There are few people whom I would like to meet but Thich Nhat Hanh is at the top of my list. In addition to the many many tomes and lectures he has wr...moreThere are few people whom I would like to meet but Thich Nhat Hanh is at the top of my list. In addition to the many many tomes and lectures he has written on the topic of Buddhism, he has led numerous workshops to enlighten people about his path in life.
I have read a few other books of his and while Creating True Peace is my favorite, this book is great because Thich Nhat Hanh introduces - via anecdote and examples - tangible ways of becoming more mindful. As he points out, it is not difficult at all. The real difficulty lies in our inability to realize just how blessed we all are. Moreover, our lack of awareness regarding the miracles that abound form the base upon which our personal chaos is built.(less)
The subject matter of this disturbing book is the death penalty – more specifically, wrongful prosecut...more***Please note: this review contains spoilers***
The subject matter of this disturbing book is the death penalty – more specifically, wrongful prosecution and the miscarriage of justice.
It is a story about a serial sex offender whose life is allegedly coming to an end because of an inoperable brain tumor. His confession, which could exonerate a young black man - erroneously accused, convicted and doomed to die in Huntsville, Texas - comes too late.
Here is what the book made me think about:
When we are young, it makes sense to see the world in rather absolute terms. Because our experiences are limited, we rely on quick, easy answers as a matter of survival. With the passage of time our life experiences teach us there are few issues that are either ’black’ or ‘white.'. Consequences are measured and decisions are weighted. The greater good is balanced against personal gain and self-preservation. Adult decision-making is a matter of pragmatism versus dogma and reality versus the ideal.
With age comes experience whose continual ebbs and flows slowly soften the boundaries between right and wrong. Our absolutist world segues into the realm where shades of gray predominate. The anticipation of youth molts into the reminiscence of maturity, a longing for a simpler time. Never is it so apparent than when we are facing times of crisis.
Intuitively, we understand that when facing calamity, we ought to slow down. Experience tells us trying times are when reason ought to prevail. Sadly, something about the Human condition prevents such rationality and reliance upon logic. Despite how irrational it may be, in a world that seems ever unwinding and deteriorating - especially in times of stress and deep emotional turmoil – the quickest, the most definitive - the most sought answer lies in simplicity. And, that is where our problems begin.
As a civilized society, our obvious remedy is to dole out justice through legally accepted venues. We have developed a legal system of codified laws prescribing punishment for breaking the law from the most mundane of offenses to the extreme. Understandably - with an eye focused on religion for guidance - we seek a means of how exactly to mete out that justice fairly, equitably and without prejudice. Taking of a Human life is a serious matter and arguments based on religiosity carry great sway over how we - as a society - deal with lethal Human transgressions via state-sanctioned execution.
Now, if the media is to be believed, violence is rampant in America. There is little doubt that they have a powerful influence over the collective consciousness of those who tune in for the news coverage. It seems like there is no limit on just how cruel - even vicious - Humans can behave toward one another. Now I am not solely accusing 'the media' of perpetrating mass hysteria. There is a need and there is a need to feed. This symbiosis plays itself out on a more practical concern. The Media's primary motivation for patronage is ratings driven and the ever present, bottom line dictates of supply & demand. America is enthralled with violence. We can't get enough of it. Indeed, crime does pay. We love the 'shock and awe.'
Couple the ratings-driven pimping of violence and the unlimited supply if politicians who pander to the American public by clamoring for law & order, inciting fear and it is no wonder that God-fearing Americans have become fluent in the double-speak of religion where they can simultaneously lament the murder of a fetus and fervently abide in their belief of the sanctity of Capital punishment all in one fell swoop.
Perhaps I am giving into my own reminiscences here but nowadays, there seems to be a great void in leadership both politically and in houses of worship. I am not only talking about American society. It is being played out all over the planet. Humanity throughout the world - owing to the maladies of emotionally driven responses, swathed in religiosity - account for the more predictable Human condition where vengeance and fear take precedence over rationality, compassion and forgiveness. We opt for the immediate - the dramatic.
Personally, I fail to draw any clear distinction between the Sarah Palins and the Muqtada al Sadrs of the world - well maybe Sarah is right - the difference comes down to lipstick ...more like lipschtick.
I am convinced that is precisely why Cable News and Faux news networks have become so popular: they focus on problems and offer sound-bite solutions. Like snacks, the messages being proffered for complex, difficult issues the solutions are filling, even tasty but completely lacking in nutritional value. Junk news is society’s junk food, its pre-processed agenda.
Grisham weaves a decent story that reveals less-than-honest ambitions and motivations of key players in the process of pursuing justice. Grisham’s character, Robbie Flak – the pugnacious defense attorney - sums it up very well when he says; “Death binds people in odd ways…”
The first killer in this story’s most immediate victims were Nichole Yarber, the seventeen year-old cheerleader he stalked and her classmate, Donté Drumm – the fall guy slated to die. The second story carries larger implications; society is the ultimate victim, and ironically, the perpetrator, the second killer.
I suppose the most disturbing part of this story is how, through legal processes and religious appropriation, something as sacred and high-minded as justice can be meted out so rationally and, with so much slight-of-hand. In order for society to move forward, it does so with a conventionality of thought and unquestioned respect for a process that everyone assumes is working flawlessly and free of the taint of personal agendas. This is a story about process rum amok. Despite America’s best efforts to assure fairness and lack of bias, meting out justice in such a routine manner, there are countless points along the way where rules can be bent, manipulated and ignored outright as a means of affecting the outcome.
The Confession explores the motivations of killers, how they differ individually and how they share a certain commonality. It is an exploration of how the individual offense touches off a cascade of events where posterity reveals, we collectively become killers. The characteristic ideal of blind justice is usurped through winks, blinks, nods and squints; it is anything but just.
Capital punishment is something I do not agree with for reasons philosophical, religious, spiritual, moral and even fiscal considerations. I understand that such a stance nowadays is unpopular because, contrary to exhaustive research, swift and terrible punishment is popularly perceived to be a powerful deterrent for would-be rapists and murderers.
Violence is infectious, it is self-perpetuating. Its beginnings are almost imperceptible. However, once seeded, it lies in wait - like some inoculated virus awaiting the right conditions to manifest itself. It wears many masks - some brutal and others cloaked in righteousness. But, let's not deceive ourselves; it is still violence.
Aristotle said,“Anyone can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way - that is not within everyone's power and that is not easy."
There is a time to be indignant and injustice is something to be indignant over. Robbie Flak is right to be angry just as society is right to be upset at the violence perpetrated upon the innocent. But, we can never forget that - with rare exception - society's monsters are often a product of their environment just as the self-righteous and the indignant are. People who feel powerless relish it wherever and whenever they happen upon it and its intoxicating effects are difficult to restrain, confine or relinquish. Perhaps that is the greatest reason we need to be reminded that we are all connected.
I agree with the Poet John Donne, "Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind..." [For Whom the Bell Tolls], and that is the lasting thought I can take away from this book which serves to remind the reader that extreme reactions, fueled by moments of passion where fear and anxiety are stoked by the desire for revenge - while regrettable, cannot be reversed
I am reminded of a cartoon series character named Pogo, created by Walt Kelly back in the seventies. Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” I think this is what Grisham is trying to get across in his story line.
I haven't read all of Grisham's books. He has touched upon the topic of the Death Penalty in two other books, “An Innocent Man” and “The Chamber.” The former actually chronicles a real-life miscarriage of justice and I have not read it yet. I have read the latter and I did like it, despite the ending.
Thus far, I have read seven Grisham books and for me, The Confession ranks in the top two.(less)
**spoiler alert** **Please note: this review contains spoilers**
"Life of Pi" is the story of a 16 year old boy named Piscene Patel who shortened his n...more**spoiler alert** **Please note: this review contains spoilers**
"Life of Pi" is the story of a 16 year old boy named Piscene Patel who shortened his name to "Pi" after suffering untold taunts by his peers who jeeringly mispronounced his name and called him 'pissing.'
Pi is the son of a zoo owner in India who decides to sell off his animals after becoming disenchanted with the current political situation in his home land. Many of the animals that have been sold are in transit by cargo ship which Pi and his family are on when the ship suddenly capsizes en route to Canada where the Patel family is moving. Pi is the only Human survivor. The ensuing story recounts two parallel stories recounting the tale of his survival during his 227 days lost at sea.
The longer story is about how he is accompanied by a Bengal tiger (named Richard Parker), a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a rat.
The shorter one is one of tragedy where he witnesses the murder of his mother. The conclusion is left to the reader to decide. The story involving the animals is highly detailed so it is difficult to discount, However, it is also so incredible that it is difficult to believe.
There is a difference between prevarication - the act of lying and confabulation - the act of making a story up as it is being told. While my experience has shown me that when people do not tell the truth and moreover, when they choose to tell a lie, the good ones tend to mix the truth with the lie. Thus when any semblance of the truth is presented, it tends to lend credence to the lie as well. As a result, I have found that when it is mixed together such that; if you buy the truth you also accept the lie.
Thinking about Pi, I am left to wonder whether the entire elaborate story is nothing more than his psychological attempt to erase the trauma of watching his mother murdered and cannibalized. Most people never been in a life and death situation which required them to consume another Human's flesh - and in Pi's case, his own mother's flesh. But I would consider it entirely logical that, it might be a terror of unimagined proportions to deal with such a reality while either at sea as Pi was or once he was rescued.
To that end, I find myself wanting to believe the first story but dreading the thought that the confabulation is Pi's attempt to explain something his consciousness has forced him to forget. This is a fascinating story that I never imagined could or would happen and I commend Yan Martel for doing such an artful job of telling it.
It is the kind of story that makes you want to keep reading and the second story only comes at the end so it hits you in the gut when you begin to imagine the possibility of it even being true. The second story's introduction so late in the book is a major shock and I think the first story could have easily been sufficient.
Ultimately, the conclusion is left for the reader to decide. Like it or not, the chosen conclusion will be the determinant as to whether the reader is an optimist or a pessimist, a pragmatist versus realist, an atheist or a deist. Was he rescued or is this all the imaginings of madness induced prior to a ghastly death? Personally, I keep jumping all over the place. I'll probably have to read it all over again.
Never the less, having read the book to its conclusion, I am left wondering; is it prevarication or confabulation?
I believe that is what good fiction should do so, I wouldn't change a thing.(less)
I picked up, "The Alchemist" as an audio-book and listened to it on the round trip to and from Taos today. I tried reading it once before and just cou...moreI picked up, "The Alchemist" as an audio-book and listened to it on the round trip to and from Taos today. I tried reading it once before and just could not get into the prose. It works much better as an audio-book. Jeremy Irons was the reader and, despite all the panning I've picked up here on Goodreads about, "The Alchemist," I think it is a decent book.
It has some memorable quotes and touches on familiar themes typically associated with self-help books. The allegorical style delivers effectively on one level and not so well on others.
Admittedly, some parts of the story can be a bit schmaltzy but it isn't so much so that it is off-putting - at least not for me anyway. The story does have a couple of incidents where Coelho delves into magical realism. While it wasn't too bad, I've read what I consider to be better from other writers.
I did find myself constantly stopping the story in order to write down some of Coelho's memorable lines. I ended up with several pages so the mining effort proved successful to my expectations. The book did not have the same effect on me as it did on others who clearly do not like it. I do have to admit, all of today was somewhat surreal and the series of events that ranged from spiritual to down right wacky took on a whole different significance as the day's experiences passed through the Alchemist's filters.
Perhaps Coelho is right in that;
1] The universe does in fact conspire to help or hinder me based upon my outlook. 2] Dreams are important and they are worth pursuing 3] There is a mysterious chain that links one thing to another 4] The fear of suffering is worse than the suffering 5] Wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure
The list could continue for a while but, it's overall message of this fable/parable - is that we benefit from being more aware of life's inherent value when we frame it as a spiritual quest.
Because of that, I will say I did like the book. "The Alchemist" did cause me to think about my surroundings more than I usually do. As a consequence, this turned out to be an excellent day in an otherwise lackluster week. Good books tend to do that for me.
Thus, I would recommend the book - not for its literary oomph but rather because it offers comfort and hope without proselytizing - which proved to be a major turn-off when I read, "The Shack."(less)