Interesting but not groundbreaking. I enjoyed reading about Ram Dass's personal account of living a path of service. Learning about the challenges of...moreInteresting but not groundbreaking. I enjoyed reading about Ram Dass's personal account of living a path of service. Learning about the challenges of working with the SEVA Foundation was particularly interesting. I also enjoyed thinking about the interrelationship of social action and spiritual practice. It's a difficult balance because at times, it may feel like you are forced to choose between the two. Spiritual awareness develops through the intuitive heart...an unconditional embracing of all that is...a cosmic affirmation: "YES!" to everything. Social action is much more rooted in physical realities, injustices, and the discriminating mind. It exists in the world of right and wrong. By standing up for what is right, you are condemning what is wrong---and so where does that unconditional embracing, that cosmic affirmation of the heart come in to play?
I think this is a fundamental issue that we all must confront in our lives. The way we come to peace and resolve this conflict develops through experience and trying to live as consciously as we can rather than a clear-cut "answer".
Basically I found the book to be thought-provoking, but it didn't give me any spectacular insights. My favorite exercise offered was this: Write out "If I could do anything to help, I would love to do..." Start brainstorming. Write everything that comes to mind. You will most likely identify your values, passions, and personal strengths. From this point, it may be easier to find ways to implement them in your daily life. (less)
'Night' is Elie Wiesel's autobiographical account of his experience in Nazi death camps. As a human document it is beyond criticism. There are no word...more'Night' is Elie Wiesel's autobiographical account of his experience in Nazi death camps. As a human document it is beyond criticism. There are no words to express the unimaginable sufferings he, and millions others experienced during this nightmarish period of world history. The fact that genocide still happens today and the major world powers mostly look away and allow it to happen, is an important discussion to be had, but for now I'll just talk about this book.
I've seen 'Shindler's List', and I've read WWII history, and I've seen footage of the malnourished, skeletal figures of Jewish persons thrown into mass graves...all of which seriously impacted me...the face of such concentrated pure evil...but this book showed me something I hadn't seen before: it showed me what happens when the your spirit is completely annihilated. Despair is obvious in the face of such trauma, but it's like these experiences changed the victims into living corpses...or more like the walking undead. When human beings are brought to the brink of insanity they become monsters. Anything that was intrinsically good in them is buried beneath the ugliest parts of our nature.
More than a retelling of his story, Wiesel writes about his loss of faith in a God...and seriously, who can blame him? At one point, the SS made all of the prisoners gather to witness the hanging of a 10 year old boy, who being so light-weight, did not quickly suffocate and die, but hung there for over half an hour wildly writhing for his life until he finally died. They were forced to look at him in the face the entire time. Wiesel said that someone kept saying, "Where is God? Where is God now?" And he suddenly realized, "God is hanging here on this gallows."
It was the details like this that made this book so intense, and there are plenty more. A short read, only 107 pages, Wiesel allows no room to avert your eyes from the horror.
I can't get enough of Hunter S Thompson's wry, witty, biting, relevant observation and social commentary. It's hilarious! This is the textbook example...moreI can't get enough of Hunter S Thompson's wry, witty, biting, relevant observation and social commentary. It's hilarious! This is the textbook example of Gonzo journalism: a month by month account of the 1972 presidential campaign as it happened. I think this approach does a great job of illustrating the soap opera which is politics: extreme highs and lows, loooong strings of battles building in intensity, adrenaline rushes of victory, despair of defeat, talking-heads analyzing each miniscule detail speculating the ULTIMATE conclusion, and the volatility of public perception that seems to swing from one extreme to the next in a matter of minutes.
It made me dislike politics even more; the way that over-dramatized idiotic issues take center stage. Remember the preacher scandal of Obama's campaign? These things are quickly forgotten (because they don't matter) and yet during the campaign they seem like a matter of life and death. So we get all the details of the circus that was the '72 presidential campaign, but what really makes this book is Hunter S Thompson. He is always self-referential, we feel like we are with him in his hotel room at Sea Rock Inn on Geary street in San Francisco as he scrambles to get the pages written before his deadline. We witness him go from one crisis to another, many of them personal due to the insane pace of the campaign combined with endless monotony...he literally has a nervous breakdown and is unable to complete a portion of the book (what we get are his notes verbatim), and he had to resort to verbal composition using a tape recorder to finish the last chapter. Vintage Thompson. We read about all the absurd drug induced experiences that most fans find humorous. And we read some very interesting and revealing candid conversations between Hunter and the presidential candidates.
Hunter's insight helped put into perspective how the '72 election symbolized the death of the 60's (actually it was '68, but '72 confirmed it). This was the election that disillusioned an entire generation regarding politics, that affirmed our assumptions that politicians are liars, power hungry egomaniacs, dirty, corrupt, bastards. And I couldn't help but notice the relevance of the disillusionment then compared to today. Just as a generation of Americans lost faith in the political system, we are seeing a new generation of people becoming disillusioned with politics due to Obama's inability to do anything remotely progressive with his presidency. We feel that creeping despair, that fear and loathing, just as Hunter articulated 40 years ago.(less)