A self-styled “children’s book for adults” about finding contentment in the world.
Weill’s big, ornately produced debut opens with an elementary restatement of the core philosophical outlook of 18th-century Italian Jewish mystic Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto) about the essential oneness of all creation and how existence is a constant journey to re-attain the oneness of creation’s beginning. In bright, simple watercolors (one image per page, with plenty of white space), Weill follows a central visual character—a man in a suit and hat whose face is a blur—through a series of vignettes, some purely conceptual (walking up a graph of life events partitioned like a piece of modern art), others very concrete (waiting at train stations, sitting at the seaside, etc.), while the narrative—generally one line per illustration—elaborates on Weill’s concept of how individuals find peace through introspection: “Well-being is generated not from the outside but from inside.” Each of the illustrations suggests a separate tale, and this fits neatly with Weill’s idea that each person’s life journey is essentially a collection of such tales. “We organize our circumstances into stories,” he writes, “stories we pick up along the way.” Through darker imagery (including one image of Auschwitz and another of the 9/11 attack), the author references life’s obstacles, and Weill contends that all such obstacles can be overcome with inner resources: “When we lose touch with well-being, joy seems to depend on circumstances, on what happens outside of us.” Introspection continues to be the key: “When we become aware of our own thinking,” he writes, “we awaken.” The book’s simplicity of insight is well-matched by its impressive production quality; the pages are thick and heavy, meant to convey the impression of timeless wisdom. As with most modern books on such weighty themes, Weill’s narration more often than not resorts to vague generalities to move its lessons forward. Readers may feel encouraged to read their own life experiences into these stark images, using Weill’s paintings like spiritual Rorschach blots. What wisdom or reassurance they draw from such an exercise will depend on what they put into it.
A beautifully crafted, uplifting meditation on the inner, personal dimensions of hope.