Today was the continuation of a Father’s Day weekend tradition of spending a big chunk of Saturday by myself, wandering around bookstores, reading and reflecting on life and dreams in general.
This tradition began in 2006, when I was facing my first Father’s Day without my dad and my wife encouraged me to take some time alone to think. I don’t remember much of what I did that first year except walking on the beach and going to the movies to see X-Men 3—and crying like a baby in the darkened theater when Professor Charles Xavier was killed. I didn’t have any significant attachment to the professor character himself, but the cinematic experience of his death touched some very raw nerves and the tears flowed forth.
On the Saturday of Father’s Day weekend 2007, I also treated myself to the movies; this time to Spiderman 3, my favorite of that particular trilogy with its focus on Peter Parker’s struggle against his own darkness. What was more significant is the bookstore experience that took place before I headed to the movie theater: stumbling across Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyer’s 1987 Q&A-formatted book, The Power of Myth. I read nearly a third of it in the store, bought it, took it home and read it all the way through several times.
I haven’t been the same since.
Campbell’s discussion of the metaphors, symbols and archetypes that compose the great stories, religious traditions and rituals across every era in every culture poured gasoline on my burning desire to learn. It increased my openness to studying other religions and Eastern thought in particular, which has greatly helped me to slowly push past dualistic thinking and be less caught up in being “right” while more excited to seek to understand.
Ever since The Power of Myth, one book has serendipitously led to another. I’ve feasted on writers such as Karen Armstrong, Elizabeth Gilbert, Paulo Coelho, Eckhart Tolle, Shunryu Suzuki, Thich Nhat Hanh and Chogyam Trungpa, and many others whose writings seem inexplicably threaded together by an emphasis on becoming fully present, seeing things as they are and unleashing authenticity.
It’s interesting how I associate this trajectory of learning with the annual day that celebrates fatherhood. My father loved to read and helped influence my early interest in books. My children have seemed to inherit the legacy of book-loving—not just from me but certainly from my wife as well.
I can think of few greater, enriching lifelong habits than learning through great books.