Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The World We Have (A Book Review)

A few years ago I moved to Chicago and began my practice with a new sangha , but with same root teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. I kept in touch with one of my old sangha buddies until about two years after I had moved. Every time we talked, she would tell me how depressed she was so during one of our last conversations I simply asked "What are you doing to help yourself?" I didn't hear from her a while and when we spoke again she was enraged that I had asked her that question. When I would not apologize for asking the question and began pontificating, I was told never to call her again a few days later.

The point of this story is that while I thought recognized her suffering, I did not acknowledge her suffering, nor did I truly recognize it. While I was trying to share some liberation from a similar experience, I was not skilful. I realized that I really had no business introducing a bold new vision to her about her well being as mine was in great need of improvement at the time as well.

I was unaware, uninformed, and my actions did not reflect a true compassionate nature. I realized all of this while reading this book by our root teacher and reflecting on this experience since I have since moved back from Chicago.

The message in this book is ancient: care for the environment, live in peace, interconnected with one another and find peace within yourself. However, the message still constitutes a bold vision for the modern world to a reader, such as myself, who sees a pattern in all forms of U.S. media and economic exploitation that reinforce to our peers, our children and our parents that these ideas are too naive, too simple, and just plain bad for our long term welfare. The ideas in this book may appear revolutionary and brand new because they strongly conflict with our near term desires and this desire is exploited by economic interests.

While Chomsky may have made enemies by showing us how the military industrial complex "manufactures consent" in democratic and free societies to go to war through fear and propaganda, the same principles apply to issues such as global warming, energy, biotechnology and so on. So yes, this book is pretty refreshing because it offers hope. 

Additionally, the author really connects with the reader by recognizing the reader's suffering and how it plays into our collective suffering and how our actions abusive against the earth are also forms of abusing our future children and their children and our ancestors both genetically and spiritually.

We are offered simple solutions in a skilful and compassionate way for engaging ourselves and finding a liberation of sorts, so that we can in turn engage others in what constitutes a skillful call to action in a compassionate and mindful way.

Pay the farmer, or pay the doctor. When there are no more farms, there will be no more doctors. We will be left with no one to pay and perhaps we will attend to other matters. Don't take my word for it. I have already admitted my lack of skill in communicating such matters, read the book for yourself and rely on your own experience.  

With Unskilful, But Genuine Love,
Sean E Flanigan
Charlotte, NC

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