Only 3 stars for me because i believe that Mr. Eagle Man didn't fully believe most of his cosmologies and/or eschatologies even while creating them. T...moreOnly 3 stars for me because i believe that Mr. Eagle Man didn't fully believe most of his cosmologies and/or eschatologies even while creating them. There's a (strong?) possibility that assessment is merely my envy talking: i would've loved to write a book much like this. It also could be my prejudice against doctors talking: they all think they're just soooooo much smarter than the rest of us. Or maybe i wanted to disagree with my friend's high rating.
Though it might give away too much, i'd like to (eventually?) comment upon each "tale." Can't be done now because i must be off to another day in the salt mines.(less)
I thought all the grade school Bible reading was sufficient, but i began looking for guides to help me understand that monster quickly into my current...moreI thought all the grade school Bible reading was sufficient, but i began looking for guides to help me understand that monster quickly into my current endeavor to read it cover to cover. The Interpreter's Bible seemed a godsend (harrharr) but it added a lot of time and effort. Additionally, it felt wrong: volume 1 is a decidedly Christian vision of a decidedly Jewish text that frequently hinted at an underlying anti-Semitism. So i found Robinson's book by scanning the Oak Park (MI) public library shelves.
I enjoyed it from the start. I almost could not restrain myself from jumping ahead to the mini-Midrash. Patience was a virtue in this situation, so i recommend that you not skip ahead. This book provides much more than a Jewish exposition of Bible verses.
I see Robinson as someone smitten by Judaism yet level-headed enough to realize it cannot be the same thing to every person. (How do i know he's in love with Torah? He lauds the narrative perfection of Leviticus. Nuff said.) He conveys his devotion with the conviction of a star-crossed lover and the pragmatism of a dedicated skeptic (though he certainly isn't a skeptic in the sense that he innately rebels against the existence of god or the value of Religion). All i'm trying to say is that he portrays his faith honestly and without the hyper-gushiness of the secretly uncertain (even to himself) proselytiser (cf. my opinions re: Every Person's Guide to Judaism).
Oddly enough, one of the book's greatest strengths is the backmatter: helpful glossaries of terms and Torah commentators, a juicy bibliography that makes me want to cry like Burgess Meredith's character at the end of the Twighlight Zone episode, "Time Enough at Last", and a brief essay about the non-inclusion of a chapter about Torah's historicism. Go to Amazon.com, find the hardcover version, search for "purport to describe," click on the link that takes you to pg 549, and read the last paragraph. If you can dig that, i think you'll like this book.
I wish i could remember enough of each chapter's contents to give you a taste of their strengths and weaknesses, but i read too hastily and noted only a few things.
I must ask the ladies to forgive me yet again: my latent anti-feminism made me prejudge the chapter on the silencing of women's voices as a snoozer. Robinson does not sweep the chauvinism under the rug. He doesn't attempt to explain it away. The words of prominent female Torah scholars speak for themselves and argue the case for equal value of women within Judaism even though the Bible typically gives them short shrift. It was lively. And it probably enlightened my benighted soul.
The equally good "Troubling Texts" chapter, which i could probably talk about for hours, follows right on the heals of feminism's chapter. In it, Robinson stands bravely on the assertion that he probably will never know how to assimilate some Torah horror stories with the Jewish ethos that centers on the sanctity of life. yet its most foundational text includes the well-known (i think) tale of god blithely ordering Abraham to use his son in a blood sacrifice (aka, the Aleikah). It also contains decrees requiring the death penalty for infractions clearly unworthy of such a harsh punishment, homosexuality (male only, by the way) being the most cited and publicized. (i'm planning a soapbox speech on this topic as part of my review of the Bible, but don't hold your breath)
I'd already read Bereishit/Genesis and Shemot/Exodus before picking up Robinson's book. So i started reading the parashiyot in Vayikra/Leviticus according to his list. Then i'd read his exposition, often making notes in my Bible. Then i'd quickly go through the whole parashiyot again. (A parashah, by the way, is a "Prescribed weekly section of biblical Torah (Pentateuch) read in synagogue liturgy on an annual cycle"; plural = parashiyot.)
After only a couple parashiyot i felt disappointed because Robinson's explanatory text was ... nothing like The Interpreter's Bible. His were so much less academic, less elaborate. Ah, but isn't that what i was looking for? Didn't i say i'd prefer not to spend an entire year reading "The Book" plus a dozen 1000-page volumes of commentary, especially if that commentary entailed subliminally Jew-hating Protestants sussurating in my ear about books to which Christians should just relinquish all claims already? Okay, so i am at peace with "Jewish but (almost insufficiently) brief." Far preferable to "Christian but (exhaustingly) complete."
And that's all i got. Except i can't resist. sidebar Is Hollywood bastardizing the Abraham/Isaac story (the Aleikah) yet? Maybe 4 or 5 shorts, each by a different director & writer working from a different Midrash, but with the same actors? Just spitballin here.(less)
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. 4½ stars (i probably should give it 5)
The following lengthy quote exemplifies everything i most liked about this book.
We have beco
...moreHIGHLY RECOMMENDED. 4½ stars (i probably should give it 5)
The following lengthy quote exemplifies everything i most liked about this book.
We have become used to thinking that religion should provide us with information. Is there a God? How did the world come into being? But this is a modern preoccupation. Religion was never supposed to provide answers to questions that lay within the reach of human reason. That was the role of logos. Religion's task, closely allied to that of art, was to help us to live creatively, peacefully, and even joyously with realities for which there were no easy explanations and problems that we could not solve: mortality, pain, grief, despair, and outrage at the injustice and cruelty of life. Over the centuries people in all cultures discovered that by pushing their reasoning powers to the limit, stretching language to the end of its tether, and living as selflessly and compassionately as possible, they experienced a transcendence that enabled them to affirm their suffering with serenity and courage. Scientific rationality can tell us why we have cancer; it can even cure us of our disease. But it cannot assuage the terror, disappointment, and sorrow that come with the diagnosis, nor can it help us to die well. That is not within its competence. Religion will not work automatically, however; it requires a great deal of effort and cannot succeed if it is facile, false, idolatrous, or self-indulgent.
Because i only listened to this book, because my listening was interrupted by full days of work and entire weekends, because i have been actively reading/juggling multiple books simultaneously, and (finally) because Karen Armstrong's subject matter is so literally non-material, i remember very little (if anything) specific about this book.
I take away from it, however, a feeling of having learned something very basic and important and ... transcendent. As if i now know something that is not, in the strict sense of the term, knowledge but that can be applied to any realm of thought. I guess you could say i had a postmodernist rebirth. Armstrong managed to rekindle and stoke the healthy fire of intellectual uncertainty. So much so that i'm eager to read criticisms and rebuttals of this very book (though i probably won't bother).
Attempting to Concretize the Ineffable I assumed the title implied a reactionary starting point leading to a purported proof of god's existence. But i take as the book's thesis is twofold: (a) the idea of god is a noble and human one and (b) the practice of religion is worthwhile.
Armstrong helped me realize that i've always been uncomfortable with rigid scientific rationalism's fundamentalist ideology that the only knowledge worth pursuing is that which can be proven empirically and/or via the scientific method. I wasn't ever a staunch atheist or materialist or anything like that, but i think i desperately wanted to believe scientism could help solve all of life's problems.
Armstrong's ideas about ideal religion appeal to me, too, though i can't imagine most "average folk" latching on to them, at least not nowadays, because ... —they're highly conceptual, not down to earth, not touchy-feely, not o'er brimming with emotionalism ... —the best ideas about god are the least pinpointable, the least expressible in words (apophatic), the least certain, the least tangible, completely undefinable because a god that can be defined is a got that has limits set upon it and is, therefore, subject to human reason and can be abused and misused and refuted (or, is merely another physical phenomenon like a rock or a tree or a jaguar or a thunderstorm or a supernova ...) ... —the best practice of religion is so strange as to seem unfathomable; could anybody today participate in an Eleusynian mystery? would we want to experience ecstacy if it meant a literal stepping outside of oneself or, going even further, an emptying of the self (kenosis)?
Modern religions and notions of god and the practice of faith has become material and literal minded and that works against that which i think of as the religious ideal.
The Great Giving Up I apologize for failing to make any concrete, but before completely quitting these ramblings....
It might sound to some as if i must be a Believer. Armstrong beat me over the head enough about the meaning of that word (and its correlate, Faith) to know that i'm not. And i've absorbed enough ideas from the karmic religions to suspect that there isn't any me/i to Be (period). And i admire Socrates enough to aver, i have no wisdom. And i'm so thoroughly a product of the postmodernist pseudo-intelligentsia of the 1980s and 90s that my strongest base of operations is the fundamental belief that all mental constructions are built upon the quicksand of themselves.
I struggle with accepting the certainty of uncertainty. I'm pretty sure i'll continue to do so. Armstrong's book hasn't "cured" me of this dis-ease of the mind.
But i'm certain that i had a great experience listening to this book ... even though my attitude toward it could change because of future experiences. I am / Life is funny that way.
Relegated-to-the-end parentheses that prolly shoulda just been deleted (Werner Heisenberg and other quantum superheroes get small cameos) ([thanks for the word, Karen]) re: apophatic ([thanks again, Karen]) re: kenosis (Hmmm ... might excessive ellipses be the simpleton's way of attempting to convey thoughtfulness just as excessive exclamation points are the simpleton's way of conveying excitement?)(less)
An entertaining and fun enough romp, but i ain't convinced that this novel contains anything deeper (i.e., less shallow) than a sim life of its own: r...moreAn entertaining and fun enough romp, but i ain't convinced that this novel contains anything deeper (i.e., less shallow) than a sim life of its own: readers will immerse themselves in the story and come out with nothing extra except the experience of not having to endure being themselves for a few hours. Hence a tepid 3-star rating.
Virtual boy meets virtual girl during the sim world's contest to discover the ultimate Easter Egg (i.e., the sim Holy Grail), which will grant the successful knight ownership of and dominion over the entire simulation. Along the way our plucky young e-heroes compete against The Evil Conglomerate and its literally 2-dimensional minions in the race for the egg, a quest that Evil Corp hopes will allow them to monetize every aspect of the virtual world.
Slightly recommended for anyone nostalgic for the 1980s. (Not recommended for folks born in the 80s?)(less)
Thich Nhat Hanh = a wise guy with a heart of gold(en sunlight). It would almost surely be a pleasure to be able to spend time with him. He has many in...moreThich Nhat Hanh = a wise guy with a heart of gold(en sunlight). It would almost surely be a pleasure to be able to spend time with him. He has many intelligent and worthwhile things to say and says them frequently and often and repeatedly, typically with little or no variation in terminology. At least he embraces the only medium by which instruction, teaching, and dissemination of wisdom is possible, though, namely the sincere use of human language, which is something i believe cannot be said for many Buddhist teachers, especially the Buddha himself and much of the Zen i've ever read. (If you know of a straight-shooting book on Zen, please P.M. me. Remember, my happiness = the world's happiness [and vice versa, i guess].)(less)
Listened to amid a desert of comparative religion non-fictionizers and translations of ancient and arid sacred texts, this audiobook not only compleme...moreListened to amid a desert of comparative religion non-fictionizers and translations of ancient and arid sacred texts, this audiobook not only complemented the drier bits but, in comparison, was a humidly aesthetic pleasure palace of an oasis. I might have found its plotlessness and ebulliently ubiquitous sermonizing tedious under different circumstances. Beware, fair reader/listener, many another Goodreadster has assessed it in the negative thusly.
The reader deserves at least 4.5 stars for never going over the top and never excessively amping up the linguistic crescendos. I actually found myself liking his accent simply because it was an accent, which might be described as OxBridge subcontinental Ewan McGregor.(less)
The jacket copy quite oversells what to expect from this book by one of the most easily and consistently respected individuals on the planet. Hype, as...moreThe jacket copy quite oversells what to expect from this book by one of the most easily and consistently respected individuals on the planet. Hype, as usual, merely plants the seeds of disappointment.
Mr. Lama's premises, however, seem weak regardless of publisher hyperbole. He identifies fewer correlations between Buddhist natural philosophy and Western scientific theories than one could reasonably expect from a book this size. Those he describes, have tenuous and abstruse connections at best. Mr. Lama appeared to be going for an exploration of how Buddhist thought could complement and expand upon Western science's reductivist examinations of reality. Other than in his convincing tone of sincere desire for cooperation and mutual understanding, though, that goal is not convincingly justified.
The greatest data were the rare personal revelations of Mr. Lama's life, aspirations, and thoughts. He's a charming man with a seductively serene, deeply introspective, expansively compassionate, and still sensible voice. A true, substantial memoir would probably delight.
Its greatest shortcoming is the frequent implicit espousal of the belief that The Truth about that which is subjective can be revealed. Can't we all just agree once and for all to live with our individual experiences of sense data and emotions being subjective? That there is nothing to be gained from quantifying them? That attempts to share them are destined to be shadows of the original experience at best? Even the greatest Mettā (lovingkindness) meditator remains trapped within the experiential net, no matter how all-compassionate that meditator becomes. Anyway....
Lama lovers will probably really dig this book.
Not recommended for fundamentalists of any kind, which naturally includes diehard materialists and folks who believe that science can answer every question (Mr. Lama is correct on that score).(less)
As with Olcott's Buddhist Catechism, Smith & Novak's Concise Intro will probably contain very little new info for anybody with a basic understandi...moreAs with Olcott's Buddhist Catechism, Smith & Novak's Concise Intro will probably contain very little new info for anybody with a basic understanding of the fundamentals of Buddhism. I knew nothing of the religion before reading these two books, so they each helped me tremendously.
I decided to stop after reading Part I ("The Wheel of the Dharma"), which i understand to be written predominantly by Smith. Part II is Novak's "The Wheel Rolls West," about Buddhism's extension beyond Asia. Since i'm seeking Buddhism the Religion rather than Buddhism the Meme, Part II seems irrelevant.
If you're a newbie (bodhidumbo?), i think you'll get plenty of definitions, explanations, and anecdotes from Part I. But if you're looking for the modern history of Buddhism, read Part II.
I hope i got enough instruction from these scant readings to prevent drowning in the sea of sacred Buddhist texts.(less)