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How to Pay to Attention to What Really Matters

Photo credit to Danielle Tait

“Listen” is the final line of Ruth Ozeki’s latest novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness, and a succinct summary of one of the key themes that is present in all of her works. How well do we—as a society—listen to one another and to our world? What voices do we hear? What do we choose to listen to? And, if we listened more closely and carefully, how might that shape or even positively change our world?

Ms. Ozeki, our upcoming and final CommunityEd speaker for the year has a lot to say about many relevant topics including physical and mental health, consumerism, climate change, parent-child relationships, grieving and loss—and ultimately how significant relationships in our lives can lead to much-needed healing. 

In addition to being a novelist, Ozeki is a  Zen Buddhist priest and a creative writing professor at Smith College. She published her first book, My Year of Meats, in 1989 and was widely lauded for her 2013 novel, A Tale for the Time Being—short-listed for the Booker prize. 
Her most recent novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness, shares the story of Middle Schooler Benny Oh, who is grieving the loss of his beloved father. Compounding his struggle, Benny begins to hear voices from inanimate objects around him and the roar becomes overwhelming. As he seeks to cope with the clamor, Benny finds guidance and support where he least expects it—from a cast of eccentric characters and from a powerful book! The novel begins with these lines: “A book must start somewhere. One brave letter must volunteer to go first, laying itself on the line in an act of faith, from which a word takes heart and follows, drawing a sentence into its wake…”

Both of Ozeki's recent novels focus on adolescents who are struggling mentally, with family and with society. They are compelling narratives about how stories shape, define and even guide us, sometimes when we are not even aware. 

Please join our webinar with Ruth Ozeki on March 30. You are sure to be entertained and maybe even enlightened. 

Resources for review: 
NY Times Book Review: “Ruth Ozeki’s Borgesian, Zen Buddhist Parable of Consumerism”
Interview with Ezra Klein: “What we Gain by Enchanting the Objects in our Lives” 


Crystal Land                                                   Saya McKenna
Head of School                                               Special Projects Administrator