Essays are not what they once were in American literature. The brave soul who writes them today will find a field of tumbleweeds as likely his only audience. More common is the anecdotal, vignette sort of prose that gets hawked in the self-help sections or bottled up in memoirs. But one of my favorite courses in college was the course I took on Essays. Not only did we get to read them, but we also wrote them, and I fell in love with the format.
Mercy and Truth, is just such an endeavor. It is a high sailing ship in a sea of battleships and submarines, a hand-carved statuette in a warehouse of “made in China” material. It might be thought by some as a devotional, but that is only because those clog the bookshelves in modern publishing and the rare, endangered species of the essay exists these days only as a byword or an ancient fable. But the great thing about essays, and the great thing about this book, is that they slice life with a microscope lens and show you just how much you’ve been missing in the 30,000 foot, disconnected and dis-integreated life you’ve been living.
A different trail
The essays are grouped together loosely based on topic, ranging from character to government to poetry. It’s a grab bag of wisdom and thoughtful reflection told from the perspective of a man of years and varied experiences. Though the footsteps will be along a different trail from your own, you are likely to find yourself reflecting on your own past experiences as he speaks of mentors, callings, hard work, missed opportunities, and lessons learned. At the end of the day, this book is really just a mirror of our humanity, filtered through the window of a single life. It will help you stop and think and who among us does not need a little more of that in their lives? More than that, it will challenge you to think deeply and to think well about what matters most in life.
This book deserves to be read by everyone. No matter your age, you will be the richer for listening to the musings of an ancient educator.