An uneven collection of essays, articles, and poems that bear, sometimes directly and sometimes tangentially, on spirituality or religion. The writing...moreAn uneven collection of essays, articles, and poems that bear, sometimes directly and sometimes tangentially, on spirituality or religion. The writings themselves are not inspirational or proselytizing works; nor is the focus on any one--or even any--religion in particular, but instead deal with topics such as music, the nature of thought, the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, and the strategems of a particular religious leader. Some works are well written and engaging; others are not. I ended up picking and choosing what seemed of interest to me.(less)
The middle of this book contains an essay on the vortex, and its many manifestations. The physical basis of a whirlpool, for example, is water (and pe...moreThe middle of this book contains an essay on the vortex, and its many manifestations. The physical basis of a whirlpool, for example, is water (and perhaps rocks). But it also requires an additional energy source to turn a pool of water into a whirlpool - "'The difference between a whirlpool and a pool is the whirl.'" (quoting the appropriately named Allen Upward). In physical terms, the vortex at its essence is a wheel or spiral turning. But Weinberger also notes the use of terms like vortices to describe a rush of ideas, or a process of thought.
I do not think it is an accident that the essay on the vortex is tucked somewhere in the middle of the book. The essays that surround it are the basis for his own vortex of ideas. There are common themes - wind, light, bone, seasons, wild animals, stars, and flowering trees - which are arranged in a sort of spiral relationship within the various essays. One example of this is the placement of the various essays on the seasons - spring, summer, fall, winter - throughout the book. Another is the way in which certain topics are introduced in one essay and then returned to in another. The book's structure reminds of another spiral - the spiral galaxy M101. [for a pic, see http://www.astronet.ru/db/xware/msg/a...].
It took me a little while to get the hang of what was going on in this book, and again, I think this is intentional. You aren't given a road map, you simply walk into an outer arm of the spiral, work your way into the center, and then ease on back out on the other side. It's unlike anything else I've ever read in that sense.
But what is the book ABOUT, you might ask? The way I see it, it's about the intersection of the natural world and man's quest for spiritual enlightment, throughout the ages and across the globe. It was definitely worth the read.
The Snow Leopard is a travelogue about two different types of journeys - first, a journey into an isolated region of Tibet to document the rutting beh...moreThe Snow Leopard is a travelogue about two different types of journeys - first, a journey into an isolated region of Tibet to document the rutting behavior of the bharal (himalayan blue sheep) and second, the author's personal spiritual journey along the way. You get to read about Matthiessen's emotional roller coaster and altered states of consciousness (whether spiritually or drug induced) on this trip, and at times, he's not particularly likeable. And of course, he's always on the lookout for the elusive, rare snow leopard, clearly a metaphor for spritual enlightment. Overall, it's a nice, calm, lyrical (albeit slow) read.
Besides - how often do you get to read a book that takes the existence of the yeti somewhat seriously?(less)