This has been in my library since it came out, and I wish I'd read it earlier. Not because I would have benefited any more from the information it conThis has been in my library since it came out, and I wish I'd read it earlier. Not because I would have benefited any more from the information it contains but because then its layout and design wouldn't feel so dated. Like so much from the late 90s, with that Wired magazine emphasis on form over function and of font over content, this book's layout, with thick black ehorizontal rules on both sides of the text and comics placed randomly throughout, leaves a lot to be desired. That said, it is well written enough to be enjoyable in spite of stylistic limitations and it provides a neuroscientific rationale justifying further research into psychedelic medicines. Many of the weblinks are long-dead, and I am certain that the state of the research is far past what is documented here, but this is still an entertaining introduction to the history and science of psychedelic substances. And it contains two essential research tools for any sort of inner exploration, substance-induced or otherwise: Ralph Metzner's Altered States Graphic Profile (ASGP) form and Rick Strassman's Hallucinogen Rating Scale (HRS)! ...more
I read this book (the Herbert Mason translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, FYI, since all these editions get crammed together in the review section) inI read this book (the Herbert Mason translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, FYI, since all these editions get crammed together in the review section) in response to a "homework assignment" from the Archdruid Report:
Homework Assignment #1
Since this series of posts is on education, yes, there’s going to be homework. Your assignment for the next two weeks consists of choosing a book-length work of fiction that (a) you haven’t previously read, and (b) was written before 1900, and reading it. It can be anything that fits these capacious limits: Little Women, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Scarlet Letter, The Tale of Genji, or something else entirely—take your pick. Whatever book you choose, read it cover to cover, and pay attention to the places where the author’s assumptions about the world differ from yours. Don’t pass judgment on the differences; just notice them, and think about what it would have been like to see the world the way the author did.
Full Disclosure: For this "assignment" I first tried reading an 18th century, early American gothic novel called Wieland. Ugh. Paid by the word. "This man needs some Hemingway, stat!" I guess one thing I learned about where the author's assumptions about the world differ from mine is that I like writers to tell a story. Seriously - 99 pages into Wieland, and I still really had no clue as to what was happening. The prose unfolded so slowly as to make glaciers jealous. "Dreadful" was how I described it to Joanne before I nuked it and started this project over. Hence this review of an entirely different, and much better, book.
So what did I think of this translation of The Epic of Gilgamesh? I loved it. Alas, as it turns out, it is not a proper translation of the Epic, from whichever source language, but is instead a "verse narrative" (as the subtitle clearly states). In the original afterword, John H. Marks offers a sense of the differences:
The present rendering by Herbert Mason is properly called a verse narrative. It is a sensitive, authentic retelling of the old story, an attempt to onvey the profound anguish Gilgamesh suffered after his constant companion and friend, Enkidu, died. The author makes no claim to present an accurate rendering of the cuneiform text. He knows the ancient story well and tells it the way it has become memorable to him. His narrative has its own spellbinding power, evoking feelings and thoughts familiar to all who suffer the loss of loved companions.
Mason's remarkable achievement is to offer this interpretation of Gilgamesh in a way that does no violence to the original, but rather concentrates its rays into an intense light on the central question about death. One who knows the ancient story is fascinated and moved by this account, which will also drive the novice to read the scholarly versions with new understanding. This rendering answers the unasked, personal question, what does Gilgamesh mean to me? with penetrating insight into the riddle of human life; and it leaves one asking of the story the same question for himself. (124–5)
Of course, this also posed a challenge in terms of the aforementioned homework, in reading a contemporary, "personal" interpretation of the Epic instead of a scholarly translation that would, hopefully, make the differences in worldviews stand out more starkly. Luckily, that very challenge also serves to heighten my attention to the differences that are present, in addition to noting the deep similarities across time and space, such as perplexity in the face of the unknown of death and pain in the face of the known of death.
It is, after all, a story that is understood immediately by anyone who has suffered loss, a loss one has yearned too restore and finally has had to accept.... To be sure, the lonely frustration of the survivors is the same after every death... And everyone is wise in saying, There is nothing you can do; but such wisdom does not reconcile any of us really to loss, for we knew the other as a person in himself not as an abstraction we could do without. (109, 110)
Presumably an item available in the Columbus Visitors Center gift shop, this slender book contains a short essay highlighting some of the features ofPresumably an item available in the Columbus Visitors Center gift shop, this slender book contains a short essay highlighting some of the features of the house and garden, along with a score or so of color photos. The Dan Kiley landscape plan inside the front and back covers was a highlight. ...more
High quality introductory essay describes the symbiotic relationship between businessman J. Irwin Miller, the Cummins Engine Company, and the small ciHigh quality introductory essay describes the symbiotic relationship between businessman J. Irwin Miller, the Cummins Engine Company, and the small city of Columbus, Indiana. In short, Miller believed in using his wealth and that of Cummins to invest in the city and make it a place worth moving to and working in, and he did so specifically by footing the architects' fees for designing public and municipal spaces and buildings. It's a pretty awesome town, partly because of all that world-class architecture, which is revealed to good effect by Tom Schiff and his panoramic camera....more
As previously noted, since this sequence of posts is on education, there’s going to be homework. Your homework for the next month, let’s say, is to read a work of literature that offends you. The choice of book is up to you; if there’s an issue that’s too emotionally traumatic for you to tackle just now, read something on another topic instead, but don’t go too easy on yourself without good reason. You’re not expected to agree with the author—that would defeat the purpose of the assignment—but rather to understand why the world looks the way it does to the author and some of his or her readers. The same rule that governs the creation of good villains in fiction applies here: you aren’t there yet until you can imagine some set of circumstances in which you would have ended up doing the same thing.
That was seriously going to constitute the entirety of this review, and it probably should. But a few more words might contextualize those fHoly shit.
That was seriously going to constitute the entirety of this review, and it probably should. But a few more words might contextualize those first two. A 29-year old ship designer, builder, and sailor is in the Atlantic by himself in a sailboat of his own construction when WHAM something hits the boat, waking him up with just enough time to inflate a liferaft and climb on board with some tools and meager supplies before the boat sinks.
He is adrift, on the Atlantic, for 76 days. Two and a half months. In a raft that is merely a collection of inflated rubber tubes held together by glue and rated to last 40 days. He distills his freshwater daily, using makeshift equipment. He catches and prepares his own food, using makeshift equipment. He lives in a structure barely larger than my bathtub, and survives on less fresh water than would fill that tub even once.
And he survives.
This book was a literal "could not put down" for me. Not only could Steven Callahan pull off a miracle in terms of surviving alone at sea for so long, but he pulls off a second accomplishment in being such a clear, lucid, and compelling writer who apparently kept some pretty good notes in his log on that raft. ...more
We must surrender our hopes and expectations, as well as our fears, and march directly into disappointment, work with disappointment, go into it, and
We must surrender our hopes and expectations, as well as our fears, and march directly into disappointment, work with disappointment, go into it, and make it our way of life, which is a very hard thing to do. Disappointment is a good sign of basic intelligence. It cannot be compared to anything else: it is so sharp, precise, obvious, and direct. If we can open, then we suddenly begin to see that our expectations are irrelevant compared with the reality of the situations we are facing. This automatically brings a feeling of diasppointment.
Disappointment is the best chariot to use on the path of the dharma. It does not confirm the existence of our ego and its dreams. (29)
The Buddha... was not a religious fanatic, attempting to act in accordance with some high ideal. He just dealt with people simply, openly, and very wisely. His wisdom came from transcendental common sense. His teaching was sound and open.
The problem seems to be that people worry about a conflict between the religious and the profane. They find it very difficult to reconcile so-called higher consciousness with practical affairs. but the categories of higher and lower, religious and profane, do not really seem relevant a basically sane approach to life. (56)
We have so many different defense mechanisms fashioned out of the knowledge we have received, the reading we have done, the experiences we have undergone, the dreams we have dreamed. But finally we being to question what spirituality means really. Is is simply a matter of attempting to be religious, pious, and good? Or is it trying to know more than other people, trying to learn more about the significance of life? What does it really mean, spirituality? (65)
Eventually we must give up trying to be something special. (68)
If one searches for any kind of bliss or joy, the realization of one's imagination and dream, then, equally, one is going to suffer failure and depression. This is the whole point: a fear of separation, the hope of attaining union, these are not just manifestations of of or the actions of ego or self-deception, as if ego were somehow a real thing which performed certain actions. Ego is the fear of losing openness, the fear of losing the egoless state. This is the meaning of self-deception, in this case—these are the ongoing action of the dream of ego, the self-perpetuatng, self-maintaining structure which is self-deception. (80–1)
The problem is that we tend to seek an easy and painless answer. but this kind of solution does not apply to the spiritual path, which many of us should ot have begun at all. One we commit ourselves to the spiritual path, it is very painful and we are in for it. We have committed ourselves to the pain of exposing ourselves, to taking off our clothes, our skin, nerves, heart, brain, until we are exposed to the universe. Nothing will be left. It will be terrible, excruciating, but that its the way it is. (93–4)
Q. Is it absolutely necessary that the spiritual friend be a living human being?
A. Yes. Any other "being" with whom you might think yourself communicating would be imaginary.
Q. Would the teachings of Christ in themselves be a spiritual friend?
A. I would not say so. That is an imaginary situation. It is the same with any teachings; they do not have to be the teachings of Christ necessarily. The problem is that we can interpret them ourselves. that is the whole point: written teachings are always open to the interpretation of ego. (101–2)
The spiritual friend might accentuate our pain in certain circumstances. That is part of the physician-patient relationship. The idea is not to regard the spiritual path as something very luxurious and pleasurable but to see it as just facing the facts of life. (103–4)
The best and most correct way of presenting the idea of compassion is in terms of clarity, clarity which contains fundamental warmth. At this stage, your meditation practice is the act of trusting in yourself. As your practice becomes more prominent in daily life activities, you begin to trust yourself and have a compassionate attitude. Compassion in this sense is not feeling sorry for someone. It is basic warmth. As much space and clarity as there is, there is that much warmth as well, some delightful feeling of positive things happening in yourself constantly. Whatever you are doing, it is not regarded as a mechanical drag in terms of self-conscious meditation, but meditation is a delightful and spontaneous thing to do. It is the continual at of making friends with yourself. (113)
Compassion automatically invites you to relate with people, because you no longer regard people as a drain on your energy. They recharge your energy, because in the process of relating to them, you acknowledge your wealth, your richness. So, if you have difficult tasks to perform, such as dealing with people or life situations, you do not feel as if you are running out of resources. Each time you are faced with a difficult task it presents itself as a delightful opportunity to demonstrate your richness, your wealth. there is no feeling of poverty at all in this approach to life. (115–6)
[M]any people make the mistake of thinking that, since ego is the root of suffering, the goal of spirituality must be to conquer and destroy ego. They struggle to eliminate ego's heavy hand but, as we discovered earlier, that struggle is merely another expression of ego. We go around and around, trying to improve ourselves through struggle, until we realize that the ambition to improve ourselves is itself the problem. Insights come only when there are gaps in our struggle, only when we strop trying to rid ourselves of thought, when we cease siding with pious, good thoughts against bad, impure thought, only when we allow ourselves simply to see the nature of thought. (180)