In this collection of epistolary essays, Nagle ruminates on a meaningful, enjoyable life, gradually accreting pearls of wisdom.
At 85 years old, Nagle found himself feeling “like a library, full of practical information,” wishing he could be to his grandchildren “what my own grandfather had been to me: a mentor and source of practical wisdom about living.” Here, he has set that wisdom to the page with hearty results. There’s much food for thought, and what readers disagree with may ignite a desire to frame their own notions. Readers will find themselves nodding along with Nagle’s dictum, “Living in a pretend external world is difficult. Living in a pretend inner world is madness.” They may, perhaps, be attracted to his suggestion that “our life is shaped by our mind, for we become what we think.” Nagle’s soothing, folksy voice makes plain the power of greed, the importance of sleep and the devastation of stress. He provides a critique of income disparity—“the structure of government is not the rule of…those who can vote…it is now effectively based on capitalism”—before moving onto more practical discussions, such as how to bank a fire. He also touches on the evolution and migration of the soul. Autobiographical material is inserted when appropriate; there are wonderfully evocative scenes of working at the circus and the horse-drawn milk wagons of his youth (“Rankin Dairy used rubber shoes on their horses, but that only made the sound of their hooves striking the pavement more distinctive.”). He closes with a number of essays on the importance of a healthy lifestyle, but like the rest of the book, there’s nothing insistent or admonitory. This collection of wisdom is simply drawn from his life—humbly offered, commonsensical, all of it deeply mulled.
Thoughtful, well-intended grandfatherly advice, well worth a bent ear.