What started as a discussion between Socrates and his friends (yes, the star of Plato's book is Socrates) on the Just vs. Unjust spiraled into a mentaWhat started as a discussion between Socrates and his friends (yes, the star of Plato's book is Socrates) on the Just vs. Unjust spiraled into a mental exercise in which they (and by 'they' I mean Socrates all by himself) built a State from the ground up, then dubbed perfect.
I enjoyed reading about the structure of this perfect State, although I think that some of its more unusual aspects would be impossible to implement--nor would it endure forever, both of which Socrates readily admits. But just because the implementation of the perfect State isn't possible, doesn't make the idea any less perfect … said Plato via Socrates.
The first chapter sets the stage, which is Socrates lounging with his friends and talking Philosophy--more specifically, discussing the Just and Unjust man, and which is happiest. Some foolish rapscallion disagrees with Socrates on a point, and they argue back and forth, to the rapscallion's ultimate embarrassment. I thought this debate format was how the rest of the book would be structured, but Socrates crushed that first opponent so thoroughly that nobody else dared rise up to carry the torch. From that point forward, rather than stand up to the unstoppable Socrates, his subdued audience spoke up only to interject their wholehearted agreement with whatever point he was making. And they agreed with Socrates a lot. A whole lot. All the time, in fact. They said thinks like:
"Just so!" "To be sure." "Clearly." "Naturally." "True," "Most true," and "Very true!" "Of course." "Obviously." "It can be no other way." and "Without a doubt!"
I'm not sure why these fawning assenters needed to be in the book, other than to present a whole crowd of agreeing voices for Socrates and his ideas. "Do your job!" I wanted to say to them. "Gird your loins and debate with Socrates!" But it was not to be. Without opposition, Socrates was unstoppable--which is fine, because that's what I came for anyway, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in how Plato--if handed a State to organize--would have organized it.
One of my favorite quotes from the book: "The State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best and most quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager, the worst."
These are my thoughts on the Quran as literature--a book to be read for enjoyment and/or education.
The one aspect of the Quran that most surprised meThese are my thoughts on the Quran as literature--a book to be read for enjoyment and/or education.
The one aspect of the Quran that most surprised me was its redundancy. I knew very little about the Quran before I started, and I expected a blend of history, exposition, exhortation, and moral instruction. But that's only kind of what the Quran offers. Summarized, the incessantly repeated message goes like this: God has sent many prophets (Noah, Abraham, Lot, Moses, Jesus) to the people, and the people have always rejected them, resulting in the utter destruction of those people. Many centuries have passed since those stories, but God isn't changing his plan or his pattern: prophet-denial-destruction. On the Last Day, everlasting bliss awaits those who believed and obeyed the prophet. For the unbelievers is prepared the worst of punishments in Hell. Rinse and repeat. But it's a pretty light rinse.
That's not all there is to it, but that's the main thrust of it, and in sheer word-count that message outweighs everything else by a significant sum.
I can't help comparing the Quran to the Bhagavad-Gita, which was short, beautiful, and (to me) powerful; or to the Bible, with its many different voices and epic scope. The Quran suffers in comparison, being overly repetitive and rather narrow in focus. As a holy text of one of the world's largest religions, the Quran is without doubt an important book--it just isn't a very enjoyable one to read.
Despite its difficulty, I would still recommend it to anyone, just as I would recommend the Bhagavad-Gita or the Bible. As a book that is actively shaping the beliefs of so many people, isn't it good to have a first-hand familiarity with what it teaches?...more
These are the stories of seven generations of Bellefleurs, told up and down through time. There's plenty of magical realism here, and a whole handfulThese are the stories of seven generations of Bellefleurs, told up and down through time. There's plenty of magical realism here, and a whole handful of unsolved mysteries. I'm not sure what the overarching theme might have been, or if there even was one, but it was good reading. And even though the book was long, and took a long time to read, I was sad when it ended, and would have gladly spent more time among the Bellefleurs. Everything about it reminded me of Crowley's "Little, Big" and Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude," two of my most favorite books....more