Where do you turn for intellectual stimulation? For me, it starts with books and podcasts, but is cemented with relationships. What is the equation for good relationships? It’s hard to have strong relationships without experiences that bond and lead to stories. So, experience + story = relationship. I’m very fortunate to belong to two book clubs. Without those relationships, the books and podcasts have much less value. Below you will find some of both that piqued my curiosity this year.
Tribalism was a buzzword in 2018. It basically means being overly loyal to your own group. In its worst sense, tribalism is a lack of relationship. In her book, Strangers in Their Own Land, Arlie Russell Hochschild attempts to build an “empathy wall” with folks in Lake Charles, Louisiana by immersing herself in their culture. As a California Berkeley professor, she is much different than the folks she befriended in Louisiana. Her background as a sociologist is valuable, but it’s nearly impossible to remove all bias.
I’ve mentioned Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, in prior blogs. I read it again recently. It was a game changer in how I viewed our justice system. The Innocent Man, by John Grisham, had a similar impact. I’m a Grisham fan, but this book is a little different. I believe it is his only foray into non-fiction. It tells the story of Ron Williamson, a former minor league baseball player from Ada, Oklahoma who was wrongly convicted of murder. If you are more into watching than reading, Netflix recently released a documentary adaptation by the same name. I watched all of the first season on two plane flights.
I subscribe to many podcasts. One of my favorites is On Being, by Krista Tippett. The On Being Project started with a radio show about faith and spirituality. While staying true to its roots, it has morphed into a pursuit of “deep thinking and social courage, moral imagination and joy, to renew inner life, outer life, and life together.” One of my favorite episodes of 2018 was Rachel Naomi Remen. Rachel is a physician and author. In this episode she discusses how healing is different than curing and how “science defines life in its own way, but life is larger than science. Life is filled with mystery, courage, heroism, and love. All these things we can witness but not measure or even understand, but they make our lives valuable anyway.”
After listening to Dr. Remen, I was compelled to pick up her book, Kitchen Table Wisdom. The book was a New York Times best seller after its release in 1996. The 10th anniversary edition digs deeper into healing stories. The forward by Dr. Dean Ornish introduces the book well – “Great artists in any field have the rare ability to see our world and our lives anew, to experience life directly without it being filtered through beliefs, expectations, and preconceptions. They can capture a lost sense of wonder and experience the full richness of life.” This book is a collection of stories about savoring and celebrating life, not about fixing wrongs.
As I reflect back on the past year and hope for less tribalism and more relationship, here are a few other books and a podcast that made an impact: Tattoos on the Heart, by Gregory Boyle, Breathing Under Water, by Richard Rohr, The Road to Character, by David Brooks, and Conversations with Tyler: Ross Douthat. At Trust Company of the South, we are very fortunate. Our vocation is all about relationships. Thank you for being a part. We all look forward to more experiences and stories in 2019!