Friday, February 18, 2011
Literary Blog Hop
One Book on Going Off to War
Welcome to this week's Literary Blog Hop as usual hosted by the ladies from The Blue Bookcase!. The question for this hop has been sent in by Mel u from, The Reading Life -"Not long ago I read and posted on The Harp of Burma by Michio Takeyama, 1966. It is one of the very best novels about WWII, written from the point of view of a Japanese Buddhist who was drafted as a combat soldier. He had no idea how long he would be gone or if he would really ever return. He had room in his backpack for one book, so he took The Red and the Black by Stendhal. He carried it through the jungles of South Asia for 4 years. He said it helped keep him sane in the face of all the horrors he saw. This made me wonder what work of literary fiction I would take with me under similar circumstances."
If you were going off to war (or some other similarly horrific situation) and could only take one book with you, which literary book would you take and why?
Marcus discusses how to apply this philosophy in your own life as in this passage from Book 3:
“If you work at that which is before you, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly without allowing anything else to distract you, but keeping your divine part pure, as if you might be bound to give it back immediately; if you hold to this, expecting nothing, fearing nothing, but satisfied with your present activity according to nature . . . you will be happy. And there is no man who is able to prevent this.” (3.12)
This book is repetitious but this serves to reinforce the process of reasoning about your place in the universe. Within this reasoning and many aphoristic comments it contains enough philosophizing to keep your mind occupied even as the bombs may be loudly crashing in the background. Marcus Aurelius perhaps came the closest to being a "Philosopher-King" in the Platonic sense and as such he had a special perspective that allowed him to think about philosophy even as he avoided creating a traditional philosophic treatise. There are several good modern translations that make this book accessible for the general reader. I know I have found it to be inspirational in my normal life and think it would be a good companion for any extreme situation in which I might find myself.