Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Review: The Ragged Edge of Silence

It's actually kind of appropriate that I write this review on Tisha B'Av - a day when my normal routine is turned upside down, and obvious essentials such and drinking are gone without.

See, The Ragged Edge of Silence is the story of John Francis turning his own life upside down. In his case, he stops riding in cars and speaking. He does the former for 21 years and the latter for 17.

17 years without saying a word. I can't go 17 minutes. I may have trouble going 17 seconds. I simply can't imagine it.

What's even more interesting is that this vow of silence and refusal to use cars doesn't lead to a private life. On the contrary, the key part of Francis' story is that he takes these limitations and proudly marches out into the world with them. Literally.

Among other accomplishments, he walks the breadth of the US. Simply walking that distance would be an amazing feat. But, to not be able to speak along the way - it just boggles the mind. Questions as simple as, "where's the next town?" or "do you know where I can find water?" are something he'd have to mime, sign or as a last ditch effort, write down.

For not speaking, he does a heck of a lot of communicating. But, he invented this vow and lifestyle, so I suppose he can make up whatever rules he wants.

As books go, I found myself eager to see how Francis' next adventure was going to turn out. Say, how was he going to tackle college or TA'ing a class, if he can't speak? So, as stories go, it did indeed have me hooked.

I suppose the ultimate question is this: was John Francis better off for going 17 years without speaking? He's got a PhD, a family and has had amazing adventures. So, on the surface, it looks like it. Still, you won't find me following in his footsteps. Still, on a day like today, when life seems limiting I'd like to think I can use Francis' life as a reminder and an example that physical limitations may be used to open doors, not just close them.

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