s life. Eric Greitens practices resilience every day. He lives the book. Sure, he struggles to live into the ideal he aspires to. Everyone does. But he’s been at it more diligently than anyone I know of. For Greitens, the book Resilience is something of a memoir.
I don’t want to spoil the book for you, so I’ll stop here. I learned that I can’t read a book for someone just as you cannot be courageous for me.
I want you to read Resilience, and I hope, when you do, you understand why it took me so long to read.
Now, here’s what Brian Johnson has to say about Resilience: