Everyone should read it. Beautiful, poetic, and holding a question we all need to ask ourselves. Really a great book, one of those ones you wish was tEveryone should read it. Beautiful, poetic, and holding a question we all need to ask ourselves. Really a great book, one of those ones you wish was ten times longer than it is....more
Demian is a coming of age story about a privileged young white man, Sinclair, who often feels at odds with society and his parents' religion. Rather tDemian is a coming of age story about a privileged young white man, Sinclair, who often feels at odds with society and his parents' religion. Rather than working through these things on his own, he finds a guru in one of his classmates, Demian. Demian offers our hero access to his darkest desires and transcendental thinking, encouraging him along a path of amorality shrouded in a "we're chosen and special" sort of egoistic mysticism.
I've now read this and Hesse's Siddhartha, and my big takeaway is: These are homoerotic love stories about young spiritual men looking for guidance and fetishizing their gurus. I think their main point is supposed to be the spirituality, but for me, as a queer semi-Buddhist, I can't see much more than sublimated love here. It's sweet but it's also a little funny - I'm left with the impression that Hesse didn't know himself very well. But these are uninformed opinions - I'll have to learn more about him to find out how self-conscious he was and how closely his personality informed his protagonists.
I'm not discounting these books' usefulness to humanity's spiritual evolution; I know these ideas felt very new and exciting and liberatory once, to many people, and that some of them are still in play today. But looking back from the vantage point of 2014, I see a lot of unexamined and sometimes-racist hocus pocus and Ayn Rand-like selfishness and amorality that are the mark of so many 1960s novels. Which wouldn't be a problem, except the protagonist and his guru are portrayed in a wholly positive light, and I think their narrative is meant to inspire and/or reinforce similar feelings in other spiritual seekers. Which is dangerous. So....more
I loved this book. I found myself completely swept up in its strange and detailed characters, their tragic-comic multi-generational story, and all ofI loved this book. I found myself completely swept up in its strange and detailed characters, their tragic-comic multi-generational story, and all of the big ideas that come up along the way. I read each page with anticipation, looking forward to the next but also not ever wanting it to end.
The philosophical aspects have kept me thinking and rethinking ever since I closed its cover. Mulisch has given the reader just enough to satisfy, while leaving a lot of questions intriguingly unanswered. It would make a great book club read, because it brings up so many juicy discussion topics. It occurs to me that it would also be a wonderful pick for high school-age students, since it incorporates so much complex history and geography, along with really interesting moral questions, couched in an epic mystery.
This book is both very iconoclastic and critical, and very respectful of religion. I think people of all spiritual persuasions (from fundamentalists to shamanically-oriented folks to atheists) will find a lot of food for thought here....more
This book is the Buddhist equivalent of the Sermon on the Mount - it's the most profound, direct set of teachings by the Buddha, supposedly spoken andThis book is the Buddhist equivalent of the Sermon on the Mount - it's the most profound, direct set of teachings by the Buddha, supposedly spoken and put into text shortly after he became enlightened. Needless to say, he had a lot of wisdom to share. The way it's written is very poetic and accessible; it's full of real-world examples that illustrate his points. It's got to be just about the least oppressive religious text I've ever written in my life - indeed, it's full of prescriptions for joy and freedom and love! I think that if we all read this book (critically, informed by our present circumstances - the Buddha wasn't exactly vegan, for example), and apply its lessons to our lives, we will transform our world. So please read it! And read it again!...more
I'm a humanistic skeptic and an anarchist, so I have an uneasy relationship with organized religion. And yet, many people who are dear to me care deepI'm a humanistic skeptic and an anarchist, so I have an uneasy relationship with organized religion. And yet, many people who are dear to me care deeply about and believe in one religion or another, and I really dig certain aspects of many religions. So I try to keep an open mind. A Buddhist friend loaned this book to me and it was just what I needed. It made me love the Dalai Lama. He's a smart guy, a science lover, who's changing the way that Buddhism is taught (he hosts science and spirituality dialogues and has introduced science education into monk training!). He's a skeptic himself, very open-minded and thoughtful, critiquing Buddhism as well as science, and showing the many rich connections between the two. He concludes each chapter (they cover everything from quantum physics to GMO foods) with some compelling questions that need further exploration from both scientists, spiritual seekers, and those who participate in both belief systems. The book is a slim one, packed with interesting anecdotes and lots of opinion, couched in humility and compassion. It made me understand that Buddhism is a critical and still-evolving system of ethics, and that its findings have a lot to offer science....more
The sad, scary, hopeful journals of a young black woman starting her own utopian religion in an oppressive future. She suffers from hyperempathy, sharThe sad, scary, hopeful journals of a young black woman starting her own utopian religion in an oppressive future. She suffers from hyperempathy, sharing the pain of others. I found it hard to read some of the more painfully descriptive violent parts, but was really drawn in and invested in the characters....more
This was written in 1961 and it shows. There are pages and pages of ridiculousness about the supposed true natures of men and womeWow, where to begin?
This was written in 1961 and it shows. There are pages and pages of ridiculousness about the supposed true natures of men and women; Heinlein really likes the eroticism of the binary, and uses it to justify polyamory, voyeurism, and even rape. (I don't mean to imply these are all on the same level at all, just that it's tiresome reading so much poppycock tying these concepts together with rigid prescriptions for the roles of men and women!) Also it's (predictably) a bit backward in regard to people of different races and cultural backgrounds.
All of that said, for its time, it was revolutionary. It broke down barriers. It was so intensely new and challenging that it had to be cut back drastically before it was allowed to be published. And it does contain many truly radical, progressive ideas about human nature, government, and religion. For all of its homophobia there is one moment where we learn that the binary is not all there is (I wish Heinlein had taken this a bit farther, but hey, it was 1961…). And for all of its sexism it's portraying a way for women and men to relate that is far closer to today's sexual mores than to the status quo back when it was written.
The main character, possessed of fantastic knowledge, has to somehow pass on the new tools he's learned to the rest of humanity. He chooses to do it through a cult-like religious institution. I found this whole angle to be somewhat creepy, but maybe that's just due to my personal qualms about hierarchical organized religion. I did really love an idea espoused by this cult though, the concept that we are all (part of) god. Heinlein does a really great job playing with this idea and showing it in action.
It would be interesting to be able to read this book with the mentality of a resident of 1961 - it would probably be a more mind-blowing experience. But I'm happy that it was written back then and that we've had 50 years to digest it - I think it's made us stronger and smarter, and now we get to live in a more enlightened world.
Fun fact: Heinlein invented the word "to grok" and it appears in this book for the first time ever. Cool!...more
When I read these books as a child the Christian messaging went right over my head. Instead, I read it as a great liberation story, and it added to myWhen I read these books as a child the Christian messaging went right over my head. Instead, I read it as a great liberation story, and it added to my love of and respect for animals - it features many main characters who are animals, including the savior character himself, Aslan. However, I remember noticing strange distinctions in these stories, even as a child, well before I'd developed an animal rights consciousness: Some animals can talk and use their hands like humans, and thus appear to have special rights. I remember loving this one joyous breakfast scene, sharing in the human and animal characters' enjoyment - and yet feeling uneasy about where the sausage they were eating came from. The explanation that some animals were somehow more "magical" and thus were treated like human characters, while other animals were treated as expendable, was confusing, and the book was rife with contradictions. Even so, I do think these books - perhaps most especially "The Horse and His Boy," helped me to see how a relationship between a human and an animal can be egalitarian and non-exploitative....more