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Saturday, July 20 2019 @ 12:43 PM CDT


Book Reviews

What's This Book About?

There is a story, probably apocryphal, in which a handful of French policemen were in hot pursuit of a thief, who eluded them by ducking into a large building.

They soon realized that there were more exits from this building than there were policemen to cover them, and that without more help, the thief could be expected to escape through an unguarded door.

Next to this large building there was a smaller one with only a few exits, so the police converged on this building instead, confident that the thief would not be able to evade them ...after all, they had all the exits covered.

So they confidently assured the public that they had the situation well in hand.

This story is a parable about the official solutions to the problems we humans face today. In our case, the thief might represent the solutions to our global, environmental, social, and personal problems, the building the thief escaped into might be the unapprehended situation, and the policemen the experts of all stripes who would fix our problems for us, and whose occasionally clever but ultimately detrimental advice has had the effect of compounding the severity of the problems they have not really addressed (the thief got away and did more mischief).

This parable is about why the state of the civilized world is moving swiftly to a new arrangement radically different from what we are all used to.

Civilization is reaching a turning point. The technological successes of the past few dozen centuries, culminating in this most stupendous twentieth century, have not only empowered humans beyond their wisdom, but also severely changed forever, and in unknown and perhaps unknowable ways, the very biosphere in which all life as we know it exists.

Doomsday scenarios are numbing, but viewed from a higher perspective, life is very generous, providing each and all of us the perfect laboratory for carrying out our human experiments. Ironically, the very conditions which threaten the status of life on the planet are also those which we living humans now require in order to learn what we each need to learn; otherwise, our life situations would be other than they are.

The availability of information and alternative perspectives on life and the living of it has never been greater in history. The electronics revolution is bringing more people within reach of more information than ever before. With all these choices, and with more people promising us salvation or heaven or Nirvana, who should we believe? Whose views of life are the most correct, and therefore the most useful? Theologians? Business experts? Politicians? The uncertainty arising from the popularity of all these alternatives reaches into the deepest corners of our lives, leading more and more of us to begin to question the root assumptions of our modern modes of life and the things we take for granted - continuous growth, annual crops of new electromechanical toys, more powerful wonder drugs, more and more of everything. All this comes at a cost far higher than the initial purchase price; it is a cost which has never been factored into the selling price, but a cost which "the nature" of the world nevertheless assesses. And mankind's bills are coming due with crushing insistence.

For generations, until the habit has thoroughly permeated the fabric of our culture, we have been taught to expect more and more. Of course, we've usually gotten something other than we bargained for, but that's quickly forgotten with every new wave of flowery promises. The staggering costs of our consumptive life-styles are coming due, and are expressed in the rapid social and environmental change we find occurring all around us today. The foundations of modern life (meaning the family, the community, and the state) are not nearly as stout as we have been led to believe and expect. Drastic change, unforeseeable and uncontrollable by any human agency, is touching every area of our lives, and when our pillars crumble, we begin searching for something we sense that we should have looked for much earlier.

The growth of the self-discovery industry over the past several decades loudly proclaims the need for more than just more. As usual, however, when a good idea gets organized, it ceases to be alive, so these too have begun to grow into institutions and become pillars of their own sort, begging us to rely on them, when in fact they themselves are operating by the same old rules: growth as an indicator of worth, and as a source of ever-increasing income for those on the inside. These new pillars are only props, and quickly crumble when stressed. The Earth quakes in many ways when stresses get out of bounds.

This is a dangerous book because it calls into question some of the root assumptions which we Westerners have held for centuries, if not millennia, about the nature of human existence and our place on the planet. Calling these assumptions into question isn't dangerous in and of itself, but when a lot of people do so, the underpinnings of any artificially erected social arrangement are seriously compromised. The truth about the Emperor's new clothes is no longer a secret.

The way society is organized today (presuming we can call overpopulation, political corruption, economic instability, and religious intolerance "organized "), those who presently benefit the most from the existing structures are those who are least likely to make the changes which need to be made. The ideas in this book are dangerous to such interests, because the ideas contained herein empower individuals to seek the truth for themselves.

Whenever a power base is threatened, particularly one which fails the test of moral legitimacy, those in charge will take whatever steps necessary to minimize, or marginalize, that threat. Today, those organizations and agencies who are best empowered to catalyze meaningful change are also those least likely to initiate and support such change. Be they federal, state, or local governmental bodies, corporate helmsmen, professionals, religious leaders, or (most debilitating of all) educational systems, our leaders seem unable to present any fundamentally meaningful solutions to the mounting problems facing society. The various overt and covert goals of government, business, religion, and education are necessarily limited to the purview of those in charge.

This book is dangerous because it declares, as openly and clearly as possible, that people - and that means you, me, and everybody else - are not on this earth to wave a flag, or kill for God, or flip burgers, or convert the riches of the planet into scribbles on a ledger. Just how far out of touch with reality the public world is will become apparent in stages... the problems resulting from our traditionally skewed world views are surging down upon the race in these times, and only those who have sought more deeply than dogmas or intellectual arguments will find themselves equipped to deal with life in the 21st century. I want to be one of those, and you are reading this because you do too.

Humanity is entering a new era, a departure perhaps as profound as the first kindled fire or the first turns of the first wheel. Right now, new revelations and developments are modifying all areas and all levels of our earthly human experience, bringing changes that are far more profound and sweeping than anyone can imagine or foresee. Isn't it possible that the long-building woes presently inundating all spheres of human activity might be related to some mistaken understanding of who we really are and why we are here? As with the saber-tooth tiger attaining extinction because its strength became a liability, isn't it possible that overpopulation, loss of individual sovereignty, physical and psychic pollution, and a multitude of other maladies might be signaling a necessarily drastic course change for our proverbial yet mightily foundering ships of state?

Societies all over the globe are being severely challenged by the consequences of their very existence.

It is becoming clear to a growing number of philosophically unattached people that happiness, prosperity and meaning in life are the results of personal wisdom and action; they are not delivered by institutions like the state, the church, the economy, or the schools, all of which are based on untenable tenets, and administered by untenable tenants.

This book isn't intended to be a gentle pastel of how things ought to be, nor is it a diagram for enlightened self-interest - a term which turns out to be curiously oxymoronic. What is needed is not a new religion, or system, or technique, because we've already had to endure too many of those. What is needed is a major rethinking of our relationships with ourselves, each other, and the planet. It's an inside job all the way.

The phrase "the world is a mirror" no longer strikes us as irresponsible or trite, as it might once have. What we see in the world is what we think in our heads. It's a very simple concept, but it is also a two edged sword, and faultily wielded, it is cutting us severely. Hence the blinding pain so common in modern life.

Neither is this book a new set of instructions, a new roster of definitions, or a step-by-step manual about building your own personal kingdom of heaven for fun and profit. It is more of a mirror - not perfectly clear perhaps, but lucid enough that if you are really interested in finding out who you are and what this world is all about, you will find within and between its words what you need to see at the time. What you find will, of course, change as you change, and as the world changes, but that's as it must be.

Because of all the transformations that are occurring in every conceivable corner of modern life, new systems and new arrangements will have to emerge to deal with the consequences of these changes. Increasingly, it will take conscious people in positions of responsibility to know what to do in a situation which has never arisen before, it will take people who have freed themselves from the misleading and often barbarous programming most of us have received since we were infants. Clarity of action requires clarity of being. If we would do justice to the promise of the future, then we have to learn about ourselves, who we might really be, and how to live in harmony, both inwardly and outwardly.

This book, to borrow from Zen imagery, is like a finger pointing at the moon. It contains no ultimate answers... it only points in as many ways as possible to the reality of being, the reality of your true being and mine, who we really are and what we might really be here for.

The Earth and its family of life forms are entering a new age. Right now, right where you are, is where to look for the next clue. Learning to be in the present, learning to be and hear and know is what this book is about. For when a person learns this, then it doesn't matter so much how miserable the rest of the world is, for all the things that make life wonderful and inspiring come forth as if by magic. We were meant to live joyously and prosperously; anything which prevents this is wrong. Or at least incorrect.

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