Byron's Babbles

The Centrifuge That Is Life

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Every so often a book comes along that makes me reflect on many aspects of my own life. This great book, Rules Of Civility by Amor Towles, did that for me. I had pages of notes and quotes when I was done reading. Additionally, I had blog posts that were inspired by Rules of Civility – Visions & Revisions and What Do You Look Forward To?. This book brilliantly took the reader back to Manhattan in 1938, where authentic, human characters inhabit a playground that comes alive with the manners of a society on the verge of radical upheaval. George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Descent Behavior were weaved into the book throughout and were actually all listed at the end of the book.

At the end of the book we realize we’ve had a look back from the protagonist, Katey Kontent’s, 1966 perspective and that we have experienced all the twists and turns of the characters’ lives. This made me think of all twists and turns in my own life and the non-linear nature of our lives. One of my favorite quotes in the book is, “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Sometimes, it sure seems that’s what life intends. After all, it’s basically like a centrifuge that spins every few years casting proximate bodies in disparate directions. And when the spinning stops, almost before we can catch our breath, life crowds us with a calendar of new concerns.” I thought about all the people who have come and gone in my own life and those that have come and gone and come back. This also made me think about the peoples’ live I have come and gone from. What influence were they on what the portrait, that is my life, looks like today? What influence have I had on others’ portraits?

As Shakespeare taught us, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.” This book was a powerful reminder that people come into our lives and we enter other peoples lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Also, as a person who believes we should create space in our lives for serendipity, I think about the chance meetings of people who have then become influential in my life. What if characters in the book had shown up at a bar on a different night? Think of all the “what ifs…?” in your own life. When we treat every encounter as a chance to impact, influence, or inspire we bring purpose to our lives. Most people that enter our lives are seasonal and they’re with us for a reason. Once that reason is fulfilled life has a way of moving them on.



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