Watching Lord of the Rings with Dad

Thanksgiving / 36 Arguments

Visiting my parents in southern California used to give me a strange paranoia. Returning to LA, for whatever reason, made me feel like I was regressing. (That is, of course, ridiculous.) Since college, however, Santa Monica has been a source of some much-needed emotional recharging and re-invigoration of my inspirado.

I count myself among the very fortunate for having such an open, loving, supportive, hilarious family. Thanksgiving seems to me to be a necessarily stressful time, what with family, food, drink and close-quarters, but we manage to pull it off year after year. I display a certain level of unease at the whole process, but by the end it’s usually all smiles and sad goodbyes. This time around it was particularly hard leaving my sister–she and I are very close and New York is very far away. Being with my brother, sister-in-law and my nephews is always a pleasure (did you know the best word a baby can learn to say first is hi? I didn’t either.) My parents are just awesome people. I’m proud to be a member of my family.

Thanksgiving dinner was delicious. My sisters are badass cooks. Seriously.

I got a chance to hang out with friends in LA, too. I ran with an amazing and creative crowd back in the day: Dan Miller, Tony May, Max Wittert (more Max and some more Max,) not to mention my other good buds David and Tiimo. (Not to mention new bros-here’s lookin’ at you, Bowling.) Every one of those guys is excellent. Truly a privilege to have their friendship.

Back in my room in Oakland, I’m thinking about creativity. I’ve been writing a bit and playing guitar more and it’s amazing what a little bit of creative expression can do to settle my mind and mood. The months before finding housing in Oakland were stressful, tumultuous and frustrating, and I imagine that had I been channeling that energy into creative outlets rather than alienating people who were trying to comfort me, I’d have some pretty interesting fiction to share.

I took some photos with my phone while in LA. Here they are.

I’ve been meaning to write about this book for a while, so here’s a little bit about:

36 Arguments for the Existence of God

by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

36 Arguments for the Existence of GodI resisted reading this book for some time not because I had other potentially better books to read, rather because it had been recommended to me by my parents and had some obvious Jewishness about it (clearly I still have some issues to work out, n’est pas?) Puhleez, I won’t read that because it’ll probably be some guilt trip or something, right?

Wrong.

I finally sat down to read it after months of my parents talking about how great the book is, and after gobbling it up voraciously I slapped myself on the forehead for my ridiculous rigidity. 36 Arguments is, in a word, is fantastic. Once I got past the first chapter (which was beautiful,) I couldn’t put it down. The book follows Cass Seltzer, a professor of Psychology who wrote a book which earned him the moniker “the atheist with a soul.” Goldstein (a MacArthur fellow and 2011 Humanist of the Year) elegantly places Cass in a variety of circumstances in the novel’s pages, some comic, some tragic and stressful, some almost fantastical. At several points of the novel, I found myself physically moved to the point where I had to just put the book down, take a deep breath and hold myself together. (The way she puts you inside the Synagogue at New Walden is totally overwhelming and incredible.)

One of the themes the book deals with is religious identity and one’s responsibility for one’s self balanced against one’s responsibility for the community. The most amazing thing happened when I discussed my feelings on the book with my dad; we both enjoyed the book immensely and found it very illuminating, but ended up on opposite sides of the argument, both sides equally validated by the text.

Goldstein is a Professor of Philosophy, and an essence of that frequently bleeds through into the novel, but not in a way that damages the reading experience. On the contrary, it enriched the characters and provided bite-sized moments of profundity within the fiction.

I talked about the book every day for a few weeks when I finished it, and I thanked my parents profusely for recommending it. I’ve recommended it to just about everyone I know, and recommend it again here: please read this book. Even if you’re not a Jew, it’s a wonderful reading experience.

★★★★★

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One Response

  1. I’m kind of just writing a comment because I know how THRILLING comments are, and also because I wanted to use that fake URL as my website. 🙂

    But I also enjoyed this book review and I’m excited to pick that one up. You should add your review to Goodreads!

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