There is such wisdom in books, all we have to do is read, think about it and apply it to our lives. That’s the secret though, as you will time and again be reminded.
Of course many of us just read and move on to the next book. Even worse, I bet a lot of you are like me, you hear about a great book of wisdom, get all fired up about it, buy it at the earliest possible stage and install it in a high visibility location on your bookshelf so that you can admire your good taste and budding wisdom as you get around to reading it. Months later, it is still there, unopened and often succeeded in your affections by the latest wisdom tome. If only the wisdom of the books on our shelves could be transferred to our lives by virtue of their presence rather than requiring the process of reading and assimilation.
This blog will be my attempt, as a budding philosopher and long-time bibliophile to summarize the wisdom of books as I read them – both for you and, of course, for me.
We shall visit all my favorites, going back to the earliest wisdom books i read, years ago as a teenager. One of my all-time favorite authors is M Scott Peck. His books, the most famous of which is “The Road Less Traveled” are all full of wisdom, insights and, somewhat controversially, spirituality. I was reared a Catholic in Ireland but rapidly became an atheist at the earliest possible opportunity. Of course, looking back and with my greater knowledge of myself, i expect that part of my dropping religion was just laziness, just to lazy to get out of bed on a Sunday morning to go to Mass. Of course we didn’t learn much about spirituality in those days so that didn’t help when laziness came calling.
Another of my favorite books around that time was, “Mister God this is Anna”, a book about a personal relationship with God written under the pseudonym “Flynn”. Of course, around that time, in the 1970’s, Richard Back published his books which we shall look at. The first was “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” which captivated me.
Later on i progressed to more philosophical books, partly encouraged by “Sophie’s World”, which introduced me to many of the western philosophers and their writings. I discovered Anthony deMello and Harvey Wasserman, and the fact that many of my favourite authors, from J.D. Salinger to Kurt Vonnegut were really talking wisdom.
Buddhism attracted my interest and i read, and am still reading, works of the Dalai Lama, Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh, and many others.
I read all of Deepak Chopra’s books but was disillusioned for a while as i thought there was too much emphasis on material wealth – we shall visit them again and see what we think now that the years have rolled by. Of course, Deepak has continued to write and i am sure we will find great wisdom in his recent books too.
Philosophy books though always ran the risk of being too intellectual, too theoretical for me, until, that is, i discovered the course in Practical Philosophy ran by the Dublin School of Philosophy and Economics. The emphasis of the course, run in ten to twelve week modules, is just what it says, ‘practical philosophy’, teaching its students how to live in wisdom. Weekly practices and exercises, followed by feed-back and discussions contributed greatly to developing my love of philosophy. The fact that we were given a reading list only added to its attraction to me – one of the ways to my heart – just give me a reading list.
Much of the practical wisdom we learnt is based on Hindu teachings and lessons and i began to read books by Hindu authors – there is many a life’s reading and wisdom in these books alone. One of my friends on the course believes that books come to you, rather than the other way round – the right book comes to you just at the moment you need the wisdom within it most. At least that was her excuse for the impulsive buying of wisdom books, an excuse i am only too ready to buy into.
There are also, of course, the timeless books of wisdom and spirituality, books like the Bible, the Koran, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, of which i own a beautiful copy published by the Folio Society, the Analects of Confucius, Lao-tzu’s TaoteChing, and so many others. We are going to have such a wonderful time.
I hope we will dip into some poetry, Yeats for example and Rumi of course; poetry is a literary form used for thousands of generations to express wisdom and insights. Music lyrics also often contain messages which resonate with us, we shall not ignore either. I grew up on a diet of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, both great writers. One of the blessings of the internet and Google is that it is possible to retrieve accurately that half-forgotten snatch of a poem or song which meant so much to us at a particular time in our lives.
And history of course, we shall visit some history. History puts things in perspective, while we simultaneously put history in its context which is that the further back in time we go the more difficult it is to be sure of the accuracy, the veracity even, of what we are told, of what is recorded. If we hope to learn during our limited time-span on this earth we should try and make use of what has been learned by humans over the millennia, at least in so far as that knowledge and wisdom is available to us.
I am sure we shall journey well