Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Book review: Trying Not to Try, by Edward Slingerland

The thing about ancient Chinese philosophy is, it's ancient. As relevant as the core teachings might still be, the metaphors and original context sometimes suffer from antiquity so severe that many modern-day folks (myself included) simply can't relate, and therefore miss the message. These days one typically isn't faced with dilemmas such as how to most elegantly butcher an ox for ceremonial offering, or what to do with a crop of comically oversized gourds.

And from a Western point of view, the other thing about ancient Chinese philosophy is, it's Chinese. That is to say, it's incredibly foreign. Many Westerners (myself included) sometimes struggle to understand even modern Chinese culture, simply because Western and Chinese cultures differ so greatly. The two take radically different approaches even to something as fundamental as language: non-tonal pronunciation versus tonal, a phonetic alphabet versus a complex logography, etc.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Book Review: The Doors of Perception / Heaven and Hell

When I first read Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception / Heaven and Hell, most of it was lost on me, and I assumed this was because at the time I lacked any experience with psychedelics. The second time I read the book — many years and many psychedelics later — I still found myself struggling to follow along. I generally don't write negative reviews, but I think this book offers at least two valuable lessons to writers.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Book Review: Limited Wants, Unlimited Means

Modern civilization has a tendency to congratulate itself as it exhales a heavy and self-aggrandizing sigh of relief that we are so blessed to live in this wonderful day in age, rejoicing, "No more are the brutish days of 'survival of the fittest' and the never-ending toils of struggling to find food, battling disease, and fending off invaders and predators!" But as John Gowdy clearly demonstrates in Limited Wants, Unlimited Means: A Reader On Hunter-Gatherer Economics And The Environment, the pre-agricultural lives of our ancestors were comprised mostly of leisure time, because food was generally plentiful, requiring only a few hours of "work" per day. People were generally healthy and happy, largely in part because their only "work" was enjoyable communal activities that strengthened social bonds and strengthened one's connection to nature. And while there certainly were occasional famines and other hardships, this book paints a pretty clear picture that, for all our "progress" over the last few millennia, in many (or most?) regards we are worse off now than when we started.