The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck: A Book Review

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This best –selling book of Dr. Peck is a must –read for those loners who have niggling questions such as:
(a) Why don’t I have a boyfriend or a girlfriend?
(b) Do I need someone whom I will love, or someone who will love me?

On the other hand, this book can throw light on common problems among couples in terms of:

(a) A peaceful, stable, and long-lasting relationship
(b) Role of a woman and a man in a relationship

This book, in addition, can somehow answer the apologetic and philosophical questions about LOVE such as:

(a) Is love innate?
(b) Where does it come from?
(c) How does it develop?
(d) Is love indispensable in our lives? Could we live without love?

At the end, I concluded that we need to love and to be loved to be healthy people; and likewise, we can be good people by loving ourselves rather than by choosing to love others.

Thus, this book is peppered with soothing and enlightening advice which is a favorite reference among counselors whenever someone turns to them for advice . So here are the lines that shattered all my illusions on LIFE, notably on LOVE :

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

“Human beings are poor examiners, subject to superstition, bias, prejudice, and a PROFOUND tendency to see what they want to see rather than what is really there.”

“Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it — then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

“Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and wisdom.”

“When we love someone our love becomes demonstrable or real only through our exertion – through the fact that for that someone (or for ourselves) we take an extra step or walk an extra mile. Love is not effortless. To the contrary, love is effortful.”

“Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit.”

“Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost. While this is obvious, it is something that most people to a greater or lesser degree choose to ignore. They ignore it because our route to reality is not easy. First of all, we are not born with maps; we have to make them, and the making requires effort. The more effort we make to appreciate and perceive reality, the larger and more accurate our maps will be. But many do not want to make this effort. Some stop making it by the end of adolescence. Their maps are small and sketchy, their views of the world narrow and misleading. By the end of middle age most people have given up the effort. They feel certain that their maps are complete and their Weltanschauung is correct (indeed, even sacrosanct), and they are no longer interested in new information. It is as if they are tired. Only a relative and fortunate few continue until the moment of death exploring the mystery of reality, ever enlarging and refining and redefining their understanding of the world and what is true.”

“Another characteristic of human nature—perhaps the one that makes us most human—is our capacity to do the unnatural, to transcend and hence transform our own nature.”

“The best decision-makers are those who are willing to suffer the most over their decisions but still retain their ability to be decisive. One”

“My time was my responsibility. It was up to me and me alone to decide how I wanted to use and order my time.”

“Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional.

“Dependency may appear to be love because it is a force that causes people to fiercely attach themselves to one another. But in actuality it is not love; it is a form of antilove. It has its genesis in a parental failure to love and it perpetuates the failure. It seeks to receive rather than to give. It nourishes infantilism rather than growth. It works to trap and constrict rather than to liberate. Ultimately it destroys rather than builds relationships, and it destroys rather than builds people.”

“Love always requires courage and involves risk.”

Note: For more quotes, you can click this site: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2747475-the-road-less-traveled-a-new-psychology-of-love-traditional-values-a

Dr. Peck focused on anatomizing LOVE. He used his experiences in supporting his propositions. However, there are instances that he should not have overlooked the holistic approach to understanding the psychological problems among his patients. I guess he knew what I meant.

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )

Hitchhiking to Heaven: An Autobiography. Lionel Blue by Lionel Blue: A Book Review

blueThe story is about Lionel Blue’s life as a gay Jewish rabbi, how he managed his desires to know God in various religions, specifically in Judaism regardless of his struggle for coming out in the open. To find himself, he hitchhiked to “heaven” in some European cities, particularly in Amsterdam- not in a literal meaning of the geographical place. I guess you would understand what heaven Lionel Blue meant when you have read its last two chapters.

Despite his inspiring story, admittedly, I did not enjoy it much. Ridiculously because I had expected that I would read something to do with his gay life, which was somehow he gave emphasis as well as how he managed to lead his religious life as a gay rabbi. Besides, I may not be as religious as other readers to be impressed. If I were so, I would not be hypocrite to give it 3 or 4 stars. ^^ Furthermore, I must be used to reading autobiographies / biographies or memoirs that are beautifully written and compelling just the like of the critically acclaimed ones I have read. Nevertheless, I felt in his writing styles how a gay he is indeed- full of hilarious prose.

On the other hand, I admired his humble audacity how he proved that homosexual life is not a big drawback to exercising one’s religious belief. In his autobiography, it was an abject misery that in 1960’s, homosexuality was considered a mental disease like the plague. Prejudice was borne down upon them and eventually led some to committing suicide. Fortunately, he survived this thought.

Exposed to some kinds of religions, Lionel Blue emphasized his favorite quote by the agnostic emperor Marcus Aurelius:

 “If you think there is God, then follow Him, if you think there is no God, become godlike yourself.”

The message is VERY simple. ^^

Rating: 1/ 5 stars ( I wish I liked it.)

The Little Zen Companion by David Schiller: A Book Review

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“A monk brought two potted plants to his Master. “Drop it,” ordered the Master. The monk dropped one pot. “Drop it,” again ordered the Master. The monk let the second pot go. “Drop it,” now roared the Master. The monk stammered: “But I have nothing to drop.” The Master nodded. “Then take it away.”

My beloved cousin lent me this book, for he knows how much I am fond of reading quotes coming from the powerful lips of famous historical figures . I want to be moved and inspired by their philosophical insights and thoughts.

To be honest, I still don’t have the completely clear ideas of what ZEN is all about. Before, I just knew of that it was some kind of spiritual practices to gain ENLIGHTENMENT and PEACE OF MIND. No wonder I tend to get fascinated to read more on this dogma. In fact, the only book I have ever read that gives me more ideas of this kind of spiritual dogma is Instinct for Freedom: A Maverick’s Guide to Spiritual Revolution by Alan Clements ( 4 stars ). I learned from this book that in order to have spiritual freedom, you have to empty your mind and feelings.

ZEN, as the name suggests, is a type of Buddhism that emphasizes MEDITATION rather than faith or reading religious books. MEDITATION is the practice of emptying your mind of thoughts and feelings, in order to relax completely, or for religious reasons. Thus, reading The Little Zen Companion as a little compendium of wisdom in the form of quotes, phrases, stories, koan, haiku, or poems from Lao-tzu, The Little Prince, D. T. Suzuki, Basho, Walker Percy, the Buddha, the Bible, Einstein, to name a few GUIDES you to empty your mind and feelings.

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Well, LIFE may be a total mess.

To get the hang of it, read and read and read. ^^

Rating : 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it.)

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather: A Book Review

To get into the spirit of the Holy Week, I decided to pick this book I bought from a retired librarian last year. It is almost old, brittle, smeared with dust, but too legible to catch my interest and imagination.

I enjoyed reading this book despite the fact that I could be subject to heresy, agnosticism, nihilism, cynicism, or bigotry. It could be highly recommended for pious people. (I am not sure of atheists, for they might cast aspersions on it as “rotund’.)I liked the way Willa Cather depicted the real epitome of a missionary, passionate about his duty by helping uncivilized people back to their faith, restoring the Catholicism in a backward place, full of distorted beliefs and corruption. It was like as though I read a biographical novel narrates the life of a man who worked hard to accomplish his mission, faced with a lot of hindrances, humiliation, and endurance; as though a priest concentrated on his goals until he had made them through. So I finished it as gloriously as he died “of having lived’- not disgruntled but left hanging with some niggling doubt all along: Is Father Latour, the main character, credible? Does he appear to be hypocritical? On the other hand, Willa Cather portrayed the antithesis of such prelates who are given to greed, gluttony, avarice, and corruption- the fact that they exist in the Catholic Church. In the Philippines, they are the avatar of “Padre Damaso”.

After reading this, I was chastened more by the fact that leading religious life turns out to be a matter of “intestinal and cerebral fortitude”. Life could be tough when one is given big responsibilities. He needs to live simply and abstemiously. He needs to deprive himself of the luxurious trappings, particularly denying his human nature- the “concupiscence”. This kind of life reminded me of the nun, seminarian, and priest students I have taught. I am paying more homage to them. ^^

However, beyond a shadow of doubt, I could not blot out the idea of how the TIME ended it up as one of the best of all time since 1923. Probably this book is “rare and special’. Eureka! ^^

Rating: 3/ 5 stars

Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris: A Book Review

harrisWOW! It’s a tour de force- a perfect apologia. Sam Harris is so brilliant that he has an acute analysis of the issue. So , atheists, particularly agnostics, should read it to become more enlightened and completely free from fear of going to “hell” and religious intolerance.

The first book that gave me an idea about apologetics was WHAT IS SO GREAT ABOUT CHRISTIANITY ? by Dinesh D’Souza ( 5 stars ). In fact, the book introduced me to the said Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennet. Thereafter, I wanted to read their works on account of my agnostic itch of curiosity then. So, I have read Dawkins’ GOD DELUSION ( 5 stars ) twice, Hitchens’ s GOD IS NOT GREAT ( 3 stars ). Now it’s my first Sam Harris apologia.

Harris intended to write this book in response to the hate letters sent by religious and political  people  and out of his criticisms against major religions of the world in his book THE END OF FAITH. I enjoyed reading it because of his straight-to-the-point arguments- concise but clear and logically convincing.

Upon reading it, I had four intellectual epiphanies :

There is no such morality.
There are many truths.
The bible appears to be inconsistent.
Therefore, for an atheist, and in general, God does not exist.

On the other hand, the underlying cause on which I cast shed why deeply religious people tend to deny the fact that God does not exist is “IGNORANCE”. We are living in a civilization of ignorance as Harris put it. Or I would opine that we are all still ignorant although we are all civilized. We have been the archetypes of wrong education since time immemorial. So life has been complicated. See, pardon me if you may be feeling like blowing your top now, out of your devotion as if you want to engage in a heated debate with me. It is some kinda foolishness, isn’t it? But still I dare to uphold Sam Harris’s and other prominent atheists’ arguments. ^^

Rating: 5/5 stars

Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore : A Book Review

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This is about devotion to God. It could be a perfect inspirational book for religious people who believe in their callings. On the contrary, atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins might adduce that there was no divine intervention in writing these songs ; it was a matter of Tagore’s motivation brought about by his past experiences.

I only learned from high school social studies that Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. But I never attempted to read his works which made him win one of the prestigious literary prizes in the world as long as the heart of the western writers. I was just aware of the fact that I would take a look at his pictures in awe, for he has this Jesus-like aura. For me then, I had just an impression that he was such an enlightened literary figure. As a matter of fact,he took my fancy more when I had a nun student who recommended this book since it is her most favorite book. After getting around to it, I have come to understand why she, I guess even other religious people, likes this book.

Gitanjali means song offerings. Tagore wanted to show his strong devotion to God by singing Him beautiful songs he drew from the deepest part of his heart. No wonder the sentences are so beautifully mesmerizing. Each line can penetrate through your heart as well as might have a profound impact upon people , astray from their religious faith.

If you are the same with Tagore, you would opine that the God to whom Tagore is devoted is the same God you are devoted to. But if you are an avowed atheist, you could say that the God to whom Tagore is devoted could be in a pantheistic form, for the contents of Tagore’s songs have something to do with all the natural environment. Therefore, offering songs do not directly and clearly refer to whoever or whatever God Tagore may have believed in. No doubt these song offerings could be subject to hermeneutic principle.

I may be wrong since I have not read Tagore’s autobiographies nor his other works yet. Nevertheless, I was impressed by the fact that Tagore’s writing styles are the product of a deep, deep impression.

Rating: 3/ 5 stars

A Confession by Leo Tolstoy: A Book Review

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I have been an avowed atheist   for two years. I  had mustered up enough courage to abandon the Christian life after a long battle  of shattering the  doubts. I was not able to do so because of the fear instilled in me that I would go to hell or not be saved from the Judgment Day. At that time, I was still  an utter simpleton believing in something beyond logic. After reading some said  heretical books such as of Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion , Sam Harris’ A Letter to a Nation  and An Atheist Manifesto ,  Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great , and George H. Smith’s  Atheism: The Case Against God ,  I have been awoken to the reality as though the experience  was a rude  awakening. So, do  not dare lecture me that I must be veering  off my faith because faith is another argument of foolish illusion. By the same token, I have  read  one apologetic  book to defend  the sides of  the Christianity  . Still, the side of the atheists  stands for me. For sure, I would be the subject to the brick brat here on Goodreads. Like  or unlike this , it is  neither here nor there.

This book deals with  Leo Tolstoy’s  midlife crisis in his spirituality and existentialism. Like  what the atheists above experienced , Tolstoy came to the point that he questioned the religious teachings foisted upon him since he was still young. To find the answer, he went on a pilgrimage until he thought he had  found the answer to his questions: He concluded that God does not exist.  Still, not completely  convinced , he  had the persistent and obtrusive  realization that there may be Supernatural unknown which can be called God. His experience was like backsliding to his delusion. In other words, Tolstoy ended up as agnostic- a question which has been a debate among religion and atheism apologists.

If Tolstoy  had existential crisis  in his 50’s ,  it may be ridiculous  for others if I say that I have had come to it  in my 20’s .Perhaps, information  in the internet is now accessible to everyone.

Tolstoy, as a rule,  is considered as  the world’ best novelist . His writing for others is considered  flawless. No doubt in this book, every sentence is beautifully written-  the  aftereffect of his emotional impact, an experience  bears  half resemblance to  Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore and AntiChrist by Nitzsche. Probably   the big credit is to its English translator.

As a bright philosopher put it that there are many kinds of truth  since there are many kinds of beholders, you might misunderstand that Tolstoy’s’ intellectual  hubris is conveyed in the sentences. In this book, Tolstoy said that people who believe in something beyond logic are not intellectual. Come to think of it. Do not be  carried out by your deep-seated beliefs.

Rating : 4/ 5 stars for  Leo Tolstoy’s beautiful sentences.