own your slippers.

One of my goals for this year as a JV has always been to do a lot of reading. While I have only begun to scratch the surface so far of all of the books I want to read, my most recent book–Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese–provided a lot of wonderful food for thought. Here is one of my favorite passages from Cutting For Stone:

Ghosh was touched. He lay in the center, and we huddled on either side. Hema sat at the foot of our bed.

“In prison, lights were out by eight o’clock. We’d each tell a story. That was our entertainment. I told stories from the books we read to you in this room. One of my cell mates, a merchant, Tawfig—he would tell the Abu Kassem story.”

It was a tale well known to children all over Africa: Abu Kassem, a miserly Baghdad merchant, had held on to his battered, much repaired pair of slippers even though they were objects of derision. At last, even he couldn’t stomach the sight of them. But his every attempt to get rid of the slippers ended in disaster: when he tossed them out of his window they landed on the head of a pregnant woman who miscarried, and Abu Kassem was thrown in jail; when he dropped them in the canal, the slippers choked off the main drain and caused flooding, and off Abu Kassem went to jail…

“One night when Tawfig finished, another prisoner, a quiet, dignified old man said, ‘Abu Kassem might as well build a special room for his slippers. Why try to lose them? He’ll never escape.’ The old man laughed, and he seemed happy when he said that. That night the old man died in his sleep.

[…]

“The following night, we couldn’t wait to talk about Abu Kassem. We all saw it the same way. The old man was right. The slippers in the story mean that everything you see and do and touch, every seed you sow, or don’t sow, becomes part of your destiny…”

[…]

Ghosh sighed. “I hope one day you see this as clearly as I did in Kerchele. The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”

P.S. On a similar note, I’m newly obsessed with Good Reads, so if you care to see what I read over the course of this year, you can follow that here.

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