Living With a Wild God by Barbara Ehrenreich
Anyone familiar with Barbara Ehrenreich knows that she has a strong opinion or two…or three. If you have read any of her previous works then you know what I mean. But none of her former heavy hitters prepared me for her latest zeitgeist.
While on a mission to organize her papers for storage in a university library she discovers a long-forgotten journal she wrote in her teenage years. At the tender age of 14, when most girls spend their time thinking about boys and makeup, Ehrenreich’s biggest concern was to find The Meaning of Life. While this may be somewhat unsettling it was not at all surprising considering how she was raised. The daughter of two very outspoken atheists was groomed to be a staunch non-believer and rely on scientific data rather than the religious “hogwash” that surrounded them in Butte, Montana. Barbara spent her teenage years ruminating on the age-old questions of “Why are we here?” and “Do we really exist?”
Then when she turned 17 she experienced a kind of “mystical experience” during a visit to the desert. Hard pressed to put this event into words and alarmed that this might contradict her allegiance to atheism Ehrenreich tried to put this episode out of her mind. She subscribed to the philosophical idea of solipsism, which states that only one’s mind is sure to exist and the existence of anything or anyone outside one’s own existence does not ring true. Yes, it’s pretty heavy stuff, and if this isn’t your cup of tea then I suggest you jump ship early. The rest of the book follows the author’s political and philosophical musings of her adult years. Every life decision and person she interacts with becomes a complex problem that needs to be analyzed and solved. Sure, it IS an exhausting way to live, which is why Ehrenreich wonders more often than not if she really has some sort of mental illness.
Suffice it to say this won’t be on everyone’s Must Read list but it would make for some very interesting and weighty book group discussions. It is definitely trademark Ehrenreich and true to form, she makes no apologies for that.
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