Dan Harris uses autobiographical material to illustrate the practical benefits and challenges of Buddhist principles (primarily mindfulness and compassion). I read the book as prologue to Sam Harris' upcoming book on the (illusion of) self: Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, due in September, 2014.
10% Happier attempts to answer an important question: is it possible to be mindful/Zen and not be apathetic? Can we engage our worldly pursuits vigorously while not falling into the traps of obsession, overwork and lack of perspective? The book makes significant progress toward answering that question. It's the first book I've read that really addresses it, and that alone, warrants prime placement on my science of mind shelf.
I wanted to read this for the trumpet acoustics section but was drawn in to the whole web of information.
There is a ton of great information here. The...moreI wanted to read this for the trumpet acoustics section but was drawn in to the whole web of information.
There is a ton of great information here. The only drawback is that the well-established physics is sprinkled with some less proven theory. The author admits as much at the outset, but fails to clearly mark which is which in the body of the book.
Definitely a must-have if you are a serious musician.(less)
Well I've been meaning to read this for about 28 years and finally got to it.
I watched the movie when it first came out in 1984 and I liked it a lot....moreWell I've been meaning to read this for about 28 years and finally got to it.
I watched the movie when it first came out in 1984 and I liked it a lot. A zillion quotable quotes and many memorable scenes. But I fell asleep about half way through.
After I started reading the book, I got so enthused, I thought "hey I want to watch the movie again!". And so I did, and guess what: I fell asleep again! But before I did, I realized just how awful and uneven the movie is. The quotable quotes were still there, and the memorable scenes e.g. the guild navigator being rolled (in its fish tank) into the Emperor's chamber. But man oh man, those voiceovers of characters thoughts. Oy. Yes it was in keeping with the book's italicized sections but man it is annoying in the movie. And sleep-inducing.
Anyhow, the book was good stuff. It was remarkable to me, how much of Firefly came from Dune e.g. prostitution is not only acceptable to highly respectable in Firefly. Shades of the Bene Gesseritt concubines of Dune. Yes I know prostitute != concubine != "companion" != courtesan, but to me, the heritage is unmistakable. I also noted the similarity that in both Dune and Firefly, the human race has moved to a new (single) solar system. On the other hand, Dune is chock full 'o mysticisym, metaphysics and drug trips, whereas Firefly: not so much.
While the story moved along nicely and examples of Herbert's fertile imagination abound, there are places where he slips. For instance in an underground Fremen base, he describes an office with steel file cabinets. Why would Fremen need file cabinets? Why would they be like 19th-century earth ones? There aren't many of these slips but a couple of them are kind of distracting.
All in all, for its quality, entertainment value, and impact on subsequent literature, film and culture, I'd call this one a must-read.(less)
After seeing the movie, I wanted to see how closely the movie followed the book. As I read the book it became apparent that the movie follows the book...moreAfter seeing the movie, I wanted to see how closely the movie followed the book. As I read the book it became apparent that the movie follows the book very closely indeed.
The book is a mood piece with a few rewarding, if widely-spaced, insights. Good stuff if you are into that sort of thing. If you are annoyed by repetition, or bleakness, then stay away.(less)
This is the first Barabara Kingsolver book I've read. There were a handful of satisfying payoffs with some slow patches in between. There is some scie...moreThis is the first Barabara Kingsolver book I've read. There were a handful of satisfying payoffs with some slow patches in between. There is some science in here, but mostly there are characters to enjoy.(less)
I became interested in Alexander Technique through my musical study. David Monette promotes the concepts and through my research I learned that Adolph...moreI became interested in Alexander Technique through my musical study. David Monette promotes the concepts and through my research I learned that Adolph "Bud" Herseth was a proponent as well. It's hard for a trumpet player to ignore the advice of a couple guys like that!
The first part of the book lays down the basics of the technique. Much is made of the changing orientation of the head and spine through (human) evolutionary history. I took away an idea that human capacity for language has perhaps diminished our ability to move naturally, i.e. efficiently, in accordance with our physical structure. If you want to make sense of that you'll just have to read the book.
Also useful was the information presented about the amygdala and its role as our mental burglar alarm. Vineyard connected these ideas with others findings in neuroscience regarding the stress reaction. This stuff is just good to understand if you are a performer. Heck it's good for every single person to understand because we all deal with stress, and I'd say most of us deal poorly with it.
Where the book lost me though, was in the second part, where it descends into woo. There is a whole chapter on touch that reads to me just like a disposition on therapeutic touch. Therapeutic touch has been thoroughly debunked.
Further, while there are lots of good theories presented in the book, very little is actually backed up by evidence. Based on my research into Zen mindfulness meditation I can definitely buy into some of the basics of Alexander Technique: lying supine, semi-supine, observing your thoughts, doing without doing (to some extent), massage/touch/manipulation. I've personally experienced the positive effects of all those things outside the context of Alexander Technique. But when Vineyard ascribes magical powers to the idea of thinking "up", "forward" and "wide" and claims that we can change the nature of our being by thinking in "three dimensions", I just don't see the evidence. Vineyard provides anecdotal evidence from her practice, but that's not really sufficient: remarkable claims require remarkable proof.
Alexander Technique looks like an early 1900's neurological theory based on a combination of science and belief. Vineyards practice, as described in the book, has updated the theory by attempting to fit it to the past 100 years of additional neuroscience. Vineyard has found many things that seem to fit, but ventures way too far on way too little hard evidence. There are a few core concepts that to me, are viable, but as a whole I think Vineyards Alexander Technique, while perhaps a good source for neuroscience PhD thesis topics, belongs in the new age section of the library.(less)
As an avid reader of the new atheists, I am struck by how many of their themes can be traced directly to this book. For instance Sagan speaks of the "...moreAs an avid reader of the new atheists, I am struck by how many of their themes can be traced directly to this book. For instance Sagan speaks of the "god hypothesis" that is later picked up in Dawkins' The God Delusion.
I wish I had read this book before Dawkins' if only so that I might have had a kinder-gentler book to offer my religious friends (than Dawkins). Sagan is sweet. Always fatherly. The prose is conversational too. As I read it I can hear Sagan saying the words.
As I'm sure others have suggested, this book should be used as a standard skepticism textbook for public high schoolers in the US. There's just so much gold in here, and all illustrated with real-world examples that are as pertinent and present in 2012 as they were when the book was published in 1997.(less)
The author is at pains to avoid actually presenting any of the mathematics. The subject is good. The storytelling is reasonably paced. But Livio just...moreThe author is at pains to avoid actually presenting any of the mathematics. The subject is good. The storytelling is reasonably paced. But Livio just refuses to show us any of the actual subject matter. It is maddening.(less)
In this book you will learn that the ancient Greeks and then the Romans developed and practiced a philosophy, Stoicism, that has core similarities to...moreIn this book you will learn that the ancient Greeks and then the Romans developed and practiced a philosophy, Stoicism, that has core similarities to Zen Buddhism.
A central observation of the Stoics, that after we acquire something we desire, our enjoyment of it declines over time, is supported by modern psychological research. It's even been given an official name: hedonic adaptation.
There are some valuable ideas in this book. I downgraded the star rating a bit because the presentation is a bit repetitive and without clear direction.(less)
Much of the wisdom here has seeped into the culture since its original release in 1992. Nevertheless, it's great to have it all brought together in on...moreMuch of the wisdom here has seeped into the culture since its original release in 1992. Nevertheless, it's great to have it all brought together in one package.
I listened to the book on tape which took only about two hours. As I was listening I was taking some notes and fiddling with Quicken Essentials Mac to bring my spending patterns into a little sharper focus. So the whole process for me took a few hours. I should say steps 1-4 took a few hours. 5-9 of course will take more time, a lifetime actually.
The ideas here are life-changers. I could hear my long-lost Mom saying, "I told you so" as I listened to Vicki Robin's earnest, honest reading.(less)
This book is rife with historical revisionism presented as truth, in the service of Evangelical Christianity. That wouldn't be so bad if it didn't pos...moreThis book is rife with historical revisionism presented as truth, in the service of Evangelical Christianity. That wouldn't be so bad if it didn't pose as an academic treatment of the ten commandments.(less)
Whereas the first book took maybe 50 pages to get going, this one took about three times that long. After that it just seemed to be going through the motions, tying up loose ends (and creating a few new loose ends which were then mechanically tied up.)
My suggestion is to just read the first book and skip the other two.(less)
A few things that stood out to me were (in no particular order):
1. It's noteworthy that the author claims, in the book, to be agnostic, yet the whole book is a case for some sort of creator-god and intelligent design. By claiming to be agnostic, Berlinski panders to the skeptical reader in an attempt to appear objective, while not going all-out atheist, which would turn off is more credulous readers. The review  points out an example of the kind of contradiction that ensues:
He had me when he told us all in the preface that he himself was an agnostic. That is comforting because it indicates to me that he has no vested interest to prove or disprove god. This was an odd confession for him to make, as it were, because in the very next chapter, Berlinski begins talking about how immorality will invariably ensue if there is no creator to give us objective moral fiats. He makes much of the famous "quote" from Ivan Kerimozov: "If god does not exist, then everything is permitted." So where, asks Berlinski, shall we get our morals from if not from a creator? An odd question for him to ask if he is agnostic, isn't it?! My question to him would be, "For someone who is not sure whether god exists, where do you get your morals from?" I trust that Berlinski is not the kind that steasl money on a regular basis, or kills for pleasure. (Surely we don't need a fiat from god to know that killing others is wrong!)
Agnosticism, on the part of the author would have no bearing at all on his arguments, if he hadn't made his agnosticism part of his argument.
2. Very early in the book, the broad position is put forth, that it is not possible to disprove a god's existence (certainly that science has not disproven all gods' existence) pp xiv-xvii. I expected a subsequent refutation or Russell's Teapot (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell&...) but none was forthcoming. For a book that claims that atheist authors have failed to read deeply, the great works of philosophy, I am left to assume that the author believes Russell does not fall into that category. Or, more likely, the Teapot was omitted because there is no good refutation of it. The burden remains upon the one asserting gods existence, to prove that existence. Word games like Aquinas' argument from first cause are fun for rhetoricians, but they don't carry any water in the real world. Berlinski's "domino" rebuttal of Dawkins on p. 68-69 doesn't help. Similarly, definitional games, like William Lane Craig's (http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video...) witness of the holy spirit as indubitability and belief in god as basic belief and intrinsic defeater-defeater (http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video...) don't provide the heavy lifting either.
3. I must admit I mostly skimmed the cosmology part in the second half pp 83-108. I saw some of the stuff on relativistic time and how the author tried to connect some of those ideas to bolster the plausibility of the Genesis account of the universe's creation in 6 days. So the book uses some pieces of science to try to support the biblical account. And then it turns around and points out that science doesn't know everything (e.g. string theory is just crazy!) and employs a God of the Gaps (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_t...) argument at that point pp 109-136. More god of the gaps: 183-185, 197-199.
4. The book derides as "childish" pp. 140-141 the question of "God's" existence (when posed by skeptics) but then of course waves it's hands without any answer to that very question. I find this tactic particularly bankrupt. I just watched the excellent debate (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqaHXK...) between William Lane Craig (mentioned above) and Sam Harris and then listened to Craig and friends' analysis of the debate (http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video...) in which they deride Harris' position as consisting of "a litany of red herrings…as if Sam went to a junior high campus…gathered up all the objections to Christianity and then read them out". This rebuttal would be stronger if theists had viable answers to these "trivial" questions, like theodicy for instance.
5. The book sets up a false choice between god (the god of Abraham?) on the one hand and moral relativism on the other (pp 39). This is a common slander against liberal intellectual "elites". Anything goes. In fact, I don't think Dawkins ever argues for moral relativism. And I can tell you for sure that Sam Harris is no moral relativist. Nor does Harris sweep anything under the rug—his latest book, The Moral Landscape, is all about (the opposite of moral relativism). One of the big complaints, in fact, leveled against the New Atheists is that they argue against moral relativism.
6. The book raises the spectre of fascism and socialism (pp 25-32, 38), claiming that because supposedly the Nazi and Soviet platforms were godless that somehow atheism leads to Naziism and Socialism. One could as easily claim that the real common threat was populism leveraged to produce anti-intellectualism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-int...) and a failure (by the masses) to question authority. Furthermore, to suggest that the Nazi's ability (or desire) to exterminate 6MM Jews was more the result of Nazi's godlessness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hi...) than of centuries-old religious prejudices, is to fail to understand history. One of the best reasons to exterminate people has always been because of their (different) religious views (examples too numerous to require citation here.)
Point (3) and (1) are connected. When I said "some sort of" creator-god I wasn't being arbitrary. The book fails to actually characterize the god or gods it is actually arguing for. The impression I get is that it is either the god of Judaism or the god of Evangelical Christianity (but not the god of Muhammad). But that's only a guess. And that's the key problem with the God of the Gaps: you can stick whatever god you want in there. And it's no fair picking Yahweh unless you have other arguments in His favor. But the book doesn't really present any. It's just assumed that Yahweh's the right one. If the author had been born in India he'd be arguing for Vishnu instead I suppose. But then he wouldn't be employable by the Discovery Institute alas (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...).
I realize of course that to even suggest that someone could present a coherent argument for either the god of Judaism or the god of Evangelical Christianity is not realistic because there are as many definitions of those as there are believers in them. Is the author arguing for a barbarous (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?..., http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?...), Old Testament god. Or is the author arguing for a more enlightened god, say of the New Testament (never mind that the case for Jesus as christ (in the New Testament) is made, albeit inconsistently (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Se..., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealog...), by his supposed fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies)? Perhaps the author is arguing for the full Deepak Chopra: god as quantum entanglement or something — who knows.