What Connects Us

It has been a while since I have felt that the audio book I am listening to and the physical book I am reading complement each other but it has finally happened again. This time it is Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land and Ruth Ware’s One by One. I don’t think you could get two books that are seemingly more different on the surface. One by One is a pop thriller type of novel and Cloud Cuckoo Land is a thick literary tome, but they do have one thing in common. They are about human connection.

The central plot point of One by One is a skiing retreat for a tech company called Snoop. It is a music service like Spotify but instead of listening to your own music you listen to what your friend or a celebrity is listening to. It is kind of like a listening party or a virtual hangout without the other person knowing how many other people are hanging out with them. It is also a more intimate version of FM radio where the person snooping knows who they are sharing the experience with.

Cloud Cuckoo Land is slightly different. It points out something very obvious but not anything I have ever thought of before. Two of the characters are a kid that is orphaned during WWII and a young girl orphan living in Constantinople shortly before its fall. What they have in common is The Odyssey.

That is something I have never thought about. Who else has read and fallen in love with the stories we have read and fallen in love with. Here are two orphan children who both turn to ancient literature for comfort and it is the same story. Two children 500 years apart reading and empathizing with the same characters. Neither aware of each other.

I have never thought about all the other people that have read or will read the books I have read, and some of those are quite ancient. The Odyssey is almost the perfect story for this as it is so old. It is believed that the story of the Odyssey dates back to the 8th century BCE. It has existed for a very long time and people around the world and throughout time know the story.

I never thought about some kid in another century sharing this small part of culture with me. Reading a book is a form of shared experience. It isn’t something we think about but somewhere out there there is someone else reading the same exact book as you and if they aren’t out there right now then they have been or will be and they will share your experience. They will read the same words and feel the same story beats. You and that person might interpret some things a tad different but others you will be in agreement on. This connection is just one of those things I never thought of until it was pointed out to me.

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