I’ve wanted to read the book A Severe Mercy for a long time. Okay, maybe like 2 months. But I really wanted to read it. It’s kind of random, but the book seems to be a modern classic. C.S. Lewis is loosely connected…are you surprised I was interested? But actually, he’s not the reason. Anyway, on the back of my copy it says that A Severe Mercy is about “Sheldon ‘Van’ Vanauken and Jean ‘Davy’ Vanauken [who] were lucky enough to discover that radiant love so often written of in books, so seldom found in real life.”
This is the first of at least a few posts that I will surely publish as I read and reflect on this book, but man, this couple is…unique.
I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately. Probably because I don’t have much of it. Now that I’m paying rent (and wondering how I’ll pay for grad school in the Fall) I’ve gotten serious about budgeting. I’m naturally frugal, but now I’m taking out cash right after I get my paycheck and allotting a specific amount to every area of spending. Like a real live grown-up! But not having money means not having things, and not having things makes you think about how much you really need them, and whether you need them at all.
And that’s where A Severe Mercy comes in. One night, early in their relationship, they are discussing (in an interlude during a makeout session, mind you) what might divide lovers and conquer love. They decided that stuff can get in the way; possessions. At such a young age, they were wise enough to see that when you over-value what you own, it ends up owning you. They vowed to live free of such burdens, thus buying cheap stuff that they won’t mind seeing broken or stolen or scratched. The funny thing is, they really followed through with this idea. Van recalls the time when they got their first brand new car, which they proceeded to pound “severely with a hammer to make it comfortably dented.” What!? My first thought was, I do not know anybody who would do such a thing. My next thought was, I wish I were that free. Not just free from possessions, but free from conformity to the thought patterns of this world, that say, “You must have many possessions, and you must guard them with your life, and you must mourn greatly if something happens to them!”
Maybe reading this book will help me as I try to shake loose the desire for more more more in the midst of the more culture in L.A. But it also might help me daydream too much about an idyllic relationship spent cavorting around islands on a yacht. Omitting, of course, the tragic ending.