It's the most important audiobook I've ever read, hands down. This may ultimately be the most life-changing book I'll ever read. If it doesn't change my life, it will be because I didn't work hard enough with the tools every day. This is not so much a self-help book as it is an existential guidebook to the universe.
Barry tells about how he discovered, while talking to his very skeptical friend, that all the adversity we face in life is meant to get us to access the Higher Forces. It helped me to answer the question of suffering very clearly. Earlier in the book, Barry refers to Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning," in which Frankl recounts how he persevered in the Nazi death camps by holding onto the fact that the Nazi's could not take away his right to determine his response to his suffering. In my case, most of my suffering is not a result of human evil. I was born with a genetic progressive neuro-muscular disability, and now I am fighting day by day to survive. When I read Frankl years ago, I was very moved, but I didn't get satisfaction from the answer that I am in control of my response to my circumstances. I had nobody to point to as the cause of my circumstances but God, yet I couldn't bring myself to be angry at God the way Frankl was angry will the Nazi's. The standard Christian answer is that God let suffering into the world in response to the sins of the first humans, or that satan is the cause of suffering, not God. C.S. Lewis said that suffering in life was to prepare us to spend eternity with God, and we would become better people through our suffering. I now think Barry's definitely on the right track. The adversity is not to make us better people or to punish us for the sins of the first humans. For us to access the Divine, to get to know God, and to have compassionate, meaningful lives, we need to access the Higher Forces. To access the Higher Forces, we have to have problems, pain, and emptiness, or else we will not understand courage, love, inclusiveness, compassion, or creativity. These gifts are available to us all, but in first world countries, we are all tempted to either believe that humans can solve their own problems, or that there is a "treatment" for all suffering, whether mental, physical, or spiritual. The Tools are not cures, but they help you to access Higher Forces, which I call God, which makes life a powerful, divine undertaking.
If Barry wanted another career as a reader for Audible, he could easily do so. He's in the top ten percent of readers. Phil's New York accent and soft tone make me feel like he's talking to me about the tools, and his life, in a restaurant over dinner.
This Tools are not going to be easy to use daily, but I know I must use them. The methods in the book will be used side-by-side with my prayers, in my case. The tools will enable me to love my enemy, to walk with Jesus on the Jordan in a storm, and to break bread with my inner leper, unclean woman, and tax collector. I just hope the jeopardy tool will give me enough will power to become disciplined, because I have already died, and I am already in real jeopardy. I will have to be like Vinny and "just think about death all day."
If you have clinical depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia, addiction, or any other major psychiatric disorder, do not kid yourself into thinking that the tools are going to be all you need. You do need professional help and quite possibly medication. Consider going to a support group such as the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance or Alcoholics Anonymous (or other Anonymous programs.) The Tools will help you, but you must get your brain chemistry under control to actually use the tools effectively. Trust me, I've been there.
It needs to be annotated and should come with a pdf glossary of terms. Sartre created several terms of art, such as Being for itself and Being in itself, facticity, and "the nothingness of Being" in his prior works.Without any reintroduction of the concepts, this work starts discussing "the for itself" and "the in itself." It's been 20 years since I last read any Sartre, so I had to look up all of these terms online just to understand the sentences.
It probably cannot be enjoyed in an audio format. Existentialism isn't actually meant to be enjoyed, though. It's just a different way of looking at the world. I only chose to read it on audio because I have a disability that makes it hard to read text.
My MP3 player lets me play books on a slower-than recorded speed, and I had to use the slow speed for the entire book. I don't think the narrator or the producer comprehended the prose. The words that needed to be emphasized or read more slowly were lost amid all the other monotonal words. I had to rewind and re-listen to many sentences multiple times, especially in chapter two.
Because of my disability, this audiobook was a better alternative than a digital text-to-speech version of the book. This audiobook is only something I would recommend to people well-versed in existentialism.
If you are a lay reader, this book will sound like gibberish to you. A better book for you is "Man's Search for Meaning," by Victor Frankl.
The author's soft British narration gives insight into his personality--humble, a bit shy, yet funny-- that I think would be missed in the text. You can sense the nervousness he has when talking to
Jon Ronson himself. He takes us on his journey into the world of psychopaths and the clinicians who have the authority to identify them. He respectfully questions the reasonableness of the clinicians who define mental illness and are given authority in their patients' lives. For example, the doctors at psychotherapy colony in the 60's allow a patient with schizophrenia (not to be confused with psychopathy), housed in a basement, to
His voice almost says
I may have wanted to hear it in one sitting, but it is a little too long for that. Each chapter is a story in itself. Good beside reading.
If you have been in an abusive relationship, the tone of the book may seem to sympathize with people have the diagnosis.
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