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Climb That Fence And Take That Leap

A collection of valuable, if predictable, lessons from cute creatures.

Johnsey’s debut tells stories of lessons he’s learned from animals.

The author’s feline companions have helped him climb out of occasional depressions by inspiring him with their crazy antics. In fewer than 100 pages, Johnsey shares lessons he’s learned from his cats and other creatures that have helped him lead a more contented life. For example, the author adopted a huge turtle that he found underneath his car, naming him Ben. He watched the turtle as he roamed the neighborhood daily. Ben always managed to avoid obstacles, and as the author saw the turtle struggle daily to dig his way out of his hole, only to return there every night, he learned the importance of visualizing dreams and pursuing goals. The author also shares the story of Edmund, his 17-pound Siamese cat, who would perch on a fence for an hour before jumping off of it, which inspired the author to slow down and enjoy life more. Although Johnsey mostly offers basic pop-psychology truisms and platitudes, the method he uses here is enjoyable and effective. Indeed, some readers may find this little storybook as enlightening as a book of proverbs. Occasionally, the author draws parallels between animal and human behavior that stretch beyond the ordinary; for example, when Keiko, his seal-point Siamese, became elderly, ill and odorous due to oral cancer which ate away at his jaw, the author found it challenging to show the cat affection—but when he did, the 18-year-old feline purred with joy. Johnsey uses this story to encourage others to look past imperfections and love others unconditionally. When the author watched a flock of baby sea turtles stumble and fall as they tried to reach the Atlantic Ocean in 90-degree Florida heat, he questioned whether humans possessed half of those tiny creatures’ determination. Johnsey even draws lessons in what not to do in a story of Puff, his long-haired gray Persian, and Amanda, a Maine coon mix, who both fought aggression with aggression.

A collection of valuable, if predictable, lessons from cute creatures.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1478200161

Page Count: 88

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2013

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

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. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A moving, heartfelt account of a hospice veteran.

Lessons about life from those preparing to die.

A longtime hospice chaplain, Egan (Fumbling: A Pilgrimage Tale of Love, Grief, and Spiritual Renewal on the Camino de Santiago, 2004) shares what she has learned through the stories of those nearing death. She notices that for every life, there are shared stories of heartbreak, pain, guilt, fear, and regret. “Every one of us will go through things that destroy our inner compass and pull meaning out from under us,” she writes. “Everyone who does not die young will go through some sort of spiritual crisis.” The author is also straightforward in noting that through her experiences with the brokenness of others, and in trying to assist in that brokenness, she has found healing for herself. Several years ago, during a C-section, Egan suffered a bad reaction to the anesthesia, leading to months of psychotic disorders and years of recovery. The experience left her with tremendous emotional pain and latent feelings of shame, regret, and anger. However, with each patient she helped, the author found herself better understanding her own past. Despite her role as a chaplain, Egan notes that she rarely discussed God or religious subjects with her patients. Mainly, when people could talk at all, they discussed their families, “because that is how we talk about God. That is how we talk about the meaning of our lives.” It is through families, Egan began to realize, that “we find meaning, and this is where our purpose becomes clear.” The author’s anecdotes are often thought-provoking combinations of sublime humor and tragic pathos. She is not afraid to point out times where she made mistakes, even downright failures, in the course of her work. However, the nature of her work means “living in the gray,” where right and wrong answers are often hard to identify.

A moving, heartfelt account of a hospice veteran.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59463-481-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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