MonthJanuary 2017

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Power and simple mindedness are terrible companions. No matter what aspect of life they inhabit, it is rarely with festive consequences; if they work on a smaller scale, the experience only becomes more personal and therefore tragic. This one certainly can’t get gloomier. Everyone wins the sad competition – the author, with his all encompassing vision of sadness, the readers, forced to accept his vision of human existence (worse things do happen every day in some places) and most of all, the characters. They dream of a world where everything would be different, but every time something new happens, it only increases their bitterness. I was always curious about the outcomes of Lessing’s fifth child living in a different environment and this book has provided me with an answer – distance doesn’t matter.

I assume every reader knows what this book is about right from the start, even if he is unfamiliar with the plot. One can’t escape the charged atmosphere, electrified by contrasting the indifferent, all-embracing nature to the human world, and an ominous feeling of increasingly tragic events. What’s magical about Steinbeck’s writing is that while the events keep moving faster with each page, they nonetheless remain perfectly still. This paradoxical stillness resembles a calm before an earthquake. With an alertness of an animal anticipating danger, the reader doesn’t need to change the position to see what’s on the other side; everything is already there at the beginning. Perhaps the story was almost too neat, which is why it was easy for me to get detached.

Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis by Erich Fromm

Zen Buddhism and PsychoanalysisZen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis by Erich Fromm

If you can guess that what Zen and Psychoanalysis have in common is their aspiration towards fuller awareness, you might as well pick a more thorough book. However, if all you need is a straightforward introduction to philosophy, or more specifically, a simple sketch of Western and Eastern forms of humanism, this paper can aid you in this task. With slow, undemanding progression that underlines the crucial aspects repeatedly, it tells us the familiar story about why all modes of being, without proper guidance of trained healers, are left in a state of lower consciousness or if one is particularly unlucky, in madness.

Though I think the focus on the differences rather than the similarities between these distant forms of thought would make the book much more substantial, the author doesn’t want to enlarge the gap between them even further and contrasts them only with the aim of moving them closer. In the more rewarding end, the asymmetry finally outshines his aim – what psychoanalysis or Western thought lacks is awareness that in order to become a united, fulfilled person doesn’t simply mean to dig for one’s faults and traumas and make them productive, but a deeper, positive change of personality, where these faults don’t need a special treatment, but a general one with the rest of one’s traits. Fromm’s vision of psychoanalysis being the basis for further Zen trainings seems a bit far-fetched in this regard, since Zen’s interpretations of human’s shortcomings are entirely different.

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