This is a charming look at America through the eyes of a self-proclaimed nerd and history buff who enjoys reading travel guides. She loves America for all the right reasons; she IS a patriot, although a flawed one. Her flaw lies in her self-imposed liberal guilt. Fortunately, her love for America and its ideals overcome her flaw and makes her praise of America even more poignant.
Bad thinking throughout. Read my additional comments for a full review and then you'll understand.
When I was 18 and looking for a way to reach mental calm so I could better maintain focus on my work in my early college days, I turned to TM, Transcendental Mediation. It was pitched to me at a make-shift kiosk set up in a shopping mall I frequented in those days. I think I was there doing some Christmas shopping. "Sharpen your mind while calming your nerves" (or something like that)--all in 20 minutes twice per day. I was starting college, looking for an "edge" and, so, took the bait. I sat down, answered a brief questionnaire, and waited to be contacted.
I was contacted in short time, attended some training sessions in my neighborhood (for a fee) and learned TM. It gave me what it promised and I used it throughout my college days, especially when I needed to put a brake on counter-productive mental activity. (I won't go into what TM is here, because this a review of _The Power of Now,_ by Eckhart Tolle, but I think the similarities and differences between NOW and TM are worth considering.)
What I didn't follow-through on with TM was any of the sophomoric metaphysics (although TM trainers did not use that word with me) attached to TM, as it was taught world-wide. True, my initial training culminated in my bringing an "offering" (an apple) to be presented (to Buddha maybe; I cannot recall), sitting cross-legged, incense burning, while the trainer recited/chanted something before a statue of some oriental figure, and with me, eyes closed, internally repeating some chain of prescribed thoughts and words. They never explained the nuances of the ceremony to me, but I did it; it was required to complete the initial phase and I wanted to go on to the next "level:" group meditations, monthly one-on-one tune-ups, etc.
Others went further into the metaphysics of TM, which for me boiled down to the famous saying of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, TM's developer and popularizer; that is, if 5% (?) of the world practiced TM, war would end. I wasn't interested in any of that; I wanted a personal mental practice that would make what I knew was going to be a grueling 6-8 years of college a little easier. I suspect my file was flagged, "avoid metaphysics with this one," after the initial interview in the mall. At the time, they asked me repeatedly, "don't you want to learn TM to ease your mind of all the problems in life that you have" and I would keep saying, "no, my life is great. I'm here for the 'sharpen your mind while calming your nerve' part. I'm starting college and this sounds good to me."
So what about _The Power of Now?_ Well, I read this with the same intent/question I had going into TM: Is there something here that will make me a better thinker, even indirectly. And in the first few pages, the whole technique is revealed: stop/pause/regroup your mental processes by observing yourself uncritically. Later, he adds the technique of closing one's eyes and focusing awareness on a part of the body and then larger parts of the body to achieve an inner calm. These strategies, in essence, stop any mental self-destructive ruminations (a word Tolle doesn't use) at least temporarily.
So what's the rest of the story? The answer, as with TM, is a whole lot of crazy: Tolle's metaphysical view (and the epistemology he lays out to get at this metaphysics.) He doesn't have psychological reasons for why PofNOW could work for someone, he has an entire metaphysics to explain it and here it is--very briefly, from the beginning:
There is a Conscience (the Unmanifest) that is working toward its perfection by having shattered into manifest forms of matter that you and I think we perceive.
All matter, even rocks according to Tolle, possess some bit of this Conscience. (Don't worry about the terminology, says Tolle. Words are "signposts" toward what is real, which you cannot have true knowledge of, and, therefore, words are not to be taken too critically.)
When you still your mind, you use your "Chi" to come in contact, ever so briefly, with the Unmanifest. Think "enlightenment" here. The way to understand something is not to use your mind but to still your mind and feel the truth through your body. (I know I'm off of metaphysics here, but referring to some of Tolle's epistemology, such as it is, is helpful in trying to explain his metaphysics.)
The goal of the Unmanifest is the end of the world, the destruction of all matter when the Unmanifest can be perfect again.
By now, you get the idea: It is the worst of all the mistakes in the history of philosophy starting with Plato, all rolled into one. Consciousness is primary over matter--existents. Consciousness (with a capital "C") is the real thing and actually creates matter. Our minds cannot perceive what is really real. What we perceive is a form of the ideal. There are collective forms of consciousness that accumulate in each of us over time, for example, male consciousness, female consciousness, racial consciousness, etc. It gets much worse, but is all variations of bad, primacy of consciousness philosophy. Tolle seems to be very creative, but I'm told it's all watered down Buddhism. I'm not interested in verifying or disproving that.
Tolle says some genuinely funny things. For example, he interprets (always favorably of course) Christ's words from a Buddhist perspective again and again. But the funniest thing is his Hegelian twist on himself: he is proof, he says, of his entire metaphysics because the Unmanifest has evolved so much, to date, that he, Tolle, was born to reveal as much as he has about the Unmanifest. He doesn't believe it all ends with him, as Hegel did, but you gotta love his chutzpah if you know history--in this case, if you know the history of philosophy.
The best way to read the PofNow is as fantasy fiction. We inhabit our bodies (or maybe it's a piece of the Unmanifest that does), we experience collective, sometimes racial, "pain-bodies" (don't ask) as well as personal pain-bodies. Women are closer to the Unmanifest because they "embody the Unmanifest." Here Tolle is referring to a woman's womb in what has to be the most humorous equivocation I've ever seen. It goes on and on--and on this basis, he offers advice.
To be honest, I could not finish the book. I got as far as part way into the chapter "Portals into the Unmanifested." Remember, I was looking for good psychology--such as one can get from the likes of Martin Seligman, an honest man and scientist.
I just read her two post-Harry Potter novels.
I read the latest one first: _The Cuckoo's Calling_ by Robert Galbraith (pen name).
It was a very good murder mystery.
Rowling is still masterful, building an interesting mystery with good and interesting characters. This is a pleasure to read largely because of her skilled imagery and amazing ability to use simile and metaphor. I hope she brings the main characters back in subsequent mysteries.
Her first post-HP novel, published under her own name, is called _The Casual Vacancy._ I read it after having read _The Cuckoos's Calling_ and it's probably good that I had not read this first, and the critics' responses to it may be why she published her second post-HP novel under a pen name.
_The Casual Vacancy_ is *very* well written. The problem is it may be the most hauntingly depressing piece of modern naturalism I've ever read. From the pen of a master like JK Rowling, the result is devastating. As good as it is, I hate it and cannot recommend anyone read it--unless they've at least read this brief warning and still feel up to it.
I tired of waiting for the next Allon installment, so decided to go with this, Silva's first. I was extremely pleased. I don't know if he's done anything this good since. Oh, yes I do; he has, again and again!
I gave this book an extra star because I like Scott Brick's reading. It truly is 95% exposition so you're never drawn in, 4% attempted character development, and 1% plot. I couldn't have cared less about ANY of the characters.
A completely enjoyable book. The author and reader give you the overall picture of Ancient Greece. I admired the Greeks before I read this, but now I have a integrated sense of their culture.
I loved the first book in this "Trilogy." Alas, the author should've ended with Book One and so should you. Eldest is slow, dull, filled with mind-numbing pointless minutia that takes the story nowhere fast.
I enjoyed most of this. 90% of it is often excrutiatingly detailed nostalgia/travelogue of 1880s NYC; 8% is fun romance/adventure and 2% is sci-fi/fantasy.
Told from the eyes and mind of a 14-yo girl, this is a story about the importance of self-reliance, self-love and the dangers of unearned guilt. It is very uplifting and I recommend it to the parents of pre-adolescent girls, although not exclusively to be sure. This story could make you a better, happier parent.
I like The Narrows much much more. This one is straight line procedural detective work by an officer just doing a day's work. Lack of personal motivation throughout this story deadens it. For value-driven characters try a Harlan Coben novel.
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