I unpacked many things while reading this book. Put ideas of my faith on the ground in front of me, threw in memories of science, held patience tucked away in my pocket, as the whispy thoughts of that man I felt meant for swirled in the air around me.
The Story of B took me some time to settle into, like talking yourself into your homework or cleaning your room, so stick with it. Surface level set up for you is that F. Jared Obsorne (a Roman Catholic Priest) is sent to report on the one they call B so as to investigate him as the antichrist and report back on the messages B is spreading that threaten the human race. It takes him a while to find B, but he enters the circle and begins learning from him. At some point, early on in the story, we learn that B stands for blasphemer. But it’s more than that. B is the alleged antichrist. B is always in danger. B is a target. B is the conflicting ideas. B is the one providing lectures, spreading ideas that lift the veil on what people have believed for longer than they’ve been alive. At some point B shifts.
I can’t quite remember when, but eventually, the story pulled me deeper. Although I believe in Jesus, the idea of religion is challenging for me at times. In the Story of B, there is a moment, where a summary of Salvationist religions is given, with the main running theme being that salvation is not something you can do for another and that your sole responsibility is to your salvation, whether it is a success or failure doesn’t matter as much as your obligation to it. I felt immense comfort at the simplicity of it. It also felt nice to see religion presented as a construct, while that would bother many Christians I know, I felt so connected knowing this is something that has been developed over time.
While reading B, one day I read Ecclesiastes and also felt so much peace. I saw numerous connections and realized how badly I want to believe in many things. I felt liberated by the “meaningless” life and held cradled in the arms of the things we’ve given meaning to. I can’t deny those moments of enlightenment or the quiet sigh of reading about how Shirin pats the earth in front of her and says, “here,” in that, “this is where storytelling began.”
The truth is it’s hard to read such a ground breaking book and not feel things shift around inside of you. I mean, how do you deal with the fact that we are not humanity. The realization of reading, “Because we imagine that we are what humanity was divinely destined to become, we assume that our prehistoric ancestors were trying to be us but just lacked the tools and techniques to succeed.” I had never considered how much we put ourselves above history, above our beginnings, above tribes, and think that because we have rules and laws and all of these things that we made up, we are somehow better.
I found myself identifying strongly with the protagonist, Fr. Jared Osborne on the ways this new knowledge collides with faith. The book jumps between one on one teachings Jared has with B and lectures. I personally loved being taken from a conversation, to the back of the book to read a lecture directly from B. Similarly to Ishmael, there is a twist that changes the course of the protagonist’s experience. It adds urgency and again, leaves the reader a little heartbroken.
I urge everyone to try to read this book. Regardless of religious background, it will move you. It is one of those books you need to read. You will feel empowered, maybe even changed by the authentic and earnest study of the things we have told ourselves about ourselves for thousands of years.
It’s amazing to me the things people measure out their lives in. For me it is books. This post is a part of a series of careful reflection in homage to the best books I have ever read.