Toilet Paper For The Soul (Book Of Bob 1)

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What a timely message!

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More than ever, we need to love our neighbors like Jesus did. Listen to this devotion out loud on the blog with Bob narrating! It was a lawyer like me who tried to set up Jesus. This lawyer asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was.

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I think he was looking for a plan, but Jesus told him about his purpose instead. He said it was to love God with all his heart and soul and mind. Then in the next breath, Jesus gave the lawyer some unsolicited but practical advice. Jesus told him he should love his neighbors just like he loved himself. Sometimes we see these as two separate ideas, but Jesus saw loving God and loving our neighbors as one inseparable mandate. No one expects us to love them flawlessly, but we can love them fearlessly, furiously, and unreasonably.

Each of us is surrounded every day by our neighbors. They play high school football and deliver the mail.

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They live on the streets and design our bridges. They go to seminaries and live in prisons.

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They govern us and they bother us. He made a whole world of neighbors. We call it earth, but God just calls it a really big neighborhood. What often keeps us from loving our neighbors is fear of what will happen if we do. Our parade starts at the cul-de-sac at the end of our block and ends at our front yard. Our whole family wakes up early every year, and we blow up over a thousand helium balloons. Before we start taking the balloons out of the house, we give thanks for our neighbors and for the privilege of doing life with them. Our first year, there were only eight of us standing at the beginning of the parade route.

We stood together at the end of the cul-de-sac, trying to look like a parade. Now there are probably four or five hundred people who come each year. Kids pull wagons full of stuffed animals and pet goldfish. There are no fancy floats; bicycles with baseball cards in the spokes are the norm. Just throw them a parade. Engage them. Delight in them. Throw a party for them. When joy is a habit, love is a reflex. This cuts down on the preparation time.

Being picked as the queen is a big deal in our neighborhood. Carol got the nod one year. I have an old Harley-Davidson motorcycle with a sidecar.


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That year, I put Carol in the sidecar and gave her a ride. She was the hit of the parade because all the neighbors knew about the cancer she had been staring down. Carol, elegant as always, waved to everyone, and they waved back.


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Just before we got to the end of the parade route, Carol turned to me and took a deep, thought-filled breath. Me too. Seven months later, our family had just returned from a trip out of the country. I was with my son Richard when we got the news Carol had gone back into the hospital for another operation. We jumped in the car and hurried to be with her. A somber stillness filled the room as we entered. Carol was propped up in her bed by pillows. Her head was leaned back toward the ceiling. Her eyes were closed, and her hands were folded. The doctor had just told Carol she was going to die.

We sat on the bed together, had a good cry, and then we talked about balloons and parades and eternity and Jesus. Not just the act. And you did. From all this, a question emerges. What made Knausgaard a chronicler of the lavatory side of life? Is it a puerile sense of humor? An expression of latent coprophilia? Writing therapy for a case of coprophobia? Residual trauma from childhood encopresis? One would need more data to make an assessment.

A related question—Why are readers struck by these scenes?

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In Book Three of My Struggle , a young Karl Ove and a friend defecate in the woods after watching two men shoot rats in a garbage dump. Two years ago, Knausgaard published Sjelens Amerika , or The America of the Soul , an as-yet untranslated collection of eighteen essays he wrote between and Taking on subjects as disparate as Cindy Sherman and Knut Hamsun, he outlines his thinking on art and literature, a source of much internal inconsistency and contradiction in My Struggle.

Because he has a tendency to return to certain core subjects—in his nonfiction as in his fiction—much of Sjelens Amerika reads like a My Struggle companion, clarifying what in the novels is opaque. But the form of the essay forces him to sharpen his thinking. The results are elucidating—even, it turns out, regarding his thoughts on shit.