What’s in the length of a string?
Truth be told most books that I read get a quick recap and a note as to whether or not I would recommend the book. I rave about those that I love and enjoy passing them along to others to read. I politely say a book wasn’t quite my taste, while hoping to not offend the author that I know spent endless hours writing and editing. The Measure, by Nikki Erlick deserves its very own blog post. That should tell you the significance of this book. If you only read one book that I’ve talked ever-about make this the book. It’s not so much about the story (which is great), but more for the thoughts that it provokes while reading. This debut novel by Erlick will get you thinking. Quick recap about the premise of the book…everyone 22 and older receives a box at their front door. Inside they find a string and the length of the string is an indication of the length of their life.
So many thoughts- but first I have to start with to look or not to look?? How do you decide whether or not you want to know when you are going to die? Can you imagine having the chance to know when specifically death was going to come? Not how, but when. How would it alter the way in which you live your life. Would it make you live life more fully or would you be bitter if you were a “short stringer?” Would you quit your job and travel the world? Spend more time with those that you love? Perhaps be kinder to those who you knew had less time left? My first thoughts on to look or not to look are tied to my family history with Alzheimer’s. I couldn’t quite shake that thought throughout the entire book. There are of course genetic tests that can be done to determine if you have the gene for Alzheimer’s. Similar to looking at your string, you can’t unsee the results. Long string…yay life is good. Short string…why is this happening. No different with the genetic testing. No potential likelihood for Alzheimer’s a big cheer. You have the gene- changes the rest of your life. It’s easy to say that you wouldn’t allow the knowledge to consume you, but personally I just don’t know how it wouldn’t have an impact. There was a period of time when I thought I would get the testing. I’m a planner after all and would rather know than not. I could at least make plans for the future. But then there’s a huge part of me who knows that it would be looming in the back of my mind if the results weren’t favorable. So for now, I’ve opted for ignorance is bliss.
Next big thought abut the string length is also directly related to my experience with Alzheimer’s. Long string means a long life, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a long life with a good quality of life. So, is a long string that includes a period of dementia or an illness that limits your quality of life better than a short string with a higher quality of life? I would argue that a short string with a healthy, higher quality of life would be better than a long string. But I imagine there are different opinions as to quality over quantity. I vote for quality every day of the week!
In our house we are always trying to make the most of each day. My mantras for running marathons are “I run for those who can’t” and “I run today because one day I won’t be able.” I would like to think that we are making the most of every without knowing when the end might be coming. Is that not what life is all about? That’s not to say that there aren’t things you have to do before the things you want to do or that it’s fun and games all the time. But that’s also life. There are responsibilities that come with the ability to go and do and explore the world around you.
One last aside, for those who know me, I run in the morning. When I got up this morning I just had to finish The Measure. So I sat on the floor with the Ruby while the rest of the house was asleep. Until my eight year old came into the room, book in hand and asked if he could sit in my lap and read with me. So we read, in a quiet house, while I cried finishing The Measure and I can’t think of a better reason for skipping my morning run.
So I have to know…would you look or tuck your box away and continue with life as though it hadn’t arrive?