A poor contribution to a serious subject, this may indeed illustrate just how badly Catholic religious life misshapes one’s...

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THE UNHEALED WOUND

THE CHURCH AND HUMAN SEXUALITY

A short and rather smarmy reconsideration of the traditional Catholic doctrines regarding marriage and celibacy, written by ex-priest Kennedy (My Brother Joseph, 1997, etc.).

The universal overthrow of sexual taboos that took place during the latter half of the 20th century, anticipated by Freudian psychology and made possible by the development of chemical contraceptives and penicillin, came as a great surprise to just about everybody. Religious leaders, in particular, were caught with their pants down by this turn of events: Most of them (and especially the Catholics, who were predominantly celibate) had never bothered to devote a great deal of thought to sexuality from a specifically religious perspective—relying instead on appeals to natural law (among Catholics), tribal custom (for Muslims), or purification rites (within Judaism). The sexual revolution pulled the rug out from beneath all of these authorities, however, leaving many of the clergy with no idea where they were now to stand. Kennedy, who left the Catholic priesthood in the late 1960s, displays this disorientation (from which he has apparently never recovered) on every page of his study. Although he is quite specific in his condemnation of the traditional Catholic approach (to contraception, masturbation, divorce, etc.), his rage seems to be fueled by mists: He never bothers to articulate the grounds (either intellectual or religious) upon which his dissent is based, and he seems equally unable to put forward any “positive” approach to the subject—beyond vague talk of “unhealed wounds” and some silly, postmodern analogizing (e.g., Pope John Paul as the Fisher King) that sounds like a Leo Buscaglia script written by Joseph Campbell. “The priest is the wounded mythic figure, the wounded seeker of the Grail . . . whose infection and pain arise from that deep and unattended estrangement in the spiritual institution—the Church from this world, Spirit from Nature, the terrible price of a divided image of personality.”

A poor contribution to a serious subject, this may indeed illustrate just how badly Catholic religious life misshapes one’s understanding of sexual life—although probably not in the way the author intended.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-26637-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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