Book Reviews – Perspectives & Possibilities

Tag: Book Reviews

Title: Cnidaria, MultiView Light Sheet Microscopy (3 of 4) | Author: Helena Parra | Source: ZEISS Microscopy | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Evolution of Consciousness

My wife sometimes accuses me of selective engagement. She says I am much more open to conversation with people whom I find physically attractive, intellectually stimulating, emotionally responsive, or spiritually evolved.

Guilty as charged. As it turns out, the idea of selective engagement goes back 500 million years.

Title: _MG_3044 | Author: Hugh Letheren | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Courage and Creativity

It’s scary to be outside the margins of “normality.”

As any person (whether they they think of themselves as creative or not) knows, introducing newness goes hand-in-hand with disruption of established rules and expectations. But if we can find the courage to break out of rigid structures, we may be rewarded with finding a clearer path to joy, meaning, and purpose.

The Fragility of Freshness

“If you can’t smell the fragrance, don’t come into the garden of love.”  –Rumi “Let me not die while I am still alive.” –Hasidic prayer   Knowing when to cut your avocado is a tricky task. One day too early and the fruit inside is too hard. One day too late, and it turns brown and mushy. Finding optimal freshness is a challenge with fruit and with life. I hate it when my strawberries get Read More

"February 22, 2016," by David Gabriel Fischer, www.thezendiary.com (License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Timeless and the Timely

It’s hard to find elevated and elevating messages these days. It seems to me that we keep looking for quick and easy solutions to complex problems that require deep debate, creative thinking, and thoughtful analysis.

In this post, I revisit some sources of ancient wisdom, finding timeless principles that can help us deal with today’s challenges.

Title: Window of St. Mary’s Cathedral in linz | Author: Magdalena Sick-Leitner | Source: Ars Electronica | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Sin and Spin

There is no greater sin than desire, No greater curse than discontent, No greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself. Therefore he who knows that enough is enough will always have enough. —Tao Te Ching, Chapter 46 It seems to me that religions focus too much on sin; and politics focuses too much on spin. They may both be guilty of the sin of spin and the spin on sin. Religions specifically call out the Read More

Walter De Maria, 360˚ I Ching/64 Sculptures, 1981. © The Estate of Walter De Maria. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York.

Ethereal Threads and Cosmic Fabric

“Creative interpretation of the world: Art. Personal beliefs trumping objective facts: Lunacy.” —Brian Greene. When you are swimming upstream in a powerful current, it’s not only hard to think about anything other than surviving, it’s also difficult to raise your head up to look around. This river we are swimming in has a mighty flow, and we are hanging on by a thread—perhaps an ethereal thread or a vibrating string as you will see later. Read More

Illustration for the ‘Mansion. Mizgir.’ fairy tales (1910), by Heorhiy Narbut

Experience and Expression

Spending 8 years in juvies and jails certainly changed my perspective on what it feels like to have all your values violated. Fortunately, I was serving time as a counselor for incarcerated inmates in county jails and juvenile delinquency “homes” — not as a convicted felon in a federal prison. I had no trouble responding to inmates’ experiences and helping them find more constructive ways to express themselves. These days I’m wondering if we are really jailing the right people.

Credt: David Gabriel Fischer | www.thezendiary.com | License: CC BY-NC-ND

The Sacred and the Significant

“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” —Joseph Campbell

In her role as a Pretend Princess dressed in her frilly yellow gown complete with a crown on her head, my 5 year old granddaughter imperiously issued a solemn proclamation to her constituency: “Be kind, be truthful, and stay alive.”

"Chess in the rain," by Kelvin Pulker

Imagination and Identification

One of my favorite writers is Philip Roth. I loved all of his books, but American Pastoral tops the list. The book seems eerily relevant now. In American Pastoral, Roth follows the life of a successful Jewish businessman and high school star athlete from Newark, New Jersey, whose upper middle class life is ruined by the domestic social and political turmoil of the 1960s when American went “berserk.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gross Domestic Spirit

In 2016, our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) exceeded 18 Trillion Dollars – a record high.

In my mind, we need to measure not only our GDP, but also our GDS – Gross Domestic Spirit. Spirit is a force we need to grow and measure if we are going to thrive and prosper as a society. Deep spirit is a powerful experience.

facade | Author: mitchell haindfield | Flickr | | License: Attribution 2.0 Generic

Bubbles, Beliefs, and Behaviors

I grew up in a bubble. It was a very common bubble for a lot of folks in our country: Mid-western, white, Christian, republican, working class, conservative, and rural. I had very little understanding about the lives of people outside my bubble and no awareness that I was even in a bubble.

My first bubble was burst in 1968 when I served in Vietnam with Army Intelligence.

"Isaac Newton vs. Rube Goldberg" http://www.2dhouse.com/rubegoldbergmachines.php

Fear, Fantasy, Faith, and Facts

In the face of fear, most people either substitute fantasy for reality, cling more tightly to their faith, or distort the facts. It appears to me like a chain reaction: fear leads to fantasy that is then expressed in faith which creates its own convoluted “truth” or faux facts. With fear levels at unprecedented heights, we need to explore the components of this reaction more closely.

Title: trust issues | Credit: Yumi Krum

Presence and Presents

“We convince by our presence.” —Walt Whitman

You can’t fake being present in the long term…and other thoughts on how presents can’t stack up to the gift of presence.

Animal Locomotion; Eadweard J. Muybridge (American, born England, 1830 - 1904); 1887; Collotype; 17.8 x 39.4 cm (7 x 15 1/2 in.); 84.XM.628.49. Courtesy of The Getty Museum

Thinking about Thinking

My wife often asks me, “What were you thinking?!!!” My response is usually, “I have no idea!”

But thinking about the way we think is a crucial part of making our lives, and the world around us, better.

"Basalt Columns of Giant's Causeway" Credit: pictruer / 一元 马 | License: CC BY 2.0

Fast-Slow-Stop-Look-Listen

My nickname growing up was Rapid Rick. I always got things done quickly. Not always accurately or perfectly, but fast. After 70 years of taking pride in this reputation, I finally realized that slower is better. Ouch!

Yes, there were some advantages to my “now is good” approach to life…but now I wonder at what price.

www.thezendiary.com

Observation

When I look in the mirror these days I’m shocked that the old and withered face I see doesn’t reflect the way I think or feel. The image makes me acutely aware of how differently I’m viewed by people with whom I come into contact. Strangers see me as an old and irrelevant man – three steps from the nursing home. My friends know differently. And I feel more vital than I ever have in Read More

Title: Eyjafjallajökull plumes | Author: anjči

Renewal

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” —Samuel Beckett Remember when air traffic was shut down in Europe from the eruption of E15 in Iceland? It was April, 2010, when Eyjafjallajökull (E15) erupted causing floods to rush down the rivers and requiring 800 people to be evacuated. The eruption was so explosive it caused air travel disruption in Europe for 6 days. More tragically, it buried the farms below it Read More

Title: Patterns of your past | Author: Aristocats-hat | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY-NC 2.0

Wishing and Willing

I am. I can. I wish. “I am” is being. “I can” is becoming. “I wish” is aspiring. Gurdjieff suggested that using these words could motivate us to tune into our higher selves. In his book, Life is Real Only Then, When “I Am”, Gurdjieff said these three impulses must arise and manifest themselves in an evolving person. These words are essential for “the entire sensing of the whole of oneself.” These words reflect the genuine “I” of a person who has reached responsible age.

Title: Suburbia | Author: Caribb

Immigration and Imagination

In his book, Tortilla Curtain, published in 1995, T.C. Boyle enters deeply into the frames of reference of both immigrants and the gated community. He puts you squarely into the hearts and minds of people struggling desperately at enormous risks to establish a new life for themselves as well as people who are fighting mightily to protect the lifestyles they have established through hard work and white privilege.

"New Technology" by Flickr user Byron Stormweather

Machines, Money, and Meaning

“And every sand becomes a Gem reflected in the beam divine” -William Blake In 1909, E. M. Forster published a series of short stories in his book The Eternal Moment. The first story is entitled “The Machine Stops.” This chilling masterpiece concerns the role of technology in our lives. Written over 100 years ago, when technology was in its infancy, it is more relevant today than it was then. With an uncanny prescience, Forster wrote about Read More

"Generative Art - Drawing Machine" by Amber Case

The Many Sides of Extremism

I just finished two books that shed new light on service and sacrifice and put them in perspective. The first, Strangers Drowning, discusses multiple examples of moral extremism; the second, When Breath Becomes Air, describes the experience of a 37-year-old Stanford neurosurgeon who died of cancer the year he finished his residency and was about to embark on a stellar career. In Strangers Drowning, Larissa MacFarquhar shares the stories of people who broke all norms and Read More

Photo by Sérgio Rola, http://unsplash.com/sergio_rola

Wonder and Wondering

In 1968, I met Stephen Williams at Fort Holabird, Maryland, where we were both enrolled in Army Spy School.

Red Budlea | Author: Kevin Pulker | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Consciousness and Culture

“Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument.” —Reinhold Niebuhr I have had a lot of heroes in my life. There are, of course, the historically popular figures like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Einstein, Churchill, and the Roosevelts (Teddy, FDR, and Eleanor). Add there are people currently living who make my list as well, like Nicholas Kristof, Gloria Steinem, and Barack Obama. As a result of some recent books Read More