THE WAY OF IMAGINATION

ESSAYS

Changing attitudes is our most difficult task. Sanders, an insightful guide, knows we have no choice but to try.

A profoundly humane essayist, novelist, and nature writer finds glimmers of hope for a world in peril.

Sanders, the author of more than 20 books of fiction and nonfiction, investigates our unprecedented rate and scale of environmental destruction, species extinction, and cultural disintegration, locating some familiar culprits: the fundamental scaffolding of capitalism, unrestrained (and unsustainable) growth, wealth defined only in terms of money, grotesque income inequities, overpopulation, squandered resources, and an utter lack of political will to do anything substantive about it. He explores what drives our risky behaviors and antiquated mindsets, painting a grim panorama of human follies and their consequences. However urgent, none of this is terribly original, nor does Sanders, who is often intensely personal, claim it to be. What sets this collection apart is the manner in which he connects these crises and, even in his most despairing moments, assays our capacity for change. One may argue that Sanders overestimates the power of art (literature especially) to sway the multitudes—particularly the comfortable denizens of developed nations—when history shows that the arts have exerted comparatively little direct influence on human actions. The author is no Pollyanna, but he puts his trust in our individual and collective imagination—not just science or the more benign tenets of religion—to conceive of and walk a more constructive path. “Imagination breaks the shell of the status quo,” he writes, “summoning up objects that do not yet exist, actions that no one has yet performed, and wiser ways of living that have yet to be realized….Time and again, bold acts of imagination have given rise to profound shifts in our ethical views and social practices.” Given his focus on domestic foolhardiness, some will criticize Sanders’ exhortations as anti-American or socialistic, but this is a narrow, misguided view.

Changing attitudes is our most difficult task. Sanders, an insightful guide, knows we have no choice but to try.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64009-365-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

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

Close Quickview