Thursday, January 25, 2018

Book Notes: The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness

by Joel ben Izzy

This is my favorite book in a long time. I wish I was still in AP Lit class with Mr. Quiring so I could recommend it to someone. Ben Izzy combined the stories he tells with the story of his life in just the right amounts. I also like that he included just the juicy bits and none of the dry stuff. I happen to be at a similar place in my life, searching for the meaning behind the last few years of my life, waiting for that aha! moment, or as Lenny said, it's often just one word. My favorite story was the one about the ugly truth becoming young and beautiful in the retelling. My second favorite was one about the horse and the son. His storytelling is masterful. He starts each section with a story, then tells part of his own, then brings it together, often with one succinct line, like, "My horse was gone." Beautiful.

My favorite quotes:

With that, sit back and let me tell you my tale, of a journey that took me through dark times, yet gave me a gift that I treasure. That gift is this story...

I'd had no great epiphany. But something had shifted inside me; I had crossed the line from confusion to bewilderment. It's a nice feeling, bewilderment - the same confusion on the inside, but wrapped in a sense of wonder.

What I've learned is that the answers come when they're ready. The harder the question, the simpler the answer. For your question, it probably comes down to a single word. But there's no point in guessing. the word by itself would be meaningless. First you must learn to love the question: "Why did you lose your voice?"

The hard part comes when you're in the middle. You don't know what to do, which way to go, forward or backward.

"Letting go," he said softly. "That's what life is all about. We're born with fists clenched, holding tight. Yet we die with our hands open... We have to get good at dying, so we do it a little each day."

Failing is an art. Learn to do it well and you'll be happy...

...Job is a great story. ... And it has a great moral; simply put - "there are things in this life we just don't understand."

The way to find the answer to a question was to stop looking, and the reason I couldn't see it was because it was right in front of my face.

Sometimes you must follow your dreams very far to find that which is closest to your heart.

He (Itzhak Perlman) smiled... "You know, sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left..."

While it may not have been the simple happy ending that I had craved, in its own way it was better. I had arrived at something more enduring than happiness, a feeling that only comes with time and loss - and wears no shirt. (Which is the moment that I understood the previous story about the happy boy with no shirt. True happiness cannot be taken away from you by anyone.)

I said that your story was in the hands of a masterful storyteller. ...As I see it, either way you have to lose something - and that's good. As I've said before, you are one lucky man (because you have something to lose.)

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