I read ‘The World’s Strongest Librarian,’ by Josh Hanagarne, while I was on vacation. Hanagarne works in the Salt Lake City public library, which is housed in one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever been in. As his title suggests, he is an ironhead, but not for the usual reasons. Hanagarne has a particularly severe case of Tourette Syndrome, and weightlifting is just one of the strategies he employs to get a handle on it. I have a niece who also has TS, but she finally found a medication that controlled her symptoms. Josh was not so lucky, and his book tells the story of his long, costly, and painful struggle with the disease. It is also the story of his struggle with his Mormon faith, of his love for books, and of the strength of his family.
My favorite passage actually comes from Josh’s father, who encapsulates the issues of religion vs. spirituality and one’s obligations to one’s fellow man in the following inspired sentence, which cannot be improved by either addition or subtraction:
Don’t be a dick.
If you were looking for a personal philosophy, you could do much worse.
Josh’s story is not an easy one to read, but he tells it with humor and insight. You don’t measure a person by how many times they get knocked down, but by how many times they get back up. Quite apart from his endeavors in the gym, Josh Hanagarne is one tough son of a bitch, and I wish him time, inspiration, and peace.