As I mentioned in my book list email, The Covenant of Water, by Abraham Verghese, came as a strong recommendation from a couple friends. Set in India, this book is a multi-generational story, of one family’s struggle to make sense of the complexities of life – the absolute joys and the gut-wrenching sorrows. 

Last year I reviewed a book called Stolen Focus, by Johan Hari (a book I highly recommend). He made the following statement, specifically about reading novels.

“Reading creates a unique form of consciousness that directs attention outward…. Exposing yourself to complex stories about the inner lives of others, over time, repatterns your consciousness, making you more perceptive, more open, and more empathetic.”

Both friends that I reached out to shared similar thoughts – it’s a story of decisions and consequences – and the connection across time of those decisions. Funny enough, that particular thought eluded me (maybe I’m not the right person writing a blog!)

As I looked further into this concept I was reminded of a quote from the book that summarizes this idea:

“The water she first stepped into minutes ago is long gone, and yet it is here, past and present and future inexorably coupled, like time made incarnate. This is the covenant of water: that they’re all linked inescapably by their acts of commission and omission, and no one stands alone.”

Have you ever stopped to think about the far-reaching consequences of your decisions? That we are all interconnected, past and present, by innumerable decisions made across time? The water on this earth circulates continuously, a source of life on our planet. It ties us together in our human experience. AND… No one stands alone.

How could the world look differently if we saw and accepted one another just because we are human? If our joys and sorrows linked us together, rather than drive us apart?

How would your life look differently if you could do that with everyone you come in contact with? What if we could see each other as imperfect people doing the best we can with the decisions made in the past and the consequences that await us in the future. I think it would give us greater compassion for those who came before us, and greater hope for those who will follow after.

When I think of making decisions, my mind immediately turns to Oliver Burkeman’s discussion in his book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (I wrote about it here). When we make a decision, we cut off all possibilities and need to commit to our choice. In doing so, we eliminate the fear of missing out, and are able to give our full selves to that path. We find greater joy in living in the present and embrace the concept of equanimity – that everything is exactly how it’s supposed to be.

Rather than make us fearful for the choices we make, we might become more deliberate. Less selfish. More caring. We find the power to embrace our journey

One more idea from the book: Great things can come out of poor decisions. Your future is not set in stone.

Another thing: The book is beautifully written. I think he did a phenomenal job of transporting the reader to India. So many beautiful insights of Indian culture of which I am quite ignorant.

One potential negative. This book is a big commitment – Thirty hours on audiobook (though very tolerable at faster speed), or over 700 pages. The one complaint I did read in reviews was that it was just too long and moved too slowly. I’ll admit, there were a few sections where I lost focus, the criticism could be valid.