Have you ever returned to a beloved book and found it totally different than you remembered? I first read Dan Millman’s Way of The Peaceful Warrior during the summer of 1989, between my freshman and sophomore years of college. This book triggered my spiritual awakening. It introduced me to the concepts of mindfulness and presence. It invited me to slow down and to sense without labels or judgements. It laid out a precept that deeply influenced my life: happiness equals satisfaction over desires. In other words, contentment comes from developing a capacity to enjoy simple pleasures. It affirmed love as a healing force. At that point in my journey, I found this book to be insightful and fresh.
The subtitle of this book is “A Book That Changes Lives” and, indeed, it did change mine. It brought clarity to some illusions I was living under and laid the foundation for a life of spiritual inquiry. It validated an important hunch I’d harbored–that we are more than the sum of our accomplishments–even as I strove to achieve many unrealistic goals.
The experience of re-reading it this summer, however, has been a complete disappointment! The story is totally schlocky. The characters and the dialogue are ridiculous and I don’t actually identify with the narrator at all. Passages that formerly blew my mind feel as dated as a dial tone. I look at the lines I’d highlighted and the notes I’d written in the margins, and I have to laugh at 18 year old me for falling for such dreck.
Sometimes you see an old friend and you remember exactly why you were close with them. Other times you can’t figure out what you ever saw in them and it’s obvious that if you were meeting for the first time, there would be no connection, no spark. Re-reading this book was both. I loved this book and the truth is that I needed it very badly when I was 18 years old. I’m grateful I found it and I still live by the realizations it awakened. But if I picked it up today for the first time, I would put it right down. What was almost sacred text to me has become totally cringey. These days I love stories soaking in metaphor and characters of complexity and contradiction. Books that only offer political or spiritual slogans quickly wind up in the giveaway pile. It’s weird to chart my growth in relation to a book….or is it?
Do you have a formerly-favorite book? An unexpected marker of your spiritual growth? Want to tell me about it? I would love to hear. Email me and let’s meet for coffee, go for a walk, or sit on the comfy couches of The Soul Center.
From my soul to yours,