A Homage….

As many of you already know Harper Lee passed away on Friday, 19th Feb at the age of 89. I cannot even begin to describe the debt I owe to Ms. Lee and her fabled book for making me what I am and forcing me to confront truths even when I did not want to. I do not care about her second and more controversial publication, Go Set a Watchman and I do not care about how she has originally intended to portray Atticus. What I do not know is that she alone or in collaboration with someone gave us one of the most humane characters possible and for those of us who took her book to the heart, forced us to look beyond the obvious. I cannot even begin to eulogize about how magnificent or how life changing her writing was. I have in past several times referred to this book and its impact on me and I have often posted about it several time (for instance here and here and here…I think you get my point). Needless to say that To Kill a Mockingbird had a profound impact on me when I first read it at the age of 15 and it still moves me every time I re-visit the book and for me is a novel that defined who I am. I quote from one my old posts to just give you a hint of what this book did to my mind – “This book may not have defined my social or political mores when I was 14. But it did go a long way in making me an egalitarian, an advocating liberalist who believes in equality for all and standing up for what you believe in no matter what the cost. In my small way, I find at times speaking up for what right may cost you something – relationship, money, promotion. But this book made me understand one very important kernel of truth when very young – unless I can look myself in the eye, nothing is worth it!”  I even named part of my blog from this book.

What can I  possibly write to do justice to  the kind of wisdom the book brought forth? I cannot  and decide to let Ms. Lee do the taking instead.  I want to share those epoch moments from the book, which remain life changing to me. These quotes seem even more fitting now as intolerance and divisions across religion and race are bursting forth practically in all nations, dividing us on false fault lines and taking our attention away from real issues, like poverty, climate and other human security issues.

  1. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience
  2. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.
  3. I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what
  4. People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for
  5. I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks

RIP Ms. Lee! You helped many of us become better humans.

 

The most inspiring them of all…

I know I have to still write about Charles Dicken’s Great Expectation and I promise I will do it this week for sure. But while I drown myself in my other life, aka, the Project Manager, this Meme, I just could not let go! So Classic Club’s 2013 July Meme is –

What classic book has changed your view on life, social mores, political views, or religion?

I was 14 when I read this book – a very impressionable age and this book was way beyond the 14 years old reader – it had rape, violence, racial discrimination and per Wikipedia, destruction of innocence (though I have never felt that; to me it was more of coming of age!). So what book was this when all my peers were reading Ann of Green Gables? It was called – To Kill a Mockingbird. And I am darn glad that I read it and that too when I was 14!

To Kill a Mockingbird is more than an everyday story of fighting for the rights of less privileged. It’s more than a story of black versus white, rich versus poor! It’s a story of moral courage and about being brave when you are most afraid (Yes! I know George R R Martin wrote that in Games of Throne, but I am really talking about the principle of the thing!). The book is filled with acts of honor and valor even when they count for nothing. For instance when Atticus forces Jem to read to Mrs. Dubose because she is dying, though she has done nothing to deserve such kindness.  It’s about winning people over through bravery and honest conduct. It is about winning, when you have lost everything! It’s about compassion, not pity for your fellow beings – my favorite motto in the world is what Atticus says to Scout “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb around in his skin and walk around in it”. All this while, the book remains warm, humorous and very personal. There are everyday events out of our daily life – again one of the parts that I relate to most is when Scout talks about her reading – she could not recollect when she had not read with Atticus. I know the feeling, like I said before; I never realized when my father’s moving fingers over the words became my own to read.

This book may not have defined my social or political mores when I was 14. But it did go a long way in making me an egalitarian advocating liberalist who believes in equality for all and standing up for what you belive in no matter what the cost. In my small way, I find at times speaking up for what right may cost you something – relationship, money, promotion. But this book made me understand one very important kernel of truth when very young – unless I can look myself in the eye, nothing is worth it!

Viva Ms. Harper Lee. You wrote only one book, but boy! That book challenged our thoughts and forced many to reckon with what they thought was right and what was actually right! It gave impetus to the Civil Rights Movement and continues to inspire generations of lawyers and humanitarians!

P.S. now you know where the “Mockingbirds” in my blog’s name came from!