A welcome memoir that is interesting to read as a response to my negative view of Chai Ling after seeing the Tiananmen Square documentary The Gate of...moreA welcome memoir that is interesting to read as a response to my negative view of Chai Ling after seeing the Tiananmen Square documentary The Gate of Heavenly Peace. It is a very flawed work however, due both to her proselytizing and extraneous details about her organization. I have nothing against her speaking out for her beliefs and faith, and as a Christian I share most of what she believes, but the last 50 pages or so of her book derailed into preaching and an advertisement for her foundation. Being from a Christian publisher, that's not surprising, nor am I offended by it like some others are, but it does take away from the tone and purpose of the first half of the book. It all ends too cleanly, too picture perfect, and reads like promotional material instead of an autobiography.(less)
Ursula Le Guin is a gifted writer. I haven't read much of her, aside from some Earthsea stories and "The Left Hand of Darkness," but especially presen...moreUrsula Le Guin is a gifted writer. I haven't read much of her, aside from some Earthsea stories and "The Left Hand of Darkness," but especially present in the latter is her ability to create a society and allow the reader to understand it.
Here, she invites us to imagine the city of perpetual happiness, Omelas. A smart move is how she breaks the fourth wall, telling the reader that it is impossible to properly describe the city and its people, and so its best for us to imagine it. But she doesn't leave it at that, for that would be a dull story indeed - she proposes what we *may* be imagining, but without being prescriptive about. It's as if the story is being co-written:
"they could perfectly well have central heating, subway trains, washing machines, and all kinds of marvelous devices not yet invented here, floating light-sources, fuelless power, a cure for the common cold. Or they could have none of that; it doesn't matter. As you like it."
And one of my favourite lines is when she says
"I fear that Omelas so far strikes some of you as goody-goody. Smiles, bells, parades, horses, bleh. If so, please add an orgy. If an orgy would help, don't hesitate."
After this goes on for some pages, she reveals that there is, in the basement of some building, there is a child locked up in a tiny cellar, living in squalor and misery. Every citizen of Omelas knows of this child, and also know that all of their collective happiness is dependant upon it staying in such a condition.
They are disturbed by it, and wish to help, brooding over it for weeks after they are told of its existence (everyone is told by their 12th birthday), wishing they could help. But eventually they justify it to themselves, reasoning that the child is so damaged and hurt that freedom would not help it very much, and so it is better off down there. And then a terribly prescient line:
"Their tears at the bitter injustice dry when they begin to perceive the terrible justice of reality, and to accept it."
And the horrible thing is that it is this situation which creates such a happy society:
"Yet it is their tears and anger, the trying of their generosity and the acceptance of their helplessness, which are perhaps the true source of the splendor of their lives. Theirs is no vapid, irresponsible happiness. They know that they, like the child, are not free. They know compassion. It is the existence of the child, and their knowledge of its existence, that makes possible the nobility of their architecture, the poignancy of their music, the profundity of their science. It is because of the child that they are so gentle with children."
Finally, the story ends when it tells of some people, who are made aware of the child, who then proceed to leave the city, walking endlessly towards the mountains:
"The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas."
A very interesting look at how the Tiananmen Protests of 1989 escalated and unfurled. If you have zero knowledge of the modern history of China, it's...moreA very interesting look at how the Tiananmen Protests of 1989 escalated and unfurled. If you have zero knowledge of the modern history of China, it's a good place to start with, and if you're already familiar with it, it will delve deeper than you thought it went. (less)
A nice little primer to various strains of Protestant thought mostly ranging from the 1930s-1960s. Each different "Maker of Modern Protestant Thought"...moreA nice little primer to various strains of Protestant thought mostly ranging from the 1930s-1960s. Each different "Maker of Modern Protestant Thought" has their own essay written by various Professors and academics who know their subjects well and have the right balance between delving into theology and making it clear without too much jargon, as well as introducing their biography without extraneous details.
I also appreciated how it wasn't focused on solely Christian thinkers, but notes how influential people like Martin Buber, Martin Heidegger, and Alfred North Whitehead were on Protestant theology. It struck me that 8 of the 12 are either from Germany or lived and taught in Germany. I was surprised how few American or English theologians or thinkers made the list.
Here is the list in full:
Karl Barth Dietrich Bonhoeffer Martin Buber Rudolph Bultmann Martin Heidegger Soren Kierkegaard Jurgen Moltmann Reinhold Niebuhr Walter Rauschenbusch Albert Schweitzer Paul Tillich Alfred North Whitehead(less)