(What follows is not a review of the book in question. Not really.)
In my obsessiveness, I have taken to tracking everything. How many words I write per day, the exercises I do, the food I eat (down to the fucking gram), how work went, the jobs I have applied to (with notes), how my various studies are going, good habits, bad ones, everything. It’s tracked between notebooks and spreadsheets. My sanity seems to be linked to my organization, or at least that is what I tell myself. Largely, it’s part of a self-improvement that is not bearing all that much fruit. Primarily this blog is a part of that, as it is a way of documenting the works I read and trying to engage with them in a meaningful ways. I keep the reviews short because I have shit to do. As a project, it has an OK hit rate. There are books here that I do not think I would have appreciated as much had I not obliged myself to sit down and write about them. And then there are others that, despite having written about 500 words on them, they are completely gone from my mind.
In all my obsessiveness, I still have not gotten into the habit of writing down what provoked me to certain books. Here is a case in point: I have no idea how I got it into my head to read this. I don’t know how I first encountered it, or why it made the list. I am hoping there was a better reason than ‘this is Carl Sagan’s daughter’ or ‘I think it is a nice title’. Even ‘some bloke on a podcast recommended it’ would be a better excuse. But frankly, I have no recollection. To make matters worse, I didn’t have a recollection of that when I read it. That was the real problem in all this. If this book came with a recommendation to a certain end, I could not recall it while I was reading the book.
For Small Creatures Such as We is a very personal book, diving into how Sasha Sagan reconciles her secularism with an ancestry that is deeply embedded with a religion. There is also a lot in it about her father and mother, and the lessons she learned from them, and how she copes with their loss. The book touches upon the notion of a sort of secular humanist spirituality, about sort of seeing the awe and wonder of life without ascribing to it a higher meaning rooted in divinity.
For what it is, it’s fine. But it is nothing I needed in my life. It is something I have been beyond needing longer than the existence of this book. I may be a shambles with a shit ton of personal problems, but notions of meaning and existentialism are not among them. I am ok with philosophical nihilism and its implications. I solved that for myself a decade ago, oddly enough thanks to a reading of a series of books of which The Demon-Haunted World was one.
And this brings me back to the question at the top. Why did I read this? It wasn’t bad in any way, but it just wasn’t the book I needed at the time of my reading it. Should you be struggling giving yourself meaning in a meaning-less universe, give it a whirl. I, on the other hand, simply need to get better at being a little more selective with my reading.