As we stumble along in life, we often choose to spend a minimal amount of our time considering death. Who could blame us? Death is inevitable; an inesAs we stumble along in life, we often choose to spend a minimal amount of our time considering death. Who could blame us? Death is inevitable; an inescapable fate that all living things must face, but it embodies a large portion of what we do not understand. The question of why looms over our heads, and no amount of theorizing, philosophizing, or proselytizing has ever brought about a universally satisfactory answer.
Mitch Albom offers his own interpretation. After you die, you go to heaven, and in heaven, you speak with five people who will reveal to you the meaning of your life-- not the meaning of life, but of your own specifically.
There are lessons to take from those that the protagonist learns of himself. Some of these lessons may apply to others in some way, or some may seem to be irrelevant and disintegrate when applied to the real world. Nevertheless, the story provides a warm and comforting fantasy at the heart of which our own fears are highlighted.
Albom's prose is quick and concise, yet soft and yielding when called upon. He approaches the story with a sort of humility and serenity that gives the book an endearing quality. Of course, pardon the cliche, we are given a storybook fantasy ending and left to ponder our own importance in every life we touch, whether we realize the breadth of our influence or not.
For some, this book might highlight the greatness of some distant ideology or fantasy, but to me, this book was nothing more than a story of humanity. It was a story that beckons us to step into our own spotlight and consider how, for better or worse, we can make a difference in life....more
Lying is a short essay in which Sam Harris attempts to explain how lying, in almost every capacity, is detrimental to our interactions with fellow humLying is a short essay in which Sam Harris attempts to explain how lying, in almost every capacity, is detrimental to our interactions with fellow human beings on all levels.
While many may interpret this as an argument of extremity, I think that the real argument is intended as more of a cautionary tale: lies and deceit break down our ability to build trust between individuals as well as groups (i.e. state and it's populace), which in turn can limit people's abilities to live life to their desired potential.
This essay attempts to tackle a very difficult and varied subject. Harris has often written about such gray-area topics as ethics and morals, and yet this essay seems to struggle to find a foothold amidst a plethora of real-world examples. Though, his point is well constructed; he explains how he defines lies and deception, and proceeds to argue that lying, in all but a scant few specific cases, is morally objectionable and reduces the quality of ones relationships, and by extension, their life. With such a strong thesis and reasonable argument, the bulk of the essay seems less pointed.
Of course, this may merely be a result of the shadowy elements of the subject itself, and the almost endless variables that some may feel should be, but were not, addressed by Harris. Needless to say, it would be unreasonable for him to attempt to make a case of every possible variable, but it could be argued that he could have covered more ground than he did.
Despite it's shortcomings and the inevitable lack of satisfaction I felt after reading it, Lying proposes a very important argument that so many people today fail to even consider in their day to day lives. If only we lived in a world where Harris didn't even have to try and explain these points to people. If only we lived in a world where we all simply understood and didn't get lost in the pitfall of lies so easily....more
I've read many young adult novels that deal with themes of, "growing up" or, "coming of age," but none of which deal with the delicate wonderment of cI've read many young adult novels that deal with themes of, "growing up" or, "coming of age," but none of which deal with the delicate wonderment of childhood as Betty Smith does in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." Perhaps it is an unfair comparison to make; most young adult novels deal with themes of identity and a philosophical search for meaning in life. They deal with characters becoming who they are through life changing experiences and people. Smith's novel, on the other hand, deals with everything else.
Growing up in the early 1900's in a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn, little Francie Nolan looks upon the world with fresh eyes. Every little detail and every little nuance of life is wonderment to behold. Of course, as she grows up, she realizes things aren't as grand as they seemed when she was younger. Life is difficult, but the people in her life make it bearable. She has her books and her unwavering need to survive. But it’s not enough to simply survive, Francie wants to live.
Smith's prose makes every observation important. Every little detail is seen as if we are looking through Francie's eyes. There is a touch of innocence in the discovery of each passage, even if the words themselves bring about disquiet disillusionment. The very pacing of the book is brilliantly plotted. Childhood is long and wonderful. There is so much to see and so much to do; discovery is in every corner shop or the rustle of every leaf. As she grows into young adulthood, time begins to slide by more quickly. Soon the small events are hurriedly passed over and all that remains is the events that shape life in broad strokes.
Yet Francie never wavers from the zest for life she inherited from her parents. She is all too aware of the fleeting aspects of life yet, she does not mourn their passing, she reflects on them and they help her grow.
This is a novel about many things: disillusionment, poverty, love, and family, but most of all this is a novel about living life to our fullest potential--to taking the good with the bad, but never faltering. It's a novel about a little girl who isn't afraid to dream, not because she doesn't know any better, but because she is driven to it from somewhere deep within....more