How do you find meaning and purpose for your life in the secular age? What is a meaningful pursuit when the choices in the contemporary age are prolif...moreHow do you find meaning and purpose for your life in the secular age? What is a meaningful pursuit when the choices in the contemporary age are prolific yet seemingly equal in value? How do you know your life has meaning without the clarity of religion's dictates? And what do the great books of former epochs teach us about how to find the sacred in contemporary culture?
These are the questions asked by the authors of ALL THINGS SHINING: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age. The authors emphasize that in the past there was clarity of the sacred. The sacred was whatever a culture would not allow you to laugh at. In contrast to the Middle Ages, for instance, there is almost nothing you are not allowed to laugh at in today's secular society.
With everything being seeminging equal in value, how are we to choose from the multiple stimuli and sensations in our culture to know what is meaningful or sacred?
Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly acknowledge the "sad condition" of nihilism as the fate of humans in the modern age, but are quick to point out that religious belief is not lost in our time, but it plays another role. The absence of certainty leaves open the question and challenge of how to live. Religious believers no longer perceive non-believers to be less than human but instead, while holding onto their convictions, believe there are admirable people who are outside the church.
This change in perception is both exciting and destabilizing because humans must find the sacred in everyday occurrences that were once marginalized by church dogma.
The spine of the book is the quest for wisdom from great books beginning with ancient Greek texts to the modern thoughts of David Foster Wallace and Elizabeth Gilbert. And the aim is to make people today sensitive to what those of earlier epochs appreciated.
Intensity, meaning and insight can be found in what was marginalized in society in the age of religious rigidity. Bringing back the sacred in the great athletic events and the dinner parties of the Greeks, the polytheism of Melville's MOBY DICK and the truth of the complexity of human life will free us to find the sacred in everyday events and approach life with gratitude and surprise. Highly Recommended! (less)
The cancer researcher and oncologist Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee has written THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES: A BIOGRAPHY OF CANCER from a question asked by...moreThe cancer researcher and oncologist Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee has written THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES: A BIOGRAPHY OF CANCER from a question asked by his patients, "What is it that I am battleing?"
The purpose of the book, then, is to write the history of the disease from 2500 BCE to the present with a prognosis of the malady that has evaded understanding and cure, intersecting science and humanity in a deadly way.
The arc of the story is two or three tales: Dr. Mukherjee's coming of age as an oncologist, the history of the disease, and Dr. Sidney Farber, a Harvard pediatric pathologist, who in the 1950's discovered chemotherapy for childhood leukemia.
There is also the politics of cancer fostered by socialite Mary Lasker who partnered with Dr. Farber for nearly four decades to bring a cure. One outcome of the collaboration was Nixon's War On Cancer in 1970. What proceeds from that declaration is twenty years of disappointments.
The tension of the book is the optomistic tone of the author and the pessimistic conclusion at the end of every chapter. An example is the surgical procedure, radical mastectomy, performed for nearly 100 years impacting 550,000 women with poor results. Why were there few who asked the efficacy of the procedure, or if there was a better, less invasive way to intercede?
Science and medical professionals present recommendations to patients as certainty. From reading this book, we know differently. Actually, presenting with certainty is the mechanism by which wisdom is gained in medicine, and the patients are the trial group. Only with this in mind can our informed consent by valid. Highly recommended!(less)
What is normal and who should make those decisions? Should variations of behavior be classified as pathological, and what about chemical interventions...moreWhat is normal and who should make those decisions? Should variations of behavior be classified as pathological, and what about chemical interventions with possible side effects? What about personality disorders? Are they fixed determinants requiring segregation to protect the rest of society? Where are we in understanding the mind?
Author Jon Ronson's fascinating read, THE PSYCHOPATH TEST: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE MADNESS INDUSTRY introduces us to psychiatrists, patients, victims and perpetrators. What do we really know about psychological problems? Can they be determined by lists of observed symptoms? Is psychiatry a philosophy or a science?
Having worked in the field for two decades, I can bear witness to the shades of gray the author presents about our concrete knowledge, and am as fearful of the consequences of the unknowns as he.
An important read on what it means to be human...Highest recommendation!(less)
What did the English speaking world write in their newspapers about the rise of Hitler, the Jewish propaganda, and the loss of rights of the German Je...moreWhat did the English speaking world write in their newspapers about the rise of Hitler, the Jewish propaganda, and the loss of rights of the German Jews? What were the views of Churchill and Roosevelt of Hitler between 1932 to the invasion of Poland in 1939? Volumes have been written by learned authors about this piece of history, but what would it be like to read newspaper accounts that were written in real time? HUMAN SMOKE by Nicholson Baker presents the news as it happened, editorials as opinions were formed, and the beliefs of Roosevelt, Churchill and other officials about the course of action to be taken. The text consists of newspaper clippings, arranged by dates, but devoid of narrative by the author. It is the reader who forms opinions and participates in answering the question, "What lead to the horror that was WWII?" Privately all humans stumble due to unfounded opinions, however here the reader sees the consequences on a grand scale. There is much to be learned about rationalizations, denials, hubris, and racism. Who were the voices of reason and humanity who went unheard?
Human smoke refers to the remains floating outside the windows of German homes, and inside the minds of us who remember and ask, "Could it have been prevented?(less)
Eric Larson's IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS tells the story of Hitler's consolidation of power in his first year as chancellor of Germany. It is a grand tal...moreEric Larson's IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS tells the story of Hitler's consolidation of power in his first year as chancellor of Germany. It is a grand tale of a pivotal time in history told through the eyes of ordinary people with extradinary perception. William E. Dodd is the seventh or eighth choice of candidates FDR proposed for the post of US ambassador to Berlin in 1933. Dodd, in his 64 years, had been a professor of history at the University of Chicago and amateur farmer, and was known for his impeachable integrity and forthrightness, traits that would distance him from the courts of diplomacy.
Daughter Martha was 24 years old and estranged from her banker husband. Initially seduced by the resurgence of Germany's vitality and intellectual and political pursuits, Martha was involved with Rudolph Diels, the first commander of the Gestapo and other Nazi officials who even tried to fix her up with Hitler.
Drawing on the diaries of father and daughter, Larson creates what it was like to live in Berlin: to shop, lunch, attend galas and absorb news of Hitler's revenge and maniacal hated for the Jews that ultimately terrorized all who questioned his absolute power.
All were warned, evidence was everywhere punctuated by events such as the Night of the Long Knives, but none acted to amputate the threat to civilization that would result in WWII. This is a cautionary tale of man's search for utopias, resistence to realities, and failures of convictions of right and wrong. My Highest Recommendation!