In this blog I am going to explore books as a metaphor for life. The idea for this came via a friend (Bill) in a group at CBH Life Skills (a PRP) I attend for treatment of the bipolar disease with which I deal.¹ What spark the idea for the blog was when Bill said, “we are each a chapter in book,” meaning the group was the book with the individuals in the group as chapters. However, I will explore the idea in broader scope in my own meandering way.
The Jewish rabbis, who developed what became modern Judaism, came up with the notion that on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year celebration) that each year whether a Jew would live or die in the next year was written in The Book of Life to be sealed on Yom Kipper. Hence, these two holidays combined are call The Days of Repentance because between the two you can change the outcome written in the book by acts of repentance. So, at least as far back as the first couple of centuries in the Common Era, or CE (Christians call this “The Year of the Lord, ” or AD). This book was used as a key metaphor for what occurred in a person’s life.
However, I do not want to focus on any religious concepts—old or new. And, as an atheist, neither do I believe in them. I do not want to focus on anyone else’s concepts. After all, this is my exploration. Having stated this, let me begin.
So, my life’s a book. But, how do I divided into chapters? Does each year have its own chapter? Or, is it each phase – infancy, childhood, adolescent, young adulthood, adulthood, middle age, or old age? Well, I cannot remember my infancy and not a lot of my childhood, and I am not in my dotage. That seems to leave a shortened book.
Or, should the chapters be about specific events in my life? I think events might do quite well within basic categories. So, my life in grade and secondary school could be one or two chapters. My drug and alcohol addiction could be two, one for active addiction and one for recovery. My motorcycle accident would definitely be one. My fall into bipolar disease would be one, as well as another one how I have managed to deal with it. My experience at community colleges would also be a chapter. And probably the darkest chapter would be on my suicide attempts.
But, what about life interests? Certainly my book of life could be organized in this way as well. These chapters might contain my interests in learning, reading, producing fractal art, philosophy, writing, cooking and baking, cats (many chapters there), and Bette. Not that Bette should come last in importance, or is this a case for saving the best for last.
Books and chapters are nice, but what about the meat and potatoes of written material—paragraphs and sentences. Here it might become more like a tree with branches, and branches on the branches, and twigs on the branches, and twigs on twigs. Actually, Bill did suggest in a session of the same group that the group was like a tree, where each one of us was a different branch.
And, maybe instead of each of us being a chapter in the same book, we are each a book, and these books are group into shelves, which are grouped into sections, and grouped into libraries. Maybe a library would be a whole town with bigger libraries being larger and larger cities. And a country would be something like the Library of Congress, which is after all the United States’ national library.
Then, there are the idioms we use that use “book” to communicate on the metaphoric level. How about these:
- Keeping with a previous blog, Is Life a Financial Transaction?, there is “balance the books.”
- “Be an open book,” maybe when you tend to share too much information.*
- “Close the books,” also “ending a chapter,” for the conclusion to an episode in life.
- “Cook the books,” when your talking about financial cheating.
- “Every trick in the book,” when you know how to navigate a situation in life very well.
- What about “not in my book,” when you do not agree with someone else’s opinion
- “Wrote the book on,” for someone who originated an area of knowledge or fully explored it.
- There is “by the book,” for someone who is a stickler for the rules.
- “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” used when what is obvious might not be so obvious, or an occasion where “beauty is only skin deep.”
- For the ever opinionated, “not in my book.”
- “Know like a book,” for knowing something very well, something akin to “I know it like the back of my hand.” Sometimes I make a joke when saying this and look at the palm of my hand.
- When someone’s a copy cat you say, “take a leaf from someone’s book.”
- For a great event there is that is “one for the books.”
- “Read like a book,” when you know someone very well, or know what someone is going to do in advance.
- Coming down hard on someone, especially in a legal situation, is referred to as “throw the book at.”
- While not using the word “book,” but in the same area, there is “turn the page” for closing out a portion of someone’s life.
Well, have I wrote the book on books as a metaphor for life? Hardly.
I plan to keep writing my book of life, so I encourage you to keep writing yours.
¹ For a bit more on how I have dealt and am dealing with having bipolar disease see my blog – Is Life a Financial Transaction?
* I refuse to write TMI. Acronyms maybe fine if your typing messages with a cell phone, or if you are limited to the amount of text you can deliver as with twitter, neither of which I do anyway, but I think it is plain laziness if you have access to a full keyboard and are not dealing with space limitations. If you writing a handwritten document, I think it is pretty much tactless. In speech—well I will not go into that. [Sorry for the rant]