Clear, concise, articulate, heady, and cerebral. This is a fine supplement to those interested in the mystic realm of spirituality, especially those c...moreClear, concise, articulate, heady, and cerebral. This is a fine supplement to those interested in the mystic realm of spirituality, especially those comfortable with the Christian method. Too often, many books of this nature are "floaty" and seem to dance around the point they mean to make. Underhill's strength is her intellectual gift with language. It is also fused with real spirit and inspiration. I would recommend accompanying this book with something like, "Grist for the Mill" by Ram Dass, which resonates more with the "heart-mind" rather than the "cerebral-mind", as this does.(less)
I'm interested in reading more science fiction, so I did some research for recent critically-acclaimed work and decided to give this a try. I enjoyed...moreI'm interested in reading more science fiction, so I did some research for recent critically-acclaimed work and decided to give this a try. I enjoyed the visual landscape of this of this world. Steam-punk is pretty interesting. It combines old-world technology with futuristic cityscapes. Forget the information age. This is rooted in the cold metallic clockwork of the industrial age.
Sedia's language is at times lush and challenging, but these moments of breakthrough seem to come in spurts. Too often I wasn't engaged in her prose; rather I was focused on following the plot and trying to make sense of the characters: which mostly felt paper-thin.
The politics which drove the narrative didn't make much sense to me. Basically you have the mechanics who represent the majority, followed by the alchemists who represent a close minority. On the margins are foreigners, miners, soul-smokers, and gargoyles (who apparently created the city, but are powerless and are forced to "watch from above"). There is also the last remnant of a royal family who have essentially no political power, but represent lost tradition. It was never fully explained why the mechanics and alchemists were at odds. And I liked the ideas of the gargoyles, but their plight didn't make much sense to me either. As I read, I kept searching for a hook to really engage me, but I never found it.
Glad I read the book, but I can't whole-heartedly recommend it.(less)
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)
Dickens does a great job of criticizing the injustices of the time; specifically here, the treatment of the poor and disenfranchised. Oliver is such a...moreDickens does a great job of criticizing the injustices of the time; specifically here, the treatment of the poor and disenfranchised. Oliver is such a sweet and innocent boy and it's perfectly infuriating the way he is mistreated by those above him. Dickens also has a surprising wry wit that had me laughing in parts. But I thought the first half of the story was much stronger than the second. I found Oliver's descent to the depths of despair to be the most engaging. It goes from bad to worse for the poor kid which provokes quite an emotional response! Of course, things get better for our hero, and by this point the novel lost some its edge and it felt like Dickens was just tying up loose ends in order to finish the story. It fizzled out for me. A great introduction to Charles Dickens though. Recommended!(less)
The most rewarding aspect of this novel for me was the deep connection between characters...the kind of connection that develops through fighting for...moreThe most rewarding aspect of this novel for me was the deep connection between characters...the kind of connection that develops through fighting for a cause together, through risking your lives together, through dying together. Hemingway managed to transcend the barriers that separate individuals and reach a spiritual place. The unity of man seemed to be the heart of Hemingway's message.
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." - John Donne
I appreciated the introspective quality of this book. The main characters often meditated on death, killing, the cold realities of war. Instead of dehumanizing the other side---even though they are fascists---we witness characters truly struggle with violence. Hemingway's message is neither pro-war or anti-war. He only tries to show the truth. He explores the moral ambiguity of war. He acknowledges the traumatic consequences of violence and he also acknowledges the conviction to stand against injustice and fight to protect all that is good in this world---because there are those who will destroy it if we allow them.
For Whom the Bell Tolls is also a romance. And the romance between Robert Jordan and Maria is stunningly beautiful. Much of its power arises from the dire circumstances, from the uncertainty if they would live another day. When you find yourself face to face with death and put this in context of a love affair it is of great intensity.
I also enjoyed the slow pacing. It allowed for real character depth to emerge and it helped craft a great suspense. It showed Hemingway's maturity as a story teller. For Whom the Bell Tolls is harsh, brutal, compassionate, and pure. It is one of the truest novels I've ever read. It is a celebration of love, life, and humanity. By far my favorite Hemingway book. (less)
There comes a point where words exhaust their possibilities. At best language can point towards the Eternal Truth permeating all existence, however be...moreThere comes a point where words exhaust their possibilities. At best language can point towards the Eternal Truth permeating all existence, however because of their limitations as symbols they never fully express IT. Through "Be Here Now", "Grist for the Mill", and hours of recorded lectures, I think Ram Dass has taken his language to its limit. Such as it is, "Be Love Now" did not alter my perspective like his previous mentioned work. But how could it? I had already changed. Also it did not deepen my relationship with the divine...but this is because words have taken me as far as they can on my spiritual journey. All that is left is direct experience through meditation, intense experience leading to sudden insight, and the long narrative-arch of life experience and circumstance. Learning by living.
None of this is meant to diminish "Be Love Now". In fact Ram Dass breaks down the whole trip to its essential, which is LOVE. The whole journey is awakening to the LOVE inside yourself, which in its purist form is GOD, and as we awaken we begin to discover how to express it in our lives. This is how we grow.
"Be Love Now" is a love letter to Ram Dass's guru, Neem Karoli Baba Maharaji and all divine infinitely loving saints. It's a poignant bookend to Ram Dass's life---his journey, his message, and his heart. This is what I have always loved about Ram Dass. His heart! Joy and love beam from his pours, and this I have always recognized as the kernel of authentic spirituality.(less)