I only read through the beginning. I don't consider myself hostile to either Christian apology or the idea of doing it by loose autobiographical meansI only read through the beginning. I don't consider myself hostile to either Christian apology or the idea of doing it by loose autobiographical means but found the train of thought superficial and absurd....more
This book is an interesting mix of a lot of stuff. Personal reflections, history, politics, philosophy, political philosophy. To my mind this was bothThis book is an interesting mix of a lot of stuff. Personal reflections, history, politics, philosophy, political philosophy. To my mind this was both a strength and a weakness.
It's a strength in that it definitely made the book more interesting than a simple introduction to Buddhism. I particularly liked the memoir parts. They reflect someone that is humble enough to portray themselves as struggling, rather than simply pronouncing upon the great journey they have taken. I could also relate to his desire for recognition matched with his cynicism and disgust with many aspects of the world around him.
On the other hand, the weakness of this method is that the book doesn't really have a central thrust of any kind. It's not really an introduction to Buddhism, but there is a lot of presentation of the basic tenents of Buddhism. It's not really a comparative work between Western Philosophy although there is much of this as well (Mishra focuses primarily on Nietzsche although he brings to bear a large number of other thinkers). It's not even really a personal memoir although much of what is presented is couched as reflections on issues that trouble him as a person.
Lastly, I found the deflationary view of Buddha to a bit depressing. He seems almost intent to make Buddha into a political philosopher. While his attempt to ground Buddha in a social context may be an antidote to other kinds of obfuscation, I'm not sure this is much more honest.
On the whole I liked it and found his comparison of various thinkers and historical figures to be engaging. I did struggle with some boredom though, and found I was glad to be done with it also....more
Just read this for the second time. The first time was in college for a Kierkegaard class. I liked it then a lot, but one of the problems with collegeJust read this for the second time. The first time was in college for a Kierkegaard class. I liked it then a lot, but one of the problems with college for me was that I often felt overloaded. There was so much to read that it was often difficult to get it all read, and so even the stuff I read was almost never at full attention.
I read "Fear and Trembling" before college (or at least my second and successful attempt at college). I really loved it. But on the other hand, I have a difficult relationship with Christianity. It's too close to me to abandon, but too uncomfortable to be satisfying.
Probably the most satisfying communal religious experiences I have had have been with the Quakers. Of course, as with any denomination, there are many kinds of Quakers. I mean the quiet ones. The ones who literally meet on Sunday (sometimes other times too) to sit for an hour in silence. Where there is no priest, and anyone can speak if they feel moved by God. Of course, just as there are different denominations there are different congregations and let's just say some of them are more quiet than others.
Sometimes I feel very strongly that any Christianity I could really accept would be found more in Christian writers like Kierkegaard than in many of the passages of the Bible. But then again, as K points out, Christ himself said something like blessed are those who are not offended by me. K takes this sense of offense very seriously.
Make no mistake, Kierkegaard is disgusted by the idea of "defending" Christianity, or of trying to convince someone of it's truth. Not because he takes it as too obvious for proof, but rather due to the very nature of Christianity itself and faith. If you are the happy pagan, likely you will simply reject the book out of hand as not corresponding to your understanding of reality.
I think there are two things in particular that are appealing about K. First, he has an incredibly noble view of human possibility. Secondly, he is a very clear thinker.
This read was interesting in many ways, but in one way in particular, because he puts the question directly to a waffler like me. I always want to have it both ways, along the lines of "oh both Christianity and not-Christianity are true." He argues that "no, either you really believe that those happy pagans are healthy, or you believe that they are in despair."
Of course you have to be clear about what he tells you he means by this word. He accepts that those happy pagans can be very much happy and healthy. His meaning of despair is not the idea that "oh they look happy but underneath they are really eating their hearts out". The idea is much closer to the idea that they are simply in error. Of course he does mean that despair is a kind of spiritual illness. Just not one that necessarily makes you feel bad. (though of course it can). It means that if you have those feelings of contentment and happiness in this life without agreeing about God and our relationship to him, then you have essentially traded this life for eternity. You are simply oblivious to the most profound dimension of human existence. Here's the idea, there's no argument about it. If you are the pagan you won't find anything here to convince you, except perhaps the attraction of the image he provides. But it is based in a very noble notion of the eternal and the vast depths of the possibility of the human spirit. Here is the idea that we are defined by what measures us, and what measures us is God.
Of course it can be confusing, because at times he does speak of despair as a feeling like we commonly understand it to be. Certainly he agrees that they can be related. This is of course another of the very cool things about K, that he can talk about pretty abstract things in terms of personal psycho-spiritual experience. Also, the reverse as well.
Certainly for me this read was more personal, more about my own place. And I think this is appropriate, for as Kierkegaard says at the beginning, he does mean this work to be edifying. I take him to mean there personally relevant, not simply meant as some abstract analysis. Certainly I found his views very compelling....more