Impressively vast in scope and content, Ostler’s work is most accessible to fellow specialists but should intrigue dedicated...

PASSWORDS TO PARADISE

HOW LANGUAGES HAVE REINVENTED WORLD RELIGIONS

The effects of religion on language are well-known; what about the effects of language on religion?

It is toward this question that Ostler (The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel, 2010, etc.) turns his formidable capabilities as a linguist and historian. To answer this question, the author, the chairman of the Foundation for Endangered Languages, looks at what he deems the three great missionary religions of world history: Buddhism, Christianity, and, to a lesser extent, Islam. In the cases of Buddhism and Christianity, in encounters with new linguistic communities, the religions themselves changed in various ways to accommodate the new formats of communication. Even if core beliefs remained the same, geographic and ethnic differences would occur, spurred on by language. Islam was different in that it demanded the authority of Arabic, and so even in new linguistic communities, the Quran remained the same text; new converts were made to adopt Arabic, at least for the purposes of religion. Ostler provides an interesting discussion of Buddhism’s movement into China, demonstrating how the Chinese significantly added to the religion’s tradition and canon. He also follows the epic story of Christianity’s migration through nations speaking Greek, then Latin, then the tongues of Northern Europe, of Eastern Europe, and eventually the languages of South America and elsewhere. He notes that everywhere Christianity went, new versions of it sprang up or new linguistic traditions were added. The author concludes that, indeed, language has had deep influence on the world’s religions. However, “the languages of the ancient world have died or changed beyond recognition, but many of the revealed faiths of the Axial Age [800-200 B.C.E.] are still with us. Some languages indeed…owe most of their continued existence to the religions they serve.” The author’s brilliance is on display throughout the book, and it makes for an intriguing, if at times bewildering, read.

Impressively vast in scope and content, Ostler’s work is most accessible to fellow specialists but should intrigue dedicated readers as well.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62040-515-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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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 WEIGHT OF GLORY

The name of C.S. Lewis will no doubt attract many readers to this volume, for he has won a splendid reputation by his brilliant writing. These sermons, however, are so abstruse, so involved and so dull that few of those who pick up the volume will finish it. There is none of the satire of the Screw Tape Letters, none of the practicality of some of his later radio addresses, none of the directness of some of his earlier theological books.

Pub Date: June 15, 1949

ISBN: 0060653205

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1949

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