Ben Hur, my faithful companion for the past 3 months (yes I only have two more months left, I don't know whether to be elated or horrified), has bid his goodbye.
Not that he's died or anything, I've just finished reading him that's all.
I actually got used to calling him 'him', because in my head I'd go, where's Ben? I should get Ben out now. so naturally the 'he' came as well.
So. Ben Hur, by Lew Wallace, is a toga-classic set in the 1st century, mostly in Rome. Most people will have heard about or seen the chariot race, and nothing much besides that. While the race was a major highlight of the book, it's really much more than the movie scene suggests. It's an interesting work, following the Jewish Ben son of Hur, a son of Judah (of the tribe of Judah) as he battles against his childhood-friend-turned-enemy Massala, as he searches for his long lost mother and sister, as he chooses between the sensual Iras and the innocent Esther, as he forms an army for what he thinks will be the future King.
An imposing book, to be sure, and one that I read in many sittings. I usually like my books fast and furious (ie. Book binge) but this is a peruse and ponder kind of book. Especially the middle part, it kind of gave me something to chew on. I chose this book for my travels because it was labelled as a book about journeys; the parallel journeys of Ben Hur and Jesus as they pursued their goals, and, in Ben's case, struggled, discovered, fought and triumphed. If you don't like slow books then don't read this. I think you'll put it down after the first two pages. But once you get in to it, the action is quite riveting.
What I liked most about it is Ben's thought-process and how he changed along the way. I mean, the action was awesome, I love action, but character study and coming-of-age-meets-quest-story is always great. Ben had many great qualities (Lew Wallace gifted him with superior body, brains, and beauty) but he was also a thick headed idiot. Iras was obviously evil. Dude. Stay away. (sorry, spoiler) Apart from that, he had a natural and relatable struggle to discover the Christ and His real purpose.
Forgot to mention that although volume-wise it doesn't say much about Jesus, it's pretty loaded with references to the bible and theology. I think I was surprised how much. I was actually pleasantly surprised also at how much of it I agreed with. I don't often agree with a lot of the values of the books I read, to be honest! So this was nice. (I mean, I didn't agree with all of it, but the percentage was much higher). One thing I was impressed with is how Lew Wallace chose as a main plot the Jewish people's desire for an earthly king to overthrow Roman rule. I don’t hear about that very often (maybe it's just me). But Ben was portrayed as deeply desiring this, and he believed that the Christ was going to be the future King of Rome, Jerusalem, and the world. Loaded with theology as it was, Balthasar the Egyptian wise man explained that no, Jesus will be the spiritual king. But okay, yeah, so I was impressed with that.
I shouldn't have gone full out with a book review here haha. But I wanted to pay tribute to the book of travels, one that I took from my shelf on which it'd lain for months haha. One that got a little dog-eared as it got jostled in the depths of my bag in Belgium, Paris, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, and here with me in Hamburg too. Wow. I actually feel a little sad. No matter. A journey's end is the beginning of another.
Peace be with you, dear brother.
“For know you, child, I have that faculty which is better than any one sense, better than a perfect body, better than courage and will, better than experience, ordinarily the best product of the longest lives—the faculty divinest of men, but which”—he stopped, and laughed again, not bitterly, but with real zest—“but which even the great do not sufficiently account, while with the herd it is a non-existent—the faculty of drawing men to my purpose and holding them faithfully to its achievement, by which, as against things to be done, I multiply myself into hundreds and thousands.”
“For power, you know, is a fretful thing, and hath its wings always spread for flight.”
“If thou dost think of me again, O tribune, let it not be lost in thy mind that I prayed thee only for word of my people - mother, sister.”
“It was then I saw thy mother, and loved her, and took her away in my secret heart.”
“For to-day I take or give;
For to-day I drink and live;
For to-day I beg or borrow;
Who knows about the silent morrow?”
“The race was on; the souls of the racers were in it; over them bent the myriads.”