I now understand so much of what was distorted by the influence of Paul from Tarsus. I must now read the Epistle of James the Just. The absolute mandate to serve the poor is something worth believing in - unlike the "faith is all you need" doctrine that took over many of those who claim to follow Jesus of Nazareth.
Thank you Reza Aslan for this amazing piece of work. Unfortunately, I fear for the safety of the author as some fundamentalists might issue an evangelical "fatwa" (in the commonly understood meaning of the word rather than the Arabic "opinion") because he is a Muslim. So sad that this brilliant work will be judged by some through this distorted lens.
CUTTING FOR STONE by Abraham Verghese
I have just finished one of the greatest books I have ever experienced. I place it along side "Moby Dick" and "Cold Mountain" in terms of great literature. It is especially effective as an audio book as the narrator (Sunil Mahotra) is gifted and delivers a reading performance that brings out the best in the book. I was enthralled, touched, moved and repeatedly brought to a place of inner joy from beginning to end.
The story is that of twins born to an Indian nun and a British surgeon at a hospital in Adis Ababa in the 1950s. The birth is horrific, the mother dies and the surgeon leaves for parts unknown. The boys are raised by Indian physicians who also work at the mission hospital and are blessed with parents who are the embodiment of love and dedication. The story of the boys growing up at the hospital during the most turbulent time of Ethiopian history continues through to their adult work as gifted healers (in Adis and at a New York charity hospital). As interesting as the cultural and historical setting and story are, they pale in comparison to the author's exploration and revelation of the deepest nature of love, teaching and mentoring, pain, fear, human frailty and redemption. The characters with the greatest failings are examined with compassion - perhaps the best lesson of the book.
It is also the best exploration of healthcare as service to humanity. An amazing first novel that stands shoulder to shoulder with the classics.
At first I found the narrator's voice annoying when he did his version of Owen's voice, but eventually it was essential to the story. I kept thinking the book was almost over (according to the story line) but it went on and on -- and I was very happy that it did. I was in tears when the book ended. One of the very best audio books ever.
The introduction alone is worth the price of the book. I have studied cognitive and behavioral sciences as part of a doctorate and found Mr. Gore’s presentation of these subjects in relation to our response to fear and the manipulation of that response to be state of the art and highly fluent. It was so well done that I felt like I gained understanding in areas I know quiet well. My respect for the man’s intellect, integrity, and gift of communicating went up substantially.
The middle chapters were a bit repetitive, and I did get a little weary of the well documented but restrained presentation of Bush Administration actions. The accounts of activities that resulted in needless death and destruction were so numerous and so well founded that Gore’s anger was not up to the level of the offenses.
I was disappointed that Mr. Gore did not project on likely long term damages that will come because of the war in Iraq and the willful destabilization of an already perilous environment. Having done substantial work in the Middle East over a long period I fear that we do not yet appreciate the long term harm that will continue to spiral upwards for years to come.
The final recommendations of the book calling for increased and deeper use of the Internet as a way of recapturing some political and informational balance are personally inspiring. As a way of broadening the content of media information and mitigating the near monopoly of a small number of corporations that control the news, Gore’s call for the production of video “content” by broader and more diverse voices is critical. I plan to make the soon to be completed video version of my own book available through his web service.
Altogether this is a well researched and literate book that is an essential read. Although I am liberal and proud to be so, I was previously lukewarm to Mr. Gore as a presidential candidate. I now pray that he will run in 2008.
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