In Review – The Future of Life and Death

Everyone’s searching for something, even if we don’t know it yet. Does it take a tragedy to guide us to an answer? Or is the answer in the process of searching itself?

Emily Rapp’s The Still Point of the Turning World came highly recommended, yet it sat in my to-be-read pile for weeks. The problem was the little I knew about the plot. How could a book about a baby with a terminal genetic disease be anything other than heartbreaking? How could such a subject be handled without turning into a depressing tale or a inspiring but schmaltzy live-for-the-present manifesto?

What a mistake. Because while Rapp’s story is heartbreaking to be sure, the book is not so much about her child’s illness or even her efforts to come to terms with the diagnosis. The Still Point of the Turning World is the story of a woman’s journey to understand meaning in life, death, grief, and the future. It’s a quest for the spiritual, a quest to make the unknowable accessible, to plumb the mysteries of the human condition.

Rapp is a professor but her prose is eminently readable. She draws on myth, poetry, literature, and history as she struggles to change her vision of reality?and her personable style challenges the reader to think in whole new dimensions.

From the very moment of our birth?and before?we are shaped by a world geared toward the future. Everything we do, whether as infants batting at a toy or graduates entering the workforce, is preparatory to the next step, or the next two or three steps, awaiting us in the future. How has society come to live so far ahead of itself? What is this doing to us as human beings?

While most of us won’t be able to identify with the topical struggle in the book, the internal struggle to make sense of life and death is something that humanity has contended with since the dawn of time. I found myself pausing every few pages to think, really think; to go off on a tangent of what ifs and whys; to ponder why I did or said this or that thing today.

Did it change my life? Am I going to start living in the moment, every moment? I don’t know. We can’t change on a dime, nor should we; in fact, it will take me a good while to work through and even begin to understand the internal thoughts and ideas raised by a reading of this book.

But That’s a good thing. Still Point made me think, and It’s going to keep me thinking for a very long time. And as long as we can still think about our world and our actions, we’re on our way to becoming more engaged, more present, and more alive.