Review: Learning to Silence the Mind: Wellness Through Meditation

Learning to Silence the Mind: Wellness Through Meditation
Learning to Silence the Mind: Wellness Through Meditation by Osho
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

“God is a constant search for more and more happiness, joy, and ecstasy.” – Rajneesh (Osho)

If that be true, it seems to me, God must be a process of indulgence in endless materialism. Rather contradictory, but this godman’s definitions have a tendency to be opposed to traditional thought and religion. He is quite clever in his thought and speech, which are recorded in the book, but he caters to his doting audience (American, in this instance) with observations that resonate with their beliefs – for very material reasons. Clearly, if the ‘pursuit of happiness’ be God, Americans must be a very godly people.

“Emptiness is Self.” Another one of his curious observations, presumably equating stillness of the mind, through meditation, to realization of the ‘self.’ Unsupported and unworthy, for it borrows from Buddhism (Tibetan, specifically) while seemingly contradicting that group’s belief that there is no ‘self.’

I read no further. Not recommended at all.

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Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Enchanting…masterful, and deeply moving.

The sure sign of a great master – of the arts – is that he can evoke powerful emotions through his illustration. Monseuir Dumas does so brilliantly in The Count of Monte Cristo. He paints most imaginative visions, and yet suspends disbelief. He tells… like the ancient storytellers who enraptured audiences through their refined narration.

Oh, how I crave to be an apprentice to this great artist!

The translation does have its flaws…some words, such as ‘toilet,’ appear ludicrously employed. Perhaps the usage of the times then. The linearity of the narration is noticeable, as is a penchant for the religious and the supernatural. Cultural aspects of the times, too, perhaps, or what readers appreciated then. A tendency to engage a reader solely in conversation gives way to lengthy reflection in latter parts of the work. Yet, from a master, these are but his distinction.

Bravo, M. Dumas!

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Review: George Washington: A Life From Beginning to End

George Washington: A Life From Beginning to End
George Washington: A Life From Beginning to End by Hourly History
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

George Washington: The man who united thirteen states and built a nation

A brief but excellent account of the man, the military leader, and the father of the nation. Born as a younger Washington, he learned to survey and know the land he moved in, trained in the British military and rose to overcome them as leader of the Continental Army, and was chosen, unanimously, to unite and lead a new nation. He proved to be a man of impeccable honor and integrity, fully worthy of the title popularly bestowed.

The book is a pleasure to read. Replete with anecdotes and little-known details, it enlivens a true historical account.

Highly recommended.

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Another ‘Swing of the Pendulum’

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Prophetic. Arrogant, offensive, but prescient. He said it, and did it. Take a deep breath…the name calling, nasty, divisive, financially irresponsible outsider did it. But just how did he do it?

Friends call me up to commiserate.  Some are very clear in their analysis…’tis naught but a return to the ways of the deep south, they say. Deep rooted racism. A rejection of a wonderful gumbo of immigrants, and a swing back to having the good old boys in charge. I wonder.

A swing of the pendulum.

Could it be so? What did Trump offer America? To be selected to lead the nation? Political acumen and experience? Eloquence and a calming philosophy that unifies a fractured nation? A credible approach to global trade and foreign relations? And if not, what else?

Perhaps, the art of the deal? But what deals was he planning? Building a wall to keep immigrants out? Profiling people entering the country? Or playing the game as he said in his quote above?

I cannot help but think that he wins and America loses. I think he played to the basest instincts, to the deep rooted fears of a large segment of Americans, and he won. He says it like it is! Common sense be damned.

The pendulum has indeed swung over to the crazy side.

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Posted in Political, Social, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review: Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide

Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide
Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide by Michael B. Oren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Engaging and enlightening…vaguely disquieting as well. A sense of a rise of nationalism, of identity tied to mythology, and a biased view of history is palpable within.

Michael Oren writes of “making aliya” as a devout Haj pilgrim may speak of his journey. Such zeal…can hardly project mature secularism, and may well explain differences that arise, not only between nations, but between people of the same national origin.

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To India – My Origins

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Fall flowers on a decorative plant in my neighbor’s front yard

A while since my last bit of writing.

“…since I last wrote” would be much shorter and to the delight of the late William J. Strunk Jr., of ‘The Elements of Style’ fame, but could convey alternate meanings and make a reader pause. Sometimes being a bit more specific, albeit with more words, can be clearer.

To the topic at hand. I’m off to India, the land that originated so very many, yours truly one among such beings. It will be a long trip, of four months this time, for I must settle grave family matters there.

I wish…I didn’t have to go. The season has changed in the Southwest, fall’s here, and the flora in our little yards show so as in the picture posted. My neighbor, whose yards I tended to while she was away, will be back today from a summer vacation up north. My children will have their fall break begin on the very day I travel. Good friends, Giddu and his children, returned just a few months ago after a few years abroad, and now visit me here often. But a dire family circumstance compels my departure…and I must.

My writing is hence destined for greater breaks…but perhaps I can use this time to begin a second book!

The very best to all readers and writers in the meanwhile…

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Review: Humbling and Humility

Humbling and Humility
Humbling and Humility by Rian Nejar
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

EDITORIAL REVIEW (from the publisher)

Content Synopsis and Structure
‘Humbling and Humility’ (HnH) is a personal narrative of an Indian American father and husband, an immigrant into the land of opportunity that is America, betrayed by his spouse and humiliated by the state, who overcomes unimaginable adversity to reaffirm his cultural values and discovers peace within.

This father, a technology entrepreneur, is forced to undergo a court-mandated intervention process, for domestic violence education, that comprises the first act of the narrative. The classes he attends are interesting and humor filled, with intriguing participants from a variety of cultures, sessions that provide common experiences and a clear view of a deeply biased system whose nature is not only obvious to all participants but also affirmed so by representatives of the state. He engages with this process diligently, questioning and clarifying the actions and assumptions by the state that forces such experiences upon its citizens. This process helps the protagonist confirm what he has known all along – knowledge that upends conventional thinking.

In the second part of the narrative, the protagonist attempts to maintain integrity of his family, but soon develops greater clarity about an individualistic (American) perspective adopted by his spouse, the antagonist. Rather than rely upon contemporary social methods and practices that partition a family, he accommodates his spouse’s demands creatively, and strives to maintain a reasonable family life for his small children. Finding this task somewhat beyond his capabilities and tolerance, he applies himself to helping other Indian American families undergoing similar domestic discord with limited success. His idealism develops into a pragmatic perspective on contemporary family life for all immigrants.

The final act of the narrative finds the protagonist taking a philosophical approach, adapting to social practices alien to him, and finding small measures of peace in other aspects of life that contribute to happiness. He finds greater clarity not only in his own direction ahead, but also in his view of the ills of social systems that entrap and torment everyone, especially immigrants in America.

The narrative is based upon true events. It is a sympathetic depiction of the price of infidelity and self-orientation, the benefits of restraint and social consciousness, and the gifts of uncommon empathy, compassion, and love.

Critical Comments
In non-fictional form, the work does not promote characters or a plot. The protagonist and the antagonist are developed, albeit gradually, as are others undergoing similar challenges. A principal focus is upon learning throughout, through agonizing experiences, through individual confrontations, the clash of cultures, and choices made to address intractable social problems. The plot, if one could fashion any such from the narrative, is that of an irreconcilable domestic conflict and a father’s attempts to navigate his children and himself through without harming the innocent.

The narrative takes a highly critical look at law enforcement, prosecution, and correctional practices applied in America. The story begins with the father facing corrupt and unyielding processes of American policing, details the swing of the pendulum mode of excessive force and incarceration by the state, and illustrates the ineffectiveness and social harm of such punitive methods of a legal system. The epilogue refreshes readers’ memory of the protagonist’s knowledge and experience, of the impact of a big man of the law in a southwestern state of America, introduced at the beginning.

As for the father’s personal journey, he grows in the reader’s mind as a lover and warrior at heart…loving others, his children, family, and all life. His learning (enlightenment, if you will) may be summed up in a noteworthy comprehension of his life’s purpose. This is perhaps best expressed in the words of Sitting Bull, one among noted Native American leaders:

“The warrior is not someone who fights, because no one has the right to take another’s life. The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of Humanity.”

In a land where materialism rules, Humbling and Humility’s protagonist found in himself traits of a warrior, of a suppressed culture native to this land, one that has through a quirk of history also been named ‘Indian.’

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