How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living by Rob Bell
(HarperOne, 2016, 210 pages)
Rob Bell made his name as a controversial evangelical pastor. His books Velvet Elvis and Love Wins brought unique perspectives to traditional Christian doctrines, causing quite a bit of backlash in the process. Bell’s career has evolved from pastoring a large church to giving talks about spirituality to developing a television talk show and now a podcast. With How to Be Here he is moving into the role of self-help author (more or less).
The book deals primarily with the issues of creativity and work. Bell builds his ideas about a creative and fulfilling approach to work on the Japanese word ikigai. According to Bell, “Your ikigai is that sense you have when you wake up that this day matters, that there are new experiences to be had, that you have work to do, a contribution to make” (56). This idea is meant to encourage readers to take risks in pursuing creative projects and to inject a sense of meaning in the most mundane jobs.
I’ve kept up with most of what Bell has written over the years, and I appreciate his skill as a communicator. He has the ability to pen succinct and elegant statements about big ideas, like this one on the nature of work:
“All work is ultimately creative work because all of us are taking part in the ongoing creation of the world.” (11)
In talking about the expectations we bring to our work, he distinguishes between “success” and “craft”:
“Success says, What more can I get?
Craft says, Can you believe I get to do this?” (84)
Bell’s writing tends toward a kind of superficial, positive-thinking message. That said, he can also convey significant ideas with clarity and inspiration. How to Be Here is an easy read that may give you a different perspective on your work, your goals, and the motivation behind them. Worth picking up.