I have two reasons for writing a post about this book.
Firstly, and most importantly for me personally, The BIG Picture — Insights from the Spiritual World, was written by my friend of more than thirty years, Garry G. Gilfoy. His middle initial stands for Gordon although it would serve just as easily at the beginning of Goliath. He’s tall (the last time I looked I seem to remember him being 5′ 19″). Long before he became a famous author, back in the early 80s, we spent a number of months on the road together — travelling first to a remote almost-nothingness called Trutch at about the 200 mile mark of the Alaska Highway, in Northern British Columbia.
The Alaska Highway is 2232 kilometres, or roughly 1400 miles long. The risk of being eaten by large, furry, hungry carnivores is inversely proportionate to the highway’s mileage number. We didn’t stay long, and thankfully, while we still share a passion for seeking out new frontiers, I think we got the part about “boldly going where no one has gone before” out of our systems – at least to the extent that we’re content to lean more towards geocaching than swashbuckling nowadays — him from South Australia and me from the Maltese islands.
Tails between our legs, we retreated to Vancouver, regrouped, got a new bearing and set off on a continent-wide hitchhike that began just across the US border in Washington State, south and then right across the wild west, up through New England and back to our mutual birthplace of Nova Scotia, Canada — therein my justification for the first part of this post’s title.
Many years later, written a hemisphere away, “The BIG Picture” chronicles the fascinating, first hand spiritual experiences of seven ordinary people (no spoilers here). I found the chapters that bridge each of the seven stories to the next — his lessons, understandings and insights compelling. I found the distinctions he makes between religion and spirituality made for a challenging and an enjoyable read, and those aren’t always ingredients you find together in a good recipe. I enjoy reading history, so those references, found throughout the book, were a pleasant surprise for me. The lessons were humbling from the point of view of who I found myself learning from (I did mention that he’s way way taller than I am) and in the straightforward, unassuming way they were presented.
I’ve read The BIG picture several times (since receiving my autographed copy ☺). If I’m not mistaken I think The Hobbit is the only other book I can say that about, but that was back in the space-time continuum that was before cable, AppleTV and the omnipresent interweb.
And I flipped back and forth through it more times than I can count trying to find an excerpt or even a single word that might make a succinct review (my second reason for writing this post) that wouldn’t sound like a fluffy promotional piece by an albeit proud friend (and as his friend, one of his biggest fans, his webmaster and Facebook author fan page go-to-guy you’d be forgiven if you jumped to that preliminary conclusion).
I did finally find what I was looking for. It’s one word and it’s on the front cover and it best sums up what I took from the book. It’s the reason why this particular collection of “insights” is referred to as “from” rather than “into” the spiritual world.
It is a guide and a good one at that — and that’s my justification for the latter part of this post’s title. One of my favourite excerpts from it is, “When we are on a path of learning, many things will come to meet us. Grace happens.”. Could we have t-shirts with that second sentence printed on them Garry?
Original cover art graphic by Jan Renfordt | Hitchhikers’ route graphic courtesy Google Maps