Sydney AveyDynamic Women — Changing Times
Book Review: Living Life Backward
Reading David Gibson’s book, Living Life Backward, How Ecclesiastes Teaches us to Live in Light of the End, reminded me that all three of my published novels begin with a death. The Sheep Walker’s Daughter opens with Dee at her mother’s deathbed. The Lyre and the Lambs finds Dee beside her best friend as they discover a suicide. And The Trials of Nellie Belle begins with Nellie at the grave of her oldest daughter.
Grappling with the inevitability of death gives the women in my books courage to take heart in the joy of living. Gibson’s examination of Ecclesiastes has much the same theme.
Living Life Backward is a bracing read. It’s like splashing cold water on your face and examining your reflection in the mirror with this question in mind: In light of the fact that I will age and die, how am I doing? Many people go only skin deep with that question. (How am I holding up compared to my peers?) The writer of Ecclesiastes invites us to consider the heart of the matter. How does the fact that, despite our best efforts, all earthly life ends in death affect the way we live?
When I was young, my mother always countered my complaining with a maxim, Life is short and then you die. Today, forcing young people to face such an unpleasant thought might be considered abusive. But I didn’t think of it that way. My mother’s words gave me a perspective that has carried me through life. In the eternal scheme of things, is whatever absorbs your attention and gives you no peace worth your time?
In an examination of the book of Ecclesiastes, David Gibson addresses the issue of facing death. He steps us through Ecclesiastes and clears up some of the misconceptions we have about the text. Life is not meaningless. In the context that Gibson provides, eat, drink and be merry is not a consolation, it is a command.
Gibson offers contemporary applications of the ancient rumination on the life well lived. Among my favorites is, “Death is coming. So do your bucket list–not your to-do list.” This is not cheap advice. Such thinking involves a paradigm shift that moves our focus away from addictive behaviors to joy-filled living.
A careful reading of the Wisdom books of the Bible, especially Ecclesiastes, gives a prescription for the anxiety that plagues mankind. Distracting ourselves until the day we die is an unhappy business. Delving deeply into the mysteries of life, making wise decisions early in the game that bring a measure of peace at the end–these are the activities that will allow us to look at our faces in the mirror without flinching.
© Sydney Avey