Today I went to the gym for the first time in over a month. Wahoo! Still feel very congested but am trying my best to push myself without getting sicker. We’ll see. Trying to relax after the gym I watched the PBS airing of the recent documentary Salinger about reclusive writer JD Salinger.
Anyone who knows me knows I am not a huge Catcher in the Rye fan. I read it in high school like everyone else and I found Holden to be whiny and annoying. The style bothered me and the language was too adult for me at the time. I really don’t get why so many relate to such an aggravating lead character?
Anyway, it was still interesting to learn more about such a famous author- a lot less than complimentary I might add.
But one of the annoying things in the movie is it has all kinds of actors and pundits talking about what a life changing experience it was for them to read about young Holden’s quest to find himself and save the innocents from the phony and fake.
While the interviews were kind of useless it did make me wonder if there are any such works that I could talk so effusively about? Did anything change my life in that way? Hmmm.
Start with Religion
Well, it might sound cheesy but the definite answer is The Book of Mormon. The first time I read it I was 12 or 13. My teacher had this book of quotes with funny drawings of animals that I liked and sensing my interest she told me she would buy me one if I read The Book of Mormon (smart teacher), so I read it.
At first I was impressed with the great storytelling and aside from the Isiah chapters which dragged (I was 12!) I was so excited to read these stories of faith, family and especially the coming of Christ. The next time I read it it was more about the doctrine and how each time I read I wanted to be a better person. I wanted to be more like Moroni, Nephi and Alma.
Now I’ve read it at least once a year every year since I was 12 and it still changes me. I still find something new and inspiring most every time I read and I can’t deny how I feel when I read it’s pages. It’s been a tremendous force for good in my life.
So branching off from religion there isn’t a ton of other things that had a big impact on me as a youth but one that comes to mind is Les Miserables. The first time I was exposed to the musical was when I was 13 or 14 when PBS had a 10 year anniversary ‘dream cast’ concert. I watched it over and over again and had the entire score memorized. I was that annoying person who is muttering all the words under their breath.
Aside from the lovely ladies and the Thenardiers song (which I could still live without) I loved every song and it all just spoke to me like nothing else I’d ever heard. I then saw the musical on broadway in 1995 and it did not disappoint. I remember leaving the theater with my choir group my eyes red with tears (still gets me when I see it today)
Reasons I love Les Mis-
idealistic rebellion of youth, redemption, justice, value of friendship, loyalty, honor, nobility in life and death and the realization there is never a lost cause. I love On My Own, Bring Him Home and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Dreamed a Dream probably the most and I still get a chill up my spine when i hear it.
And an Experience
The only thing else that I can think of as being life changing was my entire college experience. It’s honestly impossible for me to pick one moment in college that changed my life. Something happened in my brain at that time period where things clicked that had never clicked before.
Taking philosophy classes, learning about other cultures, serving the lost boys, working as a teaching assistant, political economy of women, meeting friends, losing family, taking finals, deciding to go on a mission, all of those things and more. It was the best time in my life.
I loved BYU. I loved college. I loved political theory. I loved reading Kierkegaard, Plato, Aristotle and teaching other people about that. I made my best friends at that time and I decided that I really believed in this thing called Mormonism and that nothing was going to ever change that. I kind of wish I had dated more but I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. The best.
Anyway those are the life changers that come to mind for me. What about you? What things really influenced you, made you into the person you are today?