Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

The Year of Living Biblically

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Last Sunday I finished a rather amazing book. It’s called ‘The Year of Living Biblically‘. WAIT! before you go all “oh my, he’s going religious on us in this blog”. Hold on to your socks. The book is by a agnostic Jew (who’s “Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant) who’s daytime job is to write for the magazine Esquire, who decides to follow every rule in the Bible for one whole year.

And let me tell you, the books great. They author, A.J. Jacobs at times seems kinda neurotic (A.J., if you read this, I apologize, but you do kinda give that off occasionally, it’s the OCD mixed with the beard i think) but the insight he got through his year was pretty amazing. His previous book was “The Know-It-All” which was titled that way because it was a book about him reading the entire encyclopedia. Not the dictionary. That’s small beans. But the encyclopedia. You know, those 5 foot thick book sets you can buy for a million bucks? (note to self: Get the Know-It-All for Uncle Rog as he loves encyclopedias. tacky? maybe, but I digress) He read the encyclopedia from A-Z or rather, and I quote “a-ak (East Asian music) to Zywiec (a town in southern Poland known for its beer)” end quote. On a side note, neither of those two words were in my spell check. Shame on you spell check updating nerds! Shame! wait, who actually does update spell checks? no offense to you, but that’s gotta be a sucky job.

So in summary, this guy spent 1 whole year, attempting to follow every single command in the bible. From not wearing cloths with mixed fibers Leviticus 19:19, to ‘Be fruitful and multiply” Genesis 1:28 (his wife got pregnant with twin baby boys over the course of the year), to stoning adulterers Leviticus 20:27. Well, he got to pebble someone, which was his loophole as he noted that the Bible didn’t specify on the size of stones (later he comments that historically, stoning was to let them jump off a cliff, like in the movie the Three Musketeers, how that relates to the stoning of Stephen and Paul, I dunno. He didn’t say) He didn’t actually stone, he pebbled. but this part is awesome, so I’m just gonna type an excerpt

“A few days ago, I gathered a handful of small white pebbles from Central Park, which I stuffed in my back pants pocket. Now all I needed were some victims. I decided to start with Sabbath breakers. That’s easy enough to find in this workaholic city. I noticed that potbellied guy at the Avis down our block had worked on both Saturday and Sunday. So no matter what, he’s a Sabbath breaker.

Here’s the thing, though: Even with pebbles, it is surprisingly hard to stone people.

My plan had been to walk non-chalantly bast the Sabbath violator and chuck pebbles at the small of his back. But after a couple failed passes, I realized it was a bad idea. A chucked pebble, no matter how small, does not go unnoticed.

My revised plan: I would pretend to be clumsy and drop the pebble on his shoe.
So I did.
And in this way I stoned. But it was probably the most polite stoning in history–I said, “I’m sorry,” and then leaned down to pick up the pebble. And he leaned down at the same time, and we almost butted heads, and then he apologized, then I apologized again.

Highly unsatisfying.”

Later in that same page he gets to the park and talks to an elderly man who says he, the author, was ‘dressed queer.’ The author explains his year quest and the old gent mentions that he is an adulterer fairly often:

“Tonight, tomorrow, yesterday, two weeks from now. You gonna stone me?”

“If I could, yes, that’d be great.”

“I’ll punch you in the face. I’ll send you to the cemetery.”

He is serious. This isn’t a cutesy grumpy old man. This is an angry old man. This is a man with seven decades of hostility behind him.
I fish out my pebbles from my back pocket.

“I wouldn’t stone you with big stones,” I say. “Just these little guys.”

I open my palm to show him the pebbles. He lunges at me, grabbing one out of my hand, then flinging it at my face. It whizzes by my cheek.
I am stunned for a second. I hadn’t expected this grizzled old man to make the first move. But now there is nothing stoping me from retaliating. An eye for an eye.
I take one of the remaining pebbles and whip it at his chest. It bounces off.

“I’ll punch you right in the kisser,” he says.

“Well, you really shouldn’t commit adultery,” I say.

We stare at eachother. My pulse has doubled.

Anyways, the entire books is awesome like this. The main thing that worried me before I read it was that it would be funny in a disrespecting way. I can take pot shots directed at me that are disrespectful, but don’t mess with the Bible. Easy way to get under my skin. Most people make fun of the Bible from a stance of ignorance, and is completely obnoxious. It’s like taking some random quote from me and calling me racist. You don’t know me, and anyone who does knows I’m not racist. Your an ignorant fool, go away and leave me be. The author at least had the opinion that even if it was all a farce, it is a book or verbal tale, that has had the most influence over all the people in the entire world over the entire span of human history, and that title alone demands respect. And the author is not disrespectful to the Bible at all. He might make fun of groups of people occasionally, but not the Bible itself. The Bible is treated with the respect it deserves. And when he does make fun of things the Bible says (easy enough to do), it does it from a knowledgeable viewpoint, in context. Not the ignorance that is so common today from both sides (Christians and non), and that I am very grateful for. I think the “praise” for the book by Mary Roach, bestselling author, says it best.

“A.J. Jacobs has written about the Bible in a manner that is brilliantly funny but unerringly respectful, learned but goofy, deeply personal yet highly relevant. I am covetous and wish him smited.”

So true. Thank you A.J. for writing a very funny and insightful read. And thank you Numar for getting it for me. I could hardly put it down once I started it.

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