Book Review: Are You Living or Existing?
It’s one thing to write about something based on theories or concepts. It’s another thing entirely to write about something based on one’s own experience. The principles are real-world tested, but it also means the author is more vulnerable to criticism because what’s written is so much more personal.
Kimanzi Constable boldly takes exactly that risk in Are You Living or Existing? Kimanzi does an excellent job of presenting his journey and distilling principles from it that will work for many people who desire a similar life change.
It was a good book, but to be honest, not what I would consider a “great” book, and there are two main reasons for that.
1) At a surface level, it needs an extra proofread. I read it once, and without looking for them I found several typos. Speaking as an author myself, it’s easy to miss some of them, even on several re-reads, but I would say at least one more editor who is skilled in catching grammar and punctuation errors could have resolved this problem. This doesn’t affect the quality of the content, but it is distracting.
2) Kimanzi starts with an idea that I disagree with on a fundamental level. Now, in fairness, this could be a matter of semantics and if we talked through it, we may find we are in agreement. Specifically, changing the word “happy” to “joyful” might be sufficient. That said, we haven’t had that conversation, so what I have to go on is the written word. He says, “What I’m talking about is the fact that God means for us to be happy to live happy lives.” I strongly disagree. I believe God wants to develop our character, grow us into the likeness of His Son, and have a deep, personal relationship with us. The byproduct of that may be happiness, but it’s not His purpose or goal. Sometimes it will involve suffering, challenges, and difficulty. If our focus is on being happy as God’s purpose for us, then when we are not we may question Him, and that’s not a road I want to go down.
Having said that, please don’t think that I dislike Are You Living or Existing? or that I would not recommend it. Kimanzi has some excellent principles that he offers, and no one can legitimately argue that this has worked for him. Honestly, anyone who hasn’t accomplished at least as much as he has needs to think very carefully before attempting to invalidate what he says (and I have seen people try).
I would suggest to those who choose to read this book to think carefully about something that’s not really focused on in the book, but which may be helpful. Kimanzi presents these as a series of nine steps, and that’s as good a metaphor as any. However, don’t think you can finish one step and then move on to the next one. As with a staircase, each step builds on the others, and each step continues. Once you’ve done Step 1 and are ready to move on to Step 2, you still have to keep doing Step 1. And so on.
Kimanzi Constable has done an admirable job changing his life from one of just existing to really living, and I expect Are You Living or Existing? to help many people do the same.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book at no charge, but all opinions are my own.