East of Eden

Author: John Steinbeck

Finished Reading: June 08, 2023

Number of Pages: 704

Steinbeck's East of Eden made me appreciate living in this part of the world even more! I write this as I watch the golden sun descending in the sweet summer air. I find it so fascinating that the events in this book took place less than 100 miles from where I live and the the fact that the book isn't entirely fiction (as far as Steinbeck's own upbringing) makes it even better! Going into summer break, I knew I wanted to spend more time outdoors and already had immense appreciation for the elements. East of Eden not only made me even more appreciative of the natural world but it also reminded me to be more mindful, whether that means leaving my phone at home or frequently pausing rather than racing to the summit or finish line.

I also give this so many brownie points for having a reference to Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. Although I'm an atheist and don't believe in the many references to higher powers in the book, I still took away many bits of wisdom that guide who I am today.

[Lee] lifted the breadbox and took out a tiny volume bound in leather, and the gold tooling was almost completely worn away—The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius in English translation.

Lee wiped his steel-rimmed spectacles on a dish towel. He opened the book and leafed through. And he smiled to himself, consciously searching for reassurance.

He read slowly, moving his lips over the words. “Everything is only for a day, both that which remembers and that which is remembered.

“Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the universe loves nothing so much as to change things which are and to make new things like them. For everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be.”

Lee glanced down the page. “Thou wilt die soon and thou are not yet simple nor free from perturbations, nor without suspicion of being hurt by external things, nor kindly disposed towards all; nor dost thou yet place wisdom only in acting justly.”

Lee looked up from the page, and he answered the book as he would answer one of his ancient relatives. “That is true,” he said. “It’s very hard. I’m sorry. But don’t forget that you also say, ‘Always run the short way and the short way is the natural’—don’t forget that.” He let the pages slip past his fingers to the fly leaf where was written with a broad carpenter’s pencil, “Sam’l Hamilton.”

Suddenly Lee felt good. He wondered whether Sam’l Hamilton had ever missed his book or known who stole it. It had seemed to Lee the only clean pure way was to steal it. And he still felt good about it. His fingers caressed the smooth leather of the binding as he took it back and slipped it under the breadbox. He said to himself, “But of course he knew who took it. Who else would have stolen Marcus Aurelius?” He went into the sitting room and pulled a chair near to the sleeping Adam.

The fact that Lee was my favorite character in the novel makes this even better on so many different levels! Even if some of these ideas are rooted in a divine being and fate, skeptics or nonbelievers can still internalize our impermanence and strive to make the most of our time on this pale blue dot.