Friday, May 1, 2009

The Namesake

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

TGIF...except that I have three exams in the next four days! Yikes. My friend Stephen is in the same situation, as are many other students during this time. But we see the light at the end of the tunnel, as our summer break is only a few days away. Thank God.


I just (literally 5 minutes ago) finished a novel called The Namesake. Written by author Jhumpa Lahiri, made into a motion picture recently, the novel received some pretty favorable review upon its publication several years back. The story is told in a very subtle, readable fashion. I read a majority of it in one day, finishing about two hundred pages yesterday. (Okay, so I have an exam on the book today...but I really did enjoy reading the novel!).

It deals with the Ganguli family who move from Calcutta to the Boston area to start a new life in America. The story centers around Gongol, the son of Ashoke and Ashami, the couple who had moved from India to the states. Gongol, a first generation U.S. citizen, lives a fairly typical childhood for a kid from the Northeast---except for the culture and traditions his parents maintain from their native home. I don't want to write a reflection on the entire novel, but I would rather reflect on one line in the final chapter that struck me. I warn you, if you have any incling to read the book, you might not want to read this reflection.

That being said, here is the quote: "Her husband dwells discreetly, silently, patiently within its pages." To put the quote into context, Gogol has recovered a book The Overcoat that his now deceased father gave him while Gogol was a teenager. The book, written by Nikolai Gogol, has a special place in the heart of the Ganguli family, especially in Gogol's father. It was this book that had, in a sense, saved Gogol's fathers live. He had been in a massive trainwreck in his early twenties, and had been saved because someone had noticed him drop a piece of paper from his hand, a single sheet from The Overcoat that was still in his hand from reading before the plane had crashed. He gives the name Gogol to his son because he consider's Gogol's novel to have saved his life.

So, back to the quote: "her husband dwells discreetly, silently, patiently within its pages." Gogol, who had shrugged off the moment his father gave him The Overcoat as a teenager, cherishes the book and that moment some twenty years later, after his father has passed away and as he has time to reflect on just what Gogol actually meant to his father. When he gave the name, it was out of thankfulness that he survived, that he was given the gift of continued life. Gogol, the son, resented the name for such a long time, actually legally changing his name to Nikhil, which he think sounded much more professional and reasonable. However, Gogol, with a copy of The Overcoat in his hands, seems to understand something more about the book than he had ever understood before. The book contains a memory of his father and the life that had helped to give him life. His love lives and dwells "discreetly, silently, and patiently," within the pages of a book.

And think of texts that have an impact on how we live. Think of Shakespeare's famous plays, or of Aristotle's philosophical writings, or Confucious' sayings, or of Ancient Israeli texts that compose part of the Bible. I reflect on how important the Bible is in my own life, how the Gospel writings in the New Testament help to give my life meaning and I believe that God dwells patiently, discreetly, and silently within the pages of the text.

Well loved writings, like well loved music, has the ability to open up our Spirit and provide us with purpose. It is that goosebumpy feeling, becoming SHOOK, understanding that there is a way to remember and record memories. It is in the remembering of history that we transform and shape our present, and work to build a better future.

I hope you have a chance to open up a text that you hold close to your heart, or listen to a song that really strikes a chord within you, or simply be silent and allow a patient Spirit to gently soothe your soul. In our busy lives, finding these moments can keep us motivated and moving forward toward a more beautiful reality.

peace and blessings!

with love,

your friend bob : )

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