Monday, April 25, 2016

61 Books: #22

The project: to read 61 books, of whatever sort—short, long; literature, schlock; prose, poetry: you name it—before December 4, 2016.

The first ten books can be seen here. The second ten are here. #21 is just below this post.

So, onward to #22:

22. Elle Luna, The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion (2015) (4/24/16)
Yes, I like inspirational self-help on occasion (see, e.g., #10 in this list of 61 books): to remind myself of what's important, if not necessarily to learn new lessons. This attractive little book—easily read in a couple of hours—has some pithy points and lots of color: the author is an artist, and she illustrates her points winningly. (The typography and unusual binding are an appealing part of the package as well.)

The book is divided into four self-explanatory parts: The Crossroads, The Origin of Should, Must, and The Return. These sections are replete with quotations by people such as Rumi, Van Gogh, Gurdjieff, Mark Twain, Joseph Campbell, Eleanor Roosevelt (indeed, it's short on women inspirers). One of my favorite quotes was this: "Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí, and I ask myself, wonderstruck, what prodigious thing will he do today, this Salvador Dalí." Luna also includes ideas for further exploration in the form of short exercises and activity suggestions.

In the section on Must, Luna points out the four things we need to confront if we're going to "follow our bliss": money, time, space, and vulnerability, a.k.a. fear. Must loves play, and it needs solitude. It embraces mystery and welcomes rich questions.

My impression—although she does include a spread headed "But I'm Past My Prime" in which she provides details of some fascinating "firsts" by people in their twenties all the way up to their hundreds (most surprising to me: Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't publish her first House on the Prairie book until she was sixty-four)—is that this book will be most valuable to younger people who've done what was "expected" and have reached a, yes, crossroads where they're interested in tapping more deeply into their own talents, skills, and desires. Still, I enjoyed the stylish, fun presentation of the book, and a few quotes and observations gave me pause.

My favorite part is a single spread: a monochrome photograph of, I presume, Luna's own studio wall. It is covered with eighteen large pieces of white drawing paper, with a two-foot gap at the bottom that reveals the drippy-paint evidence that the wall is well used by a painter. Standing in front of one sheet at the center bottom is a young girl, seen from the back: frizzy hair in a bun, a soft white dress over black leggings, unevenly pulled up socks, tennis shoes. She has just started to do that hardest of all possible things when confronted with a blank piece of paper: she is making bold black marks.

It inspires me to hang up some paper and make some bold marks of my own (though I would probably use color).

A picture worth a thousand words.

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