The Remains of the Day

via Creative Commons

Sometimes you finish a book with tears in your eyes and you’re not sure if it’s because it’s over, or because of the way it ended, or because of a personal connection. I recently read the classic “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro and I think all three of those applied.

If you haven’t read this book (or seen the movie, which was nominated for eight Oscars), don’t worry. This post will not give away the plot. I will share three takeaways from this book, which would have been helpful for me to remind myself regardless.

  1. Don’t wait to express your feelings and thoughts to those who matter most to you. “The remains of the day”, which the book uses to speak of the later years of your life, will be much sweeter if you are not looking back at what you should have said. Just as important, you need to make sure you are not walled off to your feelings, if indeed you are going to share them.
  2. Excellence at your craft is important and can help shape the tenor of your life. This excellence, though, should not come at the expense of relationships. Your craft may provide rich rewards — financially, aesthetically, and artistically — but it cannot love you back in the same way as another person. When your career or even your avocation pulls you in a particular direction, you need to make sure you are not leaving behind someone you love, someone who you will never replace.
  3. Loyalty is a beautiful virtue but it, too, has its costs. Consider whether the person to whom you are being loyal deserves your loyalty. If, for example, you are being more loyal to the growth and development of someone than the person is, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
    On this last point, an analogy: When I’m in barre class, the instructor will sometimes come over to correct my form. If I, myself, am not interested in improving my form, she is wasting her time. No matter how much she might care about me as a student, she would be better off to work on the form of someone who is actually trying to get better.

Whether it is the final minutes of the day or the final years of a life, you will find more beauty if it is spent with another with whom you’ve shared your heart.

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