When I got sick, I learned that certain words were hard to come by. How do you describe pain to someone who is not suffering through it? How do you talk about that state of not dying but not being cured either? What language is there to discuss just how fragile life can be? In our new adventure, the Everything Happens Book Club, I want us to find words together, those words that will help us understand how to deal with those burdens we carry that we didn’t ask for. I’ll be talking to wonderful people who have written books about experiences from which we can learn lessons. I want us to read these books, share our thoughts, and maybe build little communities of kindness and knowledge.
There is a word in Latin that is worth learning: precarius. It means “given as a favour” and referred to things that were at the pleasure of someone else, things that could be taken away at any time. From that we get the English term “precarity”, a state of insecurity, of not being able to rely on something continuing. Those living in today’s gig economy – Uber drivers, free-lance designers, sessional musicians, or day laborers – know what it means to have a “precarious” financial existence. But all of us are far less secure than we like to think – we are all just a single accident, a disease, a job loss, or a shattered relationship away from being needy.
Dorothy Day, the Catholic anti-poverty activist, said a strange thing in a culture of autonomy and pride: that precarity could be a spiritual blessing, forcing us to depend on God or others. This summer's book picks explore our humanity, fragility, and interdependence. I hope you'll join us as we read Turtles All The Way Down by John Green, Becoming Human by Jean Vanier, and Far from the Tree (book and film) by Andrew Solomon.
There are lots of ways to engage the material. Each month we will have discussion questions, places to interact on social media, new articles posted here at KateBowler.com, and new Everything Happens podcast episodes that coincide with the book's theme. And it’s totally free (my Mennonite family’s favorite word), so if you can’t purchase the book or can’t find extra time to read, I would love for you to participate by engaging the extra resources.
And there are lots of ways to get connected too—whether that's leaving comments here on the website or jumping on the Twitter chat or making new friends on an Instagram comment thread. Maybe these conversations can extend into your living room, at your favorite coffee shop, at your office, or in your church. No matter where the conversation takes place, my hope and prayer is that these books will become a gathering place for us to develop shared language and feel a bit less lonely. Will you join me?