A wide-ranging, if sometimes-overwritten, study of how people process discomfort.

SUBTRACTING INSULT FROM INJURY

A chiropractor’s philosophical treatise about the nature and treatment of pain

In this nonfiction book, Cooper (I, Cancer, 2009) discusses different types of pain, from the chronic, physical variety to emotional, psychological, or even romantic discomfort. It also addresses specific pains—such as those experienced by women dealing with sexism and misogyny, or by parents raising fractious children. Along the way, it brings in concepts from various faiths. The author sees chronic physical pain, in particular, as an urgent crisis: “More Americans currently die from doctor-prescribed narcotic pain meds than from illicit heroin and cocaine overdoses combined,” he asserts. In response to this epidemic, Cooper reminds readers that both pain and healing are intrinsic parts of being human: “We are irrefutably among the most marvelous creations of the universe, veritable healing machines.” The core of his treatise asserts that people make their pain worse by mixing emotional grievances into it—a deeply ingrained instinct that he characterizes as “adding insult to injury.” To remedy this, the author concentrates on what he calls the “fire in the belly”—the act of removing cognitive elements from the experience of pain in order to trigger the production of serotonin and dopamine. This method, he says, will “allow you to pass through moments of suffering as innately as does a whale, a lion, or an eagle.” Some sentiments in this book are written in an overblown style (such as “And then there is that molten gut domain, your id, where unfettered atmospheres sporadically manage to flood the banks of your socially correct superego”). Other ideas seem speculative, at best; he provides no scientific support, for instance, for the notion that animals pass through moments of suffering any easier than humans do. That said, the book’s focus on the stress of a “vicious cycle” of negative self-evaluation is valuable, no matter what specific pain one may be enduring. Cooper’s broad-brush approach—which includes not only Christian concepts of suffering and atonement, but also the key Buddhist idea of dukkha—will also give readers a great deal to think about.

A wide-ranging, if sometimes-overwritten, study of how people process discomfort.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5043-9722-3

Page Count: 166

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2018

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Honest messages from one of America's best known women.

WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE

A compilation of advice from the Queen of All Media.

After writing a column for 14 years titled “What I Know For Sure” for O, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Winfrey brings together the highlights into one gift-ready collection. Grouped into themes like Joy, Resilience, Connection, Gratitude, Possibility, Awe, Clarity and Power, each short essay is the distilled thought of a woman who has taken the time to contemplate her life’s journey thus far. Whether she is discussing traveling across the country with her good friend, Gayle, the life she shares with her dogs or building a fire in the fireplace, Winfrey takes each moment and finds the good in it, takes pride in having lived it and embraces the message she’s received from that particular time. Through her actions and her words, she shows readers how she's turned potentially negative moments into life-enhancing experiences, how she's found bliss in simple pleasures like a perfectly ripe peach, and how she's overcome social anxiety to become part of a bigger community. She discusses the yo-yo dieting, exercise and calorie counting she endured for almost two decades as she tried to modify her physical body into something it was not meant to be, and how one day she decided she needed to be grateful for each and every body part: "This is the body you've been given—love what you've got." Since all of the sections are brief and many of the essays are only a couple paragraphs long—and many members of the target audience will have already read them in the magazine—they are best digested in short segments in order to absorb Winfrey's positive and joyful but repetitive message. The book also features a new introduction by the author.

Honest messages from one of America's best known women.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1250054050

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Flatiron View Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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