James Carroll's Reviews > The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry
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's review
Jul 11, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction
Recommended for: anyone
Read in January, 2007

This book is perhaps the best refutation that I have seen in some time of a common philosophy of pain that is sometimes found in the popular media and in some versions of Buddhism. According to this philosophy, pain is the ultimate evil, and so, to eliminate pain and suffering we must give up desire, and individuality. Self is an illusion, and leads to pain; desire and agency are dangerous, so we should give them up and join the cosmic oneness "enlightenment" to find a utopia without pain. As George Lucas unfortunately has Yoda say to Anakin, "you must give up all that you fear to lose."

And, of course, this is hogwash. Choice, agency, adversity, love, desire, and real pleasure are dangerous, they can lead to pain, but without them life has no purpose. Love could lead to the loss of that which we love, but life without love is empty. Purpose comes from choosing. Purpose comes from overcoming adversity. Yes, you could choose poorly, and that could lead to pain, choice is dangerous, but without it, life has no meaning, it is colorless. Greatness in life is found by overcoming adversity, not by the absence of adversity. Without opposition, there is nothing to overcome, and thus there may be no bad, but there is also no good, there may be no pain, but there is also no joy.

***Spoiler Alert***

The book's ending mirrors this ambiguity. Although some later books answer some of these questions, at the end of this book we are left to wonder: Did he die? Did he live? All we really know is that he was made free, and he made a choice... was it the right one? Did it lead to happiness for him? Did it lead to happiness for the community who will now have his memories? Will they destroy themselves, or will the Giver be able to help them find true purpose and happiness in life? We don't know, because that is the way of all choices. We can't always know the outcomes of our decisions, and therein lies the danger, but the risk is well worth the rewards.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 63) (63 new)

message 1: by Nazi (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:42AM) (new)

Nazi salam

message 2: by Stanster (last edited Jan 19, 2010 07:01AM) (new)

Stanster Interesting review, although I'm not sure you understand the Buddhist philosophy completely... In Buddhist thought, pain is "a person's separation from a complete relationship with God" - just like Christianity. Self is not the "illusion" , but self without a good relationship with God, creates thoughts and actions that lead to suffering... the suffering we all experience when we are not aligned with God's plans. Again, very much like Christianity. The Buddhist way is very understanding that pain and suffering are necessary feelings for us to grow as we turn to our faith and strength from God to overcome these adversaries and grow personally in our relationship with God. That's my understanding of these two religious thoughts, but each person has there own way of seeing these things, so whatever works for you would be your best choice. As Christians, we may be better off to be joyful in our Christian faith without making judgements concerning what we don't believe in...

message 3: by James (last edited Jan 18, 2010 01:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

James Carroll I believe that all depends on what "flavor" of Buddhism you are referring to, and I wasn't trying to make a judgement about a specific religious belief so much as on a philosophy of pain, embodied by SOME Buddhist philosophers, which I thought that this particular book addressed rather directly.

message 4: by Stanster (new)

Stanster Good point... like Christianity, each religion has many variations on it's basic tenants. Anyway, I like your review, it makes me want to read the Giver and see how the story explores these philosophical questions you brought up. Like yourself, I have learned the hard way that pain and suffering are results of our choices and are designed to help us grow spiritually and give us purpose in life. thanks for the interesting review!

James Carroll Thanks!

message 6: by Laurie (new)

Laurie Based on you calling pain an "evil" I question your grasp of Buddhism. I would respectfully suggest that you inquire a little further into Buddhism before you decide that a book refutes it or not.

message 7: by James (last edited May 12, 2010 09:25AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

James Carroll I believe that I already responded to this criticism above. This is a position undeniably held by SOME Buddhist philosophers, but admittedly not by all.

In any case, this book effectively refutes this position, whoever holds it, which was my point.

James Carroll Since this issue keeps coming up, and since the review is often all that people read, ignoring the comments, I have edited the review to reflect the changes and suggestions made in the comments. I hope that it the review now more accurately expresses my thoughts on this issue.

John Very insightful. Thank you.

Delta67 I disagree, Buddhism says that suffering is caused by desire, and that when you stop caring IF things fall apart, it won't matter to you when they DO. Its a great book and I can't for the movie to be done so we may all watch it and brighten our philosophies with splashes of color.

James Carroll Interesting point Delta67. But I believe that I did say that they believe that suffering is caused by "desire" didn't I?

There ARE also those who advocate that you must "give up all you fear to loose," not just stop caring if you DO loose them. If suffering is caused by desire, then you must give up desire. This is what I believe is a mistake, and there ARE some who hold this position. Further, I believe that although "desire" may cause suffering, but it can also cause joy, and that the interplay between these things: between risk and success, pain and joy, desire and discipline is what makes life worth living.

message 12: by Aira (last edited Oct 19, 2010 09:34PM) (new) - added it

Aira Nutakki I really like your review. But my understanding of Buddhism is that there is no 'empty' nor 'full/satisfied'. You will not feel 'empty' when you give up desire. You are thinking of empty because you dont want to give up all the things you mentioned. But once you do cross over you have moved beyond 'wanting' love, pain, mistakes or even purpose for your life etc. There is no right or wrong, empty or sated. Just my opinion. I havent read this book. Its on my list but your review is making me want to read it right away :)

James Carroll Yes Aira, that is the common interpretation, that once you give up these things, you won't miss them, because you won't "desire" them anymore.

It was my observation thought that this is wrong, because I personally believe that without these things, life is empty. And I believe that the book in question demonstrates this concept rather well.

I hope you enjoy it, you will have to let me know what you think after you read it.

message 14: by Aira (last edited Oct 20, 2010 11:41AM) (new) - added it

Aira Nutakki But how can you feel empty when there is no empty? There is no 'feel' even..I think in that state there are no feelings. Its just choosing whether you want to be in that state. But I will read this book, just to understand what you are saying better:)

James Carroll So the question is whether such a state exists, or if it does exist whether seeking or finding it would be of any value. If the purpose in life involves interactions, family, and relationships, then even if we found such a state, we would be missing the mark of our purpose in life.

Delta67 This is a very high-level philosophy that we are dealing with, one that brings up many questions, continue if you wish, it's thrilling to me, as I am only 16 to look upon this, because it helps me to a level of higher understanding as well as thinking.

James Carroll Thinking and having your presumptions challenged is always a good thing.

message 18: by Stephen (new)

Stephen West You misunderstand Buddhism.

James Carroll @Stephen: You apparently didn't read the comments were we hashed all this out.

message 20: by Tom (new)

Tom I once listened to two books on CD in close succession: one by HH the Dalai Lama, and one by Pope John Paul II. The comparison and contrast was interesting. One of the contrasts I remember (partially) was that the pope emphasized God's calling the creation "good" vs. the Dalai Lama's interpretation of the world around us. Sadly, I don't remember clearly the Dalai Lama's perspective, but it definitely wasn't that the world is inherently good. On the similarity side, both of course emphasized love for others, doing good, and so on.

Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) It is unfortunate that this review is so coloured by what seems an attempt to refute a philosophy on the basis of opinion alone, supposedly supported by the book at hand. I hear a lot of dualistic pandering and little else that serves for an actual review.
Too, there are a number of misapprehensions here about what exactly these certain, never explicitly mentioned, schools of Buddhist thought actually say. Suffering is not thought to be an 'evil', which is the first pitfall because it rings of a dualistic worldview. Suffering is more precisely a fact of existence, and this is the first of the Four Noble Truths. Next is that suffering is caused by desire and attachments, which is again irrefutable. It is hereafter that things turn murky for those attuned to a light or dark take on matters. Suffering can be lifted, Buddhism claims, and the way to this is to work towards a defined good in spite of attachments rather than because of them. Here is the battle against adversity so loved in dualistic traditions, except it is now reduced to an intrinsic struggle to conquer oneself and is thus far harder to accomplish. There is no sacrifice of 'individuality', whatever the review claims, because it is never a matter of clapping your hands together and declaring desire done. It is harder than that because the chains of one's own attachments are of one's own making, and Buddhism appreciates this fact. At the end there is no promised utopia either, which is as wrongheaded a view of Buddhist enlightenment as there can be. Some sects like Pure Land Buddhism do speak of perfect abodes, but almost always enlightenment is never a promised and meticulously elucidated state of being, because making it sound so is in turn an appeal to desire, which brings about only suffering.
We go far afield, but I hope this clarifies at least some of the finer details.

message 22: by James (last edited Jan 09, 2012 12:30PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

James Carroll These "finer points" don't change the fact that removing "desires" can only remove suffering at the price of making life worthless. There may no longer be any pain, but there is also no joy. There may no longer be any suffering, but there is also no triumph.

message 23: by Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) (last edited Jan 09, 2012 12:55PM) (new)

Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) An opinion. The desire sought to be vanquished is what relates to (and in turn ties one to) things and people, the clinging nature of being, born of expectations. It is a shallow sort of joy that comes of further intentions on a thing, all for one's own gratification or dependence. From classical Western thought, I believe the closest similarity I can give is to Kant's ideas on aesthetic beauty. He claims more or less that one is only qualified to deem something beautiful if one has no vested interest in the thing. It is rather alike with matters such as compassion and joy in Buddhism. These can be felt, but being removed from the bondage of self, they are reduced to a pure essence, if no less intense, it does not seek to rule one.
As for triumph, Buddhism places value in the triumph over self and this alone, which is consistent with these ideas of escaping the fetters of desire that bind one to the world and worldly concerns.

message 24: by James (last edited Jan 09, 2012 02:53PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

James Carroll Yes, it is an opinion. In my opinion what you describe is a very empty life. In my opinion, it is our connections with each other that make life not only bearable, but a joy. I think that this is illustrated by the book in question, which was the point of my review.

Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) And a running theme of my comments (apart from a wish to rectify certain frequent (and rampant) misrepresentations of those topics in Buddhism you touched on) has been that an opinion worth mention requires reasoned support. Without this, that a book is in agreement with one's personal beliefs speaks neither for the book nor those beliefs.

James Carroll What I tried to say was that your supposed corrections of my misrepresentations don't actually change my opinion that such a life is "empty" and "devoid of meaning". Since my initial post simply said that this Buddhist path is one devoid of meaning, I question whether there ever was a misrepresentation. In other words, I understand (and always understood) your supposed corrections, but they don't change anything in my conclusions.

And as for your demand for "support" for my argument, we are talking about something very personal here. My support has to do with my own life and sense of meaning and purpose. What makes my life have meaning IS my attachments, if I removed them, I would remove all that makes my life worth living. You are free to have a different opinion, as I am free to have mine. But the "evidence" is in my own emotions and life. I also think that the book in question illustrated how I feel very well... the grayness, the emptiness of such a life without attachments or love speaks for itself.

message 27: by Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) (last edited Jan 10, 2012 08:52PM) (new)

Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) Opinions do not, and should not, colour either facts or self-consistent philosophical theories. Unless of course there is reasoned support for the hypothesis. The misrepresentation lies primarily, as I've argued from the start, in this view that every good thing constitutes an attachment. The removal of expectations and reliance (the central cruxes of attachment) do not undo such things as love and compassion exactly because what makes these things worthwhile is that they are not self-serving (the abolishing of self is another major theme in Buddhism, connecting thus). If this is a point of contention, with naught but personal opinion again to forward the point, I fear it is an intractable one.

I question in turn whether there ever was any value in these conclusions of yours if they are not generally applicable (or supported) and come only of a sense of gross entitlement to personal opinion. I suppose however that this ensued discussion will serve the purpose of review well enough, in that those of like mind as you seeking a narrative affirmation of their beliefs (for whatever that's worth if support is neither forthcoming in it) ought to find something to their tastes.

message 28: by James (last edited Jan 11, 2012 08:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

James Carroll One of the implications of utility and probability theory is that there is no objective basis for preference. Since we are mostly talking about issues of preference, there can be no "evidence" presented to justify a preference. Evidence can only be given to justify the probability that a certain action will or will not lead to the fulfillment of a certain preference.

In this case, I am stating a matter of preference, namely that I find that a life without attachment is an empty life. You demand evidence, but no objective evidence is possible for matters of preference. Thus, your requirement for "evidence" is essentially empty, and I could just as easily demand "evidence" from you that a life devoid of attachment and a sense of "self" has any value or meaning. Neither of us can provide, because it can't be done. Recognizing this undeniable truth is far from "a sense of gross entitlement to personal opinion", but is rather a fundamental element of modern philosophy.

But there are some issues that we can provide some measure of evidence about:

First, I agree with you that we can remove some (or all) of the selfishness from our attachments, and I agree that doing so can help us to be not only better people, but it can also help us to avoid some pain and suffering. However, I challenge the idea that removing selfish attachments without removing all attachments would be enough to remove suffering in our lives. Often we "sorrow" for the choices of another because we want to help that other avoid suffering. Caring about the welfare of another is itself a potential source for suffering. Thus, if you really want to remove all suffering by removing attachments, you would have to remove ALL attachments, not just the selfish ones.

Thus, you can not remove enough attachment to remove pain and suffering without also removing "love" since love IS an attachment. It is an unselfish attachment to be sure, but unselfish attachments can cause suffering as well. They are simply worth the cost.

Next, as a student of AI an consciousness, I also do not believe that our sense of "self" is an illusion that we should strive to cast aside. I believe that it is a valuable tool of evolution and intelligence. Intelligent systems that develop a sense of "self" and thus a type of "consciousness" are more intelligent than those that do not, and thus perform better. Furthermore, they are more capable of understanding the world around them than those without it. This is the opposite of the traditional view, but it is a view born out by recent advances in AI and the study of the brain and mind.

message 29: by Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) (last edited Jan 11, 2012 02:42PM) (new)

Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) I'm afraid that's something of a straw man you set up. You speak of 'objective evidence', but the support I had in mind was whether some argument could be forwarded that challenged the theory being criticised beyond the granted claim of 'This is clearly not so'. There is an onus upon you to at least make an argument for whatever it is you consider 'undeniable truth', in the sense of what makes it undeniable. For instance, Christian theology asserts that God must be benevolent, which is at odds with the problem of evil and so constitutes a legitimate criticism of the central dogma. There are counterarguments of course, but at least this objection makes a first step. Unlike this is your unqualified statement that a life voided of attachments is an empty, joyless one, because it requires closer examination of the problems that come of the implications or the tenets, especially since you concede my point that there are selfless elements in things like love and joy.

That said, you make a worthwhile point this time round, which I will now address. First it is apparent that an attachment, by very definition, requires both a subject and an object. Much of the confusion here is to do with identifying these in various scenarios. I will argue that all attachments are essentially selfish because they are grounded on expectation and reliance. The subject is always the self, or it would not be one's own attachment. In your example, one is said to sorrow for another's choices because it is one's belief that they may lead the other to suffer. Here the object is this other (as well as his choices and too your beliefs that lead you to think why his path is mistaken, which you might be seeking validation of, but we will set this case aside for brevity) and it is claimed that their adamance against one's want of what is best for them is what brings pain. However, an attachment too is one to their course and the way they believe things should be- in this case what the other should choose or not choose. One can exhaust themselves (the avenues of self) in doing all they reasonably can to persuade the other away out of care, but beyond that, why take regret from what could not be changed despite one's best efforts, unless there is some clinging of the self to this other? It may be a reluctance to part with the other (either physically or more broadly in terms of choices) or some seemingly innocuous expectation of them, but it all comes down to the appeasement of self. Selfless compassion comes of action and not expectation. A sympathy may remain, but it is a removed thing. On whether a thing is worth the cost, it seems here you depart from the defence of subjective opinion, since clearly, this is something for individuals to conclude for themselves, either keeping with the idealistic view you encourage or simply not.

I'm not sure what I am expected to say of the latter part of your comment, though I may point out that you are confusing a moral or spiritual end with a matter of what is. This is Hume's is-ought problem.

James Carroll I contend that someone that loves another so little that they do not sorrow for the other's suffering (mourning with those that mourn, suffering with those that suffer) does not actually love the other. I disagree with your contention that the suffering only comes from the selfish part of the attachment. In actuality, it comes from empathy and care for the other's well being. We may have even discovered some of the neurological underpinnings of this process through "mirror neurons". They don't care whether your attachment is "selfish" or not, they cause you to suffer yourself when you see another suffering. We call that empathy, and we call people that can't experience it "sociopaths". I can't condone turning people into sociopaths as a social or religious "good".

You wrote: "I'm not sure what I am expected to say of the latter part of your comment, though I may point out that you are confusing a moral or spiritual end with a matter of what is."

How so? I argued that consciousness and a sense of self are beneficial to the intelligence of the agent. True, I did assume that such "intelligence" is a moral good. But that wasn't a "confusion", it was a purposeful choice. I believe that intelligence (problem solving ability) is ONE of the things to be fundamentally valued in life.

Evolution has designed joy / pleasure and suffering / pain as a tool to encourage certain actions and to discourage other actions. Some people are born without the ability to feel "pain" and usually they don't live long. Often such people will gouge their own eyes out without realizing what they are doing, especially as infants, and are therefore put in protective gloves 24/7. I argue that emotional detachment is similar. We are biologically programmed to form attachments (we are social animals). We find pleasure when we form them, and we suffer when these attachments are broken, because evolution has programmed us to do so, because it knows that a strong social structure is good for survival. To argue that in order to avoid pain we shouldn't form the attachments that was the entire point of the evolution of the emotional pain in the first place is rather foolish to say the least. It turns the reward structure (either evolved or designed by God, whatever you believe it doesn't matter to this argument) upside down. Furthermore, I think that there is ample evidence that it does not lead to maximal utility (pleasure-pain).

But most important to me, for whatever reason, evolutionary or otherwise, such connections (even the selfish ones) provide pleasure. They can provide pain, true. But they also provide pleasure. In my personal experience, (and in the results of numerous psychological studies) the pleasure is worth the risk of pain. Essentially "it is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all." What this means is that even if I concede your contention that all suffering comes only from selfish attachments (which i don't think is true), it wouldn't matter. The optimal action is still to love, risking the loss. The potential pleasure is greater than the potential pain. There have been innumerable psychological studies that have shown that attachments and a strong social structure tend to produce the most emotionally well balanced and well adapted people (another measure of "benefit" over "cost").

So if you assume the preference for joy-suffering (remember, you can't objectively form a reason to assign preferences, but if we assume that these are our preferences), then we can produce a utility function from the preferences, and then we CAN provide objective evidence for or against the "avoiding attachments" thesis. Namely, we can objectively show that it doesn't lead to the maximization of our chosen utility function. If we add "intelligence" to our preferences, this is even more true.

Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) If another's choices bring about such an obsession in a person because they believe the other is mistaken, there is less love in that than a desire for self validation. The sharing of another's sorrows has not the power of alleviation as an outright solution does. Sympathy is to help one understand how another feels, not to be drawn into the depth of those feelings till one drowns also. You mention 'neurological underpinnings', but again these do not actually support your position (in fact, how significant mirror neurons are in matters of empathy is a matter still wanting evidence, but I'll indulge your basic hypothesis). Empathy may be hard wired into our brains, but this not because it is something intrinsically valued and magically instilled in us. Rather, empathy allows for understanding, which is crucial for group survival, and so we've evolved to possess it. Group survival is in turn motivated by individual survival, so it would appear that the natural laws governing empathy really do come of selfishness. (Ironically, this is a near echo of your later arguments, which I will endeavour to show are misplaced.)
I disdain entertaining your 'sociopath' diversion, because it is essentially a straw man as I stand by my earlier point that selfless compassion can exist. The thesis is that suffering is an inexorable state of being, and being is propelled by the good as well as the evil (though in a delayed, if still inevitable manner) so long as either comes of selfish motives (as most motives are).

As with the mirror neurons case, you're arguing that a matter of what is (hard-wired empathy, intelligence and what not) translates to statements about what ought to be. This is Hume's is-ought problem. Read up on it, if you will. But it is rather superfluous now because neither consciousness, intelligence or 'problem-solving ability' are being objected to. This is another of your straw man arguments. Taking out selfish attachments has no foreseeable bearing on any of these things you value. By all means, keep valuing them, as you should.

Next you certainly do confuse 'emotional detachment' as you term it, with the lack of emotion. I contend that an objective distance rather helps resolve emotional conflict. Yours is an oversimplification of the issue for want of a clean distinction between a good and an evil. Following our biological destiny may indeed be a good thing for the species, but must our motivation be the foreordained responses come about through a natural process like evolution? It is a defeatist position I think, to take what our motivations are to be (shying from pain and clinging to pleasure as the monkey does, which I presume you prescribe) for granted, beyond which all thought and questioning is redundant. We are equipped with reason, (presumably) unlike other animals. It is a sorry thing to ask that it be put to sleep so that we may live and die as less than our potential, all at the whim of an inexorable forward-churning process like evolution.

You next say something rather curious- "In my personal experience, (and in the results of numerous psychological studies) the pleasure is worth the risk of pain."

I challenge you to present a single, properly scientific study that makes the qualitative and objective (since a subject in an experiment may well decide so, but this is nothing to go by) statement that the pleasure is worth the risk of pain. I'm afraid science simply does not dabble in that sort of idealistically charged statements, so however you wish to inundate the conversation with facts and scientific theory, it would all be for naught if you expect it to yield a qualitative statement about what ought to be (again Hume's problem). It is certainly the case that we may sometimes feel this way, again for reasons rooted in survival- but accepting something simply because it feels right and putting reason to sleep is to be less than human. I highly doubt you will find 'innumerable psychological studies' that speak of attachments in the terms we're talking about, but again, it does not matter that a person is 'well-balanced' or 'well-adapted' (quantitative claims, I remind you) because even such people are not spared tragedies. Existence is rife with suffering, for, even when happiness comes, it is fleeting and all that can follow, regardless whenever that may be, is further suffering. The utilities you speak of remain directed towards a prescribed purpose, but we suffer not because we have trouble meeting the purpose, but because we are possessed of reason to question why.
I maintain the existence of selfless compassion and love, which, while distant, are not dispossessed of function as you accuse, and for that crucial distance may even be of greater utility.

James Carroll I think that I have adequately answered all your remaining criticisms and don't feel the need to repeat myself. My thesis remains. To remove enough attachments to remove all pain and suffering, you would have to remove selfish and unselfish attachments as well. You would have to give up love.

You don't agree, but you haven't been convincing enough to change my mind.

The only criticism that requires new response is your challenge to give psychological studies. So here we go:





And you are welcome to find a lot more on your own. Just look here:


Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) I don't engage in the futile quest of trying to change minds that refuse to be swayed by reason.

A glance at the abstracts on those papers (and indeed the Google search) reveal them to be about social isolation and not your idiosyncratic 'pleasure worth the risk of pain' hypothesis. Again you are framing the question and setting up straw men to take the brunt of my arguments.

I've made an adequate case I think that questioning is the way to progress beyond whatever biological destiny is set for us and that a distinction exists in the realm of compassion between what is selfish (and therefore attachment engendering) and what is not. Thank you for the discussion.

James Carroll I need to make it clear how the "benefit is worth the risk" comes into it. Yes, the articles are about social isolation. But I contend (and I think rather persuasively) that in order to remove attachments sufficiently to remove pain, one would have to socially isolate oneself. That means that rejecting social isolation carries with it the risk of pain. Then these articles demonstrate that people who shoulder that risk live better lives. Conclusion, the risk is worth the benefit, and the articles become relevant. This was always my argument, and this was all I ever claimed that the research shows. I never claimed that it showed more.

Your contention that they are not relevant rests on the dubious claim that you can remove pain by removing attachments without removing ALL attachments, resulting in social isolation, which I reject (and for very good reason).

Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) The link is rather fragile, and not one I think holds up in this case. The social isolation in those studies, in order to be quantifiable, is rather more literal than the terms we've discussed detachment in. Neither do I argue for social isolation, as my thesis is that one could do with a degree of emotional detachment that abandons the appeasement of self but is not a state lacking in feelings (which I don't think is hard to imagine, but seems to be the crux of your objection).
I've argued for all attachments being of an essentially selfish nature and hence, with the existence of selfless elements in all 'good' things granted, these things can hold without attachments (all in some way selfish).

As it stands, you may believe you have the good reason and the right of it and I may believe the same of my arguments. Questioning and not attempts at validation being my criteria for a good work, book or otherwise, I suggest leaving it at that and up to whoever might bother to read this dialogue to weigh the matter for themselves.

James Carroll Here is an excellent talk on the subject that expresses how I feel about embracing vulnerability rather well: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_...

message 37: by Mimi (new)

Mimi Adams Thought you might be interested (If you really are from Los Alamos, and still there) that the little theatre is doing the stage adaptation of The Giver soon.

message 38: by Basho (new)

Basho Did you just write, "As Yoda unfortunately says to Anakin..." in reference to Buddhism? Did you really just write that?

Yoda. A character in a Sci Fi film, written by an American.

Buddhism. An ancient religion founded in India.


message 39: by Hardliquor (new)

Hardliquor Perhaps you mean asceticism, dear reader?

To give up attachments does not mean to give up people and belongings that one is attached to. To be attached simply means to cling to something. One can have a preference for the sun over the rain, yet not be attached to the weather reports. In fact, that person can smile with the sun and cry with the rain. Perhaps that person may feel emotions more fully and true to the moment because there is not an attachment to the emotion one should be having.

Cheers and thanks for the review.

message 40: by James (last edited Apr 17, 2012 09:52AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

James Carroll @Basho: you wrote: "Did you just write, "As Yoda unfortunately says to Anakin..." in reference to Buddhism? Did you really just write that? Yoda. A character in a Sci Fi film, written by an American. Buddhism. An ancient religion founded in India."

I was using an example of the IDEA that most readers would be familiar with (since most of my readers are familiar with the movie, and NOT with Buddhism). As I have said before time and time again, I was NOT critiquing Buddhism, I was critiquing an IDEA that SOME Buddhists hold, and which we find illustrated elsewhere as well (for example in popular movies like Star Wars). You also should note, that George Lucas has said that much of his philosophy has been inspired by Buddhist ideas, although that is un-necessary for my point to be of value. All that is needed is for BOTH to share a similar (bad) philosophy.

@Hardliquor: What is the real difference between giving up an attachment and giving up an emotion? If the point is to remove all pain from life, and if negative emotions carry pain, then we would have to give them up in order to remove that pain. This was certainly the case in "The Giver" where the issue wasn't asceticism, but the removal of all emotional depth to avoid emotional pain.

message 41: by Hardliquor (new)

Hardliquor Hi, thank you for the reply.

I have been practicing in a temple for 8 years now (mostly Zazen as my practice) and this is a common misconception about suffering. Desires cause suffering, so remove the desires. What is the result? Zombies in black robes chanting sutras? No, not at all. :) In fact, most (not all) Buddhists I have encountered are quite happy, peaceful and can love deeply. Not to mention some of the funniest people I know. :) How is that possible?

There is no way to control the sky. There is no way to void yourself of emotions (and still have consciousness) The clouds come and go, as do the thunder and the storms. Emotions are like the activity in the sky. Emotions do not cause pain. What causes the pain is wanting to the sky to be clear all the time. To let go of desires is to see the sky as it is and be free. It is not an intellectual thing.

James Carroll It's the desire to see the world change that leads to a better world. We should not be content with whatever we see, rather we should work to change it. And that requires that we "desire" something badly enough to work for it.

message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

Great point James! That was beautifully said.

message 44: by lui (new)

lui very well put. fully agree

message 45: by Grace (new)

Grace Wow! Great discussions!

message 46: by Christine (new) - added it

Christine I would love to comment but only to provoke further thought... not really to make a point of right and wrong.
Jesus speaks of denying self. The Bible speaks of making your mind and body your slave, i.e. controlling your thoughts, actions, etc. This suggests that Christianity promotes going against what "comes naturally" so to speak. However, it could be said that Christianity also requires one to make the ultimate attachment which is complete desire for Christ. It seems that Christ himself was in some agreement with some Buddhist when he said that one to one man that it would be good to give up his possessions and follow Him. The man would leave all his "attachments" behind. The one interesting thought I would have is, if Christ is God and "perfect" in nature, is "attachment" to him safe and without pain?

James Carroll I don't know Christine. I don't know. But if you figure it out, let me know.

message 48: by Sian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sian Ellis Ah yes James without adversity we are nothing when we encounter pain we grow... I've always been a fan of individuality! Great review thank you. I really enjoyed this book.

message 49: by J (new) - rated it 5 stars

J Really enjoyed reading the comments after reading the book. It gave me a deeper understanding of the dilemmas facing Jonas and the Giver. I have an 11 year old (quite smart I might add) and we are going to read the book together. I look forward to wrestling some of these issues with her.

I have to add that I fully agree with James in that a world devoid of love and attachments is not worth living.

message 50: by Micah (new) - added it

Micah Savine Spoiler alert

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