Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book Review - The Healing Code by Alex Loyd and Ben Johnson

This one came highly recommended so I dived into it with earnest intent.  I loved it...that is until I got to the actual code.  Then I got pretty squeamish about the whole thing.  The idea of the book is that all of our maladies, be they physical or emotional, are the direct result of stress.  By stress they mean something deeper more non-nondescript that the pressure of deadlines and rush hour traffic. Loyd and Johnson conclude that this deep "cellular" stress shuts off our immune system or at least slows it down.  So, the key to health is in figuring out a way to fire the immune system back up.  I buy that.

The authors explain in depth that our memories are stored at the cellular level and throughout our entire bodies.  The brain is just the central processor.  I can also buy into this.  We once had a Shetland Sheep dog we raise from a pup.  His name was Pepper.  His mother had given birth to him in an urban apartment and we took him home to live in a city house and it's back yard.  He had most certainly never seen a sheep.  One day when he was about 9 or 10 months old we took a family drive on the mountain.  Pepper was in the back seat with the kids.  We were driving slowly through the mountain woods on a dirt road.  The windows were open and we were enjoying the cool mountain air.  Rounding a bend we encountered a grazing herd of sheep in a pretty meadow.  When Pepper saw the sheep he bolted out the window, sprinted into the herd, cut out about six head of sheep and separated them from the rest.  We apologized to the sheep herder as we called the dog back to the car.  He didn't want an apology; he wanted the dog!  Pepper had never laid eyes on a sheep but encoded in his DNA was all the memory he needed to know exactly what he was bred for and how and what to do with that knowledge.  It was astounding to say the least.  If that much memory can be stored in a dog's DNA, it isn't much of a leap to think the same and more could happen for us.

So, Loyd and Johnson make a case for the possibility that lies, fears and misperceptions are stored in us at the cellular level and that this "programming" not only controls us subconsciously, but causes us unhealthy stress.  I'm quite comfortable with all this.

Their solution though, is another matter.  They are Christians and include prayer as part of the process, but they also include some rather hocus pocus Chakra type energy alignment type stuff that gives me pause.  I can't quite see how "shining" my finger tips on my Adam's apple while thinking good thoughts is going to reprogram my cellular memory.  On the other hand, I suppose it couldn't hurt, so I've been taking it for a spin.  They have case studies of instant results after just one "shining."  Not so with me.  But, as I am not a quitter and am trying to be open minded instead of empty headed, I think its only fair to give it a good serious try before making my final assessment.  So, when I'm satisfied, one way or the other, I'll come back and let you know what I think.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review - The Overton Window by Glenn Beck

I've reviewed a number to Glenn Beck books lately.  This is interesting because I have never tuned in to his television or internet programs.  I've watched a portion of two on YouTube and that's about it.  I was given every book but one as gifts from conservative friends and family members.  I am not "conservative" nor "liberal", nor "progressive" though I have views that would fall under each label.  I believe in moderation in all things, though I'd hardly call myself a "moderate" either.  I guess that's my problem, the divisive nature of politics these days, the us versus them ideologies, of necessity, leaves me out.  I don't like labels and I'm not about to label myself when plenty of people are eager to do that for me.  I'd like to join the McGillicuddy Serious Party, but it is either defunct or (in my dreams) gone underground. 

That said, again, I've found a book of Beck's that is well worth the time I spent reading it.  This one, a novel, is an absolute page turner.  It is just plain fun to read, with a good deal of human warmth and interest.  The Overton Window refers to an imaginary frame within which is pictured the spectrum of what the public will tolerate.  The idea is that there are forces at work to nudge that window toward a greater toleration of tyranny.  It is not such a hard concept to accept.  We see, all around us, ample evidence that the window has moved to the left and plenty of evidence that it will continue in that direction.  The beauty of the story lies in the amazing light the book sheds on why this is being done and who is doing it.

As I said before, this is a novel, a work of fiction.  As such it is a fun, thrilling ride through intrigue, danger and personal triumph.  But, it is not fantasy.  There is a ring of truth, possibility and even probability that resonates strongly through the book.  Being a Mormon and believing The Book of Mormon, I have little doubt that there are secretive groups abroad whose motivations are greed and power and whose methods are evil and nefarious. For me, The Book of Mormon purposefully prophesies of such "secret combinations" as a warning to us of the perils of our times.  After all, it was written for us and is plainly meant to be pertinent here and now.  Beck has made such conspiracy about as realistic and credible as ever I've seen.

I hope you'll read it.  For me, it nudged the "Overton Window" back to the right by quite a bit.  I'd like to see such a movement in the overall mindset of America.  You see, it can't move the wrong way (away from freedom) unless we let it, tolerate it.  Unless we believe the lies being carefully, gradually fed to us.  Unless we accept the fear being spoon fed to us by those who first want to "protect us," then own us.  I was quite surprised by the who and how of the enemy's methods, not so much, by the why or where or when.  I'm so very glad to have a clearer idea of what we're up against.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Review - Healthy Shame: How To Spank Your Inner Monkey! by Joseph W. Dopp

I've learned that Shame is a fundamental cause of addiction.  Shame as opposed to guilt.  The definition I accept is:  Guilt - I did wrong.  Shame - I am wrong.  Clearly shame is damaging as is presupposes that I am fundamentally flawed rather than being a person of divine potential who has made mistakes.  Even terrible mistakes.  So this title held a bit of intrigue for me and I decided to give it a try.  I didn't get very far.  While Dopp is witty, I didn't find him to be all that funny, which he was clearly shooting for.  Instead I found him irreverent and crass.  Even that I endured until he explained that a fundamental principle of his method decried what he called the prideful notion that we might ever become like God.

I believe God is my own Father and that His greatest desire is for His offspring, me and you, to grow to become like Him.  Dopp says we are clay in God's jar.  I declare that we are not clay in Gods jar, nor are we pawns on His chess board, nor sheep in His pasture nor art in His Gallery.  We are not rats in His laboratory we are His own sons and daughters, endowed with divine potentiality.  Dopp sees my position as blasphemous.  He can think as he wishes.  I however, couldn't find enough common ground in our philosophical approaches to change to warrant finishing the book.  Our views are built on entirely different foundations.

Book Review - Questing for Uberjoy by Konrad Ventana

Sweetie was given this book to review and passed it on to me.  It is available for purchase so it isn't an advanced reader copy.  I took it because of the cover picture.  It intrigued me as I've had a fondness and curiosity for the Orient ever since is lived for two years in the Philippines and visited Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan on my way home.

Konrad Ventana is enigmatic for me.  He is obviously brilliant.  The book reads like Young Adult Fiction as the story line breezes right along.  Yet it contains a depth and maturity that is truly surprising.  Ventana's vocabulary would put Alex Trebek to shame.  At first I set to using a dictionary; and needed one in almost every sentence.  That being too tedious, though, I began extrapolating the meaning of the myriad words unfamiliar to me and just settled in and enjoyed the story, and the philosophy, and the travelogue and the anthropology of Nepal.

At first I thought the elaborate vocabulary to be ridiculous; but came to love the concise, compact, brisk style the accurate use of words can offer.  Ventana is anything but verbose.  His economic expenditure of rich language is amazing!  Equally impressive is his geographic understanding of Nepal and Tibet and his cultural and religious savy of Eastern ways.  Now, I'm no expert in these things, so he might have pulled the wool over my eyes; but I take Konrad Ventana at face value and easily assume him to be as truly brilliant intellectually as his prose makes out.

Now, I won't spoil the story for you.  Suffice it to say it is an exciting page turner that moves right along to a very surprising conclusion.

I read to learn about myself and this little tome really did the trick.  Orion the main character is obviously on an important quest.  Towards its conclusion he begins to worry about where to go next.  A problem I'm currently grappling with.  All along the journey he has had a native companion who has been both his physical and spiritual guide.  Orion wants Segunda to continue on with him - to help him determine his next destination so to speak.  He begs for this and his companion replies:
"Segunda has no answers of such originality for you." he said.  "As you might recall, Segunda was recruited to be your guide only when your path was firmly established and your course of action was already indelibly clear...  However, you should know this:  When you set out to right some wrong that needs to righted, but has not been righted yet...when you endeavor to overcome some evil that by all standards of human decency need to be defeated, but has not been defeated yet... when you set about the task of fashioning some marvelous elixir for the body or the mind that should by all measures of human value be celebrated from a place beyond the highest rooftops, and yet the voices of all the earthly authorities remain only silent or shrill ... you may again find a Segunda, to second your own emotions and to guide you on your way."
More simply put, "When the student is ready the teacher will come."  To a large degree Konrad Ventana was such a teacher for me...for which I am grateful.

Personal Note:  My latest Segunda goes by the name of Darwin.  Thanks Darwin.

So I've learned that my next quest must be found within me and that is where I shall seek.  I liked this volume enough to be certain to read the first two in the Trilogy: A Desperado's Daily Bread and The Unbearable Sadness of Zilch.  Each one appears to stand alone, so I hope being out of sequence hasn't hurt.

The cover illustration depicts a little Nepalese girl who has captured my attention.  She is not mentioned specifically in the book, but I cannot refrain from gazing into her face.  She seems to be speaking directly to me and somehow I can divine that she is asking me, "So, what's it gonna be?"  I feel compelled to answer her question.


Book Review - The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

This wonderful little work of historical fiction sat, neglected, on my bookshelf far too long.  I'm so glad I finally got round to reading it.

I fondly remember when Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics.  It was fun to get a peek into this wonderful, old and cultured city.  I imagined I'd like to visit there.  Since then, of course, much of the grand old place has been destroyed by war.  During the Siege of Sarajevo a bomb fell into a street and killed 22 people who were waiting in line for bread.  For the next 22 days, Vase Miskina climbed onto the rubble with his Cello and played Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor, once for each of the fallen citizens who died in the bread line.  This is the historical fact.  The rest, though fiction, reminds us of the strength of the human spirit as three primary characters, not Vase Miskina, go about their lives amid the chaos of war.

This is not a political book.  There are no references to race, religion, or particular prejudice; though those things surely played a part.  There is no justification or rationalization for the position of either side of the conflict, no attempts to persuade the reader to choose sides; though we clearly become sympathetic with the Sarajevan Citizens whose lives we follow.  This is a book about resilience, confusion, persistence, endurance, despair, hunger, corruption and the down right ridiculousness of war.  It is about the power of music and the effect of courage.  It is about the randomness of victimhood and the comfort of routine amid chaos.  It is about the learning of life's lessons in the harshest of laboratories and the quiet goodness of humankind.

Some other book may explore the minds and hearts of the aggressors; "the men in the hills;" not this one.
Perhaps they are no different than the defenders trapped in the city.  Who knows.  Some other book may explore the corrupt and opportunistic advantage-takers among the citizens of Sarajevo itself; not this one.
This one quietly places you and me in the middle of the chaos and helps us see how very good and resolute and courageous we might be as we range far and wide in search of water and bread and companionship and peace.  This book examines how we might be when our surroundings are reduced to rubble and survival becomes each day's luxury.

This morning I walked along a roadside in Rawlins, Wyoming.  The borrow pit was dry with brittle weeds and littered with trash.  Amid the withered grass and weeds stood one single bright Brown Eyed Susan blossom.  It's verdant beauty stood in stark contrast to it's surroundings.  Again, I thought of the singular precious human beings that stood as quiet reminders amid the rubble of Sarajevo.  A man, a woman, a girl, a cellist, who even in the harshest of environs, bloomed.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book Review - Will Power Is Not Enough by A Dean Byrd and Mark D. Chamberlain

I hold that Jesus Christ is the author of change.  So, it seems, do Byrd and Chamberlain.  While that simple statement is profoundly true, there are some things we each must understand in order to tap into the power of change.  This little book has been tremendous in helping me effect change in my own life.

Here are a few notions from the book that seemed especially helpful to me:
"Problems of self-control are often misguided attempts to meet legitimate needs."
"The difference between "want to" and "should" is a profound one."
"Whether we are trying to abstain from alcohol, drugs, binge eating or gambling, most failed attempts can be traced back to some unexpected emotional stress."
"When it comes to changing our lives, our energy is often better spent in setting the sail than in rowing the boat." 
These all ring very true to me.  I found it motivating to better understand the situation I was really in before I tried to make adjustments to my behavior.  Often, I can find healthier ways to meet my emotional needs, which when met, cease to compel me to meet them in unhealthy ways.

The book is replete with case studies, which both illustrate the principles being described and also to help the reader realize the nature of their own self defeating behaviors.  It is one I will definitely re-read.

Perhaps the most telling part of the book for me, was the realization, from a case study, that the lion's share of my problem lies, not in misbehavior, but in being stuck in the middle of the bridge between the things I want.  On one end of the bridge are unhealthy means for meeting my emotional and spiritual needs.  On the other end are the good things I desire.  When I fail to understand what needs I hope to meet I fail to identify the uplifting ways God has designed to meet those needs.  I don't want to do the bad behaviors, but don't recognize their authentic alternative, so resisting the bad I'm like a dog stuck in the middle of the bridge with his loved master calling from one end and some appealing smell on the other.  I shudder to think of the hours and hours I've wasted in my life, not doing bad, just stuck in the middle of the bridge doing nothing.


Book Review - A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

This Chief Inspector Gamache edition doesn't take place in idyllic Three Pines.  At least not nearly so much.  This disappointed me at first.  It becomes interesting though, as every character is out of his/her comfort zone and it shows.  I like it because it plays well to the central theme of the story - deception.

I have long held that we lie because we are trained to.  This volume explores that issue in wonderful depth and breadth.  Referring to her mother-in-law Clara, for example, says:
Mrs. Morrow fiddled with the stem of her wineglass.
"Did you say that, Peter?"
"No, I didn't, Mother.  I'd never say such a thing."
"Because I know when you're lying, I always know."
This wasn't difficult Clara knew, since in her company they always lied.  She'd taught them that. Their mother knew where all their buttons were, and why not.  She'd installed them.
The interesting thing here is that Mrs. Morrow is in her nineties and her children are well into adulthood.

As in all of Penny's work the story, though outwardly about murder, is really just a vehicle to examine human nature.  I grew up thinking I was truly a sinner as I was clearly a liar. It took a long while to realize why I lied.  And while that may sound like an excuse; I still subscribe to the notion that Woe, is unto the liar, who shall be thrust down to hell.  Not some future Hell, but an immediate and  present one of fear and a profound lack of authenticity.

Early in the book, Thomas Morrow describes a plant in Africa that pretends to be a stone, so it won't get eaten:
"It's cunning," said Julia.  "A survival instinct."
"It's just a plant," repeated Marianna.  "Don't be foolish."
Ingenious, thought Gamache.  It doesn't dare show itself for what it really is, for fear....
Thomas said, "Things aren't as they seem."  Gamache was beginning to believe it.
And so, to survive we lie.  Makes me wonder, in my own parenting.  How often did my children feel they had to deceive me in order to "survive."  Of course I wouldn't have killed them.  But did I make it too dangerous for them to truly represent themselves for who they really are?

I think my own in-authenticity has truly been hell, right here on earth.  It is hard for a plant to flourish and grow while pretending to be a rock.  Louise paints such a clear picture of the consequences of deception as to motivate me to emerge from hiding.  Trouble is, as with the Morrows, I've pretended to be something I'm not for so long, I've lost track of who I really am.

Penny uses Gamache to quote:
"The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n."
"A poem by John Milton," said Mrs. Finney, sitting upright next to her husband.  "it's about the devil being cast out of heaven."
"That's right said Gamache.  "The fall from grace.  The tragedy in Milton's poem was that Satan had it all and didn't (wouldn't?) (couldn't?) realize it."

He was a liar from the beginning, the Father of lies.  And of course the worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves.


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