We must choose. We must act. We must heal. We must die—all of us.
“This is a self-help book. Didn’t think it was, but it is.”
~ Nicholas Montemarano, The Book of Why
There were times when I was reading The Book of Why that I set it down, walked away and didn’t think I would return. But I did return and I read every word, even the discussion questions and interview placed at the end of the book.
Last winter a friend passed away from cancer, she was in her early 40’s. Our friendship was new, but I had grown very close to her, her husband and their three young boys. She was absent many of the afternoons our families spent together; adults sat talking while our children played. But she was always with us in spirit. Her presence was strong, but gentle, and her absence is felt even now—perhaps it always will be.
The idea that we create our reality, that we choose our experience is reasonable until we are confronted with a traumatic situation that causes us to ask, “Why would she choose this? Why would a beautiful, intelligent mother of three wonderful boys choose to die of cancer?”
And if she didn’t choose it, then we don’t create our own reality.
I was raised in a Catholic family, raised with the understanding that God creates our reality. But who is God? And what kind of God do we worship? Why would God want a young mother to die from cancer?
There are those who believe our experiences are a cumulative result of our past actions, our Karma. What horrible things must a person have done in a past life to lose their present life to a disease like cancer? There are as many answers as there are questions.
The Book of Why is a self-help book.
Montemarano doesn’t give us the answers. Instead he shows us that even the answers we choose to accept may lead us to more questions as life happens. The way to walk the path of healing, of “self-help”, is to help ourselves. We need to choose a path, do the work and accept that we have done our best.
We can read more self-help books if it helps us remember what we already know. And we can write alternative endings to our stories in our minds, but in the end lovers may die in our arms and no self-help book, speaker or guru can protect us from that pain.
As an author Montemarano can choose the ending to spin the story in the direction of his imagination. We may believe we do this in life, that we are in control—until things get out of control. Then the option is to blame, to blame our selves and others when things go wrong. Or to accept.
The Book of Why is a love story.
Eric, the protagonist, loves in relation to the people who move in and out of his life. We follow. He struggles at times to make sense of the signs and the coincidences, but it is his actions that move the story along. He is the creator of his experience—experience is 100% perception.
When we look for answers to the question “Why?” we will find many, many answers. It is up to us to choose.
We are the only ones who can help ourselves.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Jennifer Moore