Hey there! What’s up, readers?
Man, how long has it been since I’ve written a book review and posted it on Goodreads and this blog?
*checks pasts posts*
March 29, 2017.
So about… six months? That’s still a long time.
Anyway, I know I said that I wouldn’t be posting book reviews to this blog way back when, but this book is special, you guys. And I wanted to share my thoughts with you about it.
It’s also come to my attention that although I’ve said that I won’t be doing Monday Musings or Writing Wednesday posts on this blog in favor of focusing on my fiction, I keep coming back to this blog and posting posts on such topics, regardless.
And while some of you might view that as hypocritical (or maybe it’s just me and my paranoia again), I simply find it interesting to share my thoughts with the whole wide world. Or perhaps the sadist in me likes having you as a captive audience, or perhaps bloggers are all sadists who loving having captive audiences.
I don’t know. I’m still figuring out things as I go. In the meantime, I don’t expect these types of posts to become a regular thing. If I have something I want to share, I’ll share it. I’ll keep posting flash fiction in the meantime, and I hope that you’re continuing to enjoy the ride.
Anyhow, let’s get to The Four Agreements, shall we?
According to Goodreads, I read quite a bit of self-help and how-to books. Whether on the craft of writing or not, I seem to enjoy reading books that help me get better at a craft or help me become a better person. Yet, for all the self help and how-to books I’ve read, I’ve noticed that I tend to forget quite a bit of their teachings, and it feels like I’m left at square one.
Is the reason for this because I’m reading too fast and not soaking the material in? Probably. Could it be that I’m just distracted by day-to-day events, reminiscences about the past, and anxieties about the future? This is a likely reason as well.
In both cases, I am human. I am fallible. I can’t expect to have a photographic memory and remember everything I’ve ever read in a year.
But reading a self-help or craft book is a two-way proposition. The reader most certainly has to be involved, but the narrator/author of the book has to be involved just as well. If they give you a bunch of worksheets, acronyms, and diagrams without first assessing what’s going wrong in your core, no real change can take place.
Fortunately, The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz is one of the few books I’ve come across that, for me, has done precisely the opposite.
While repetitive to the point where I’d call it “fluffy” and “casual,” The Four Agreements is a decent “practical guide to personal freedom” because it reminds its readers of what I believe to be the single most important thing that you have to have in order to be the best human being possible: empathy. In the beginning of the book, Ruiz explains that humans dream while awake. Not literally, mind you, though I imagine that a few fans of The Matrix movie franchise would beg to differ and say that we are all sleeping in giant pods as batteries for an alien race.
In either case, all human beings a vision for the world — a dream that they can either make heavenly or hellish through they agreements they make with themselves, other people, society, their chosen deity, etc. Put another way, who you are, what you feel, what you believe, and how you behave make up your personality, which are in turn made up of agreements you’ve made with yourself and others in the past. If you believe you are ugly, you are ugly. If you believe that you will go to hell for committing a sin, you will go to hell. If you believe that you must be perfect in everything you do in order to please yourself and other people, then you will go about life, trying to be perfect in everything you do in order to please other people.
The trouble, elaborates Ruiz, is that sometimes, we don’t agree with the beliefs we’ve made about ourselves, but we keep acting like we believe them anyway. Logically, you know being a perfectionist is wrong and that it gets in the way of who you are and and what you want to do. But emotionally, because you’ve lived with perfectionism all your life, you slip back into old habits. You procrastinate. You berate and judge yourself for making the mistake of faltering, and then you end up being a victim of the suffering that you have created. (Ruiz actually calls these two sides in every human “Judge” and “Victim,” by the way.)
Which is why it’s important to make agreements with yourself that free you from self-criticism, envy, confusion, sadness, and anger — hence the titular Four Agreements. I won’t repeat or summarize the Four Agreements in this review; you can find them online quite easily. But what I will say is that the Four Agreements themselves are bolstered quite well with Ruiz’s philosophical/spiritual anecdotes and arguments — more so because he takes the time to explain the foundations for them quite well. Most self-help books tend to skim the surface and provide surface solutions — which is not necessarily a bad thing. If you find a wrench right when you need one, keep using that wrench.
What I am grateful for is that this book has helped put me on the path to rebuilding myself from the ground up instead of top-down. I could buy all kinds of books on how to build a business or how to lose weight and try to apply those solutions to my current situation, but doing so without taking the time to assess the core of what’s going on will be like wrapping bandages over a leg wound without cleaning and disinfecting it first. The bacteria that might already be there will still be eating at the wound and increasing the risk of infection and amputation.
Nah. I ain’t doin’ no amputation, thank you.
Also, when that disinfecting alcohol reached my wounds — when I start finding and breaking agreements with myself and making sure I honor the new ones I make, that stuff’s gonna hurt. I mean, it should, because if it hurts enough, I’ll change. If it doesn’t hurt enough, I won’t, and I’ll keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again, like