The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life by Frederick Buechner
I recently finished a newly released title by Frederick Buechner titled The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life. I received two newly released books at the same time, both by Buechner, and I reviewed the other book, A Crazy, Holy Grace, here on my blog a couple of days ago.
This book is mostly comprised of unpublished 1987 Norton and 1990 Laity Lodge lectures, so from that perspective, the material is new. He still talks about his father’s death, a subject which comes up in these pages as well as in his other works.
As in A Crazy, Holy Grace, the book is divided into three sections. Part 1 is titled “Stop, Look, and Listen for God.” Part 2 is called “Listening for God in the Stories We Tell.” Part 3 is titled “Telling the Truth.”
In the first chapter, Buechner writes about his decision while at seminary to write books and not be a regular church minister, and then he goes on to describe haiku. Haiku does what so much of literature does not do– and I found that fascinating. Haiku frames a single moment in minimal words, to help us experience, feel, and see that framed moment. “Literature, before it is saying anything else, is saying, Be mindful,” Buechner writes.
He also says, “It enables you to escape… as long as you’re grasped by it—the confines of being you.” He goes on to discuss not only writing but also painting and music and to exhort his readers to really pay attention.
In Part Two, Chapter 3, Buechner describes a story with Maya Angelou and a wonderful story of friendship and reconciliation that she shared and which occurred with another participant when she was speaking in the same venue and event where he was also speaking.
In Part Three, Buechner shares a little bit about his time in Bermuda as a child, and also talks about his mother. In the last few chapters, he shares how he ended up going to church and deciding to attend seminary (which seemed such a compulsive decision, the way he describes it). He tells how he visited the minister who he had been listening to, and shared how he had been personally affected by Christ. He had been affected so much, he says, the response had to be also huge: which for him meant going to seminary. The minister he visited tried to dissuade Buechner in that meeting. But during that meeting itself, the minister took his keys and drove Buecher to a seminary himself to show him around, and that is where Frederick Beuchner attended seminary where he did.
Buechner has a wonderful conversational style in his writing; you feel as if he is talking to you. I wonder what it was like listening to these lectures in person as opposed to reading them.
I enjoy reading Buechner, but I also would like to see some words of connection in between the lectures which were joined together for this book (and also the other one, A Crazy, Holy Grace.) I am sure a great deal of thought and effort went into these compilations, and I realize that Frederick Buechner is not writing new material, which is understandable. But, it would have helped, in my opinion. Yet, on the other hand- it’s Frederick Buechner and I do enjoy his material, as well as other readers out there. I am sure I am among many others who are happy to read any new material that might be published.
The book was published by Zondervan and was released in October 2017. I will be publishing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads as well.
*Note: I received an advance copy of this book from Handlebar Publishing in exchange for an honest review.