Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Merton and Frey

Seeds by Thomas Merton

Although only 150 pages in length, I've been reading it for almost six months. This book is a collection of writings from Merton's other books, essays, etc on a number of spiritual topics selected and compiled into one work. I feel like this is a book that is best digested through slow, thoughtful, meditation of the topics being presented and the truth that it presents. There were periods of several weeks where I did not pick up the book, but rather continued to think over a certain idea introduced.

Throughout the entire book, Merton's writings consistently refer to our true vs false selves. Our false selves, which he compares to a mask, is "someone that I was never intended to be and therefore a denial of what I am supposed to be". Our truth selves, on the other hand, "are a deeply religious mystery, known entirely only to God." One of the things I love about Merton's writings is his embrace of the mysterious and deeply personal, private aspect of the spirituality of a person with God.

Take notice Merton's commentary on technology and man's dependence on it and how it, potentially, makes us less human. It is even more interesting considering that he died in 1968 and never saw the technological explosion of the recent decades.

I think I've gotten more encouragement out of Merton's writings than anything I've read over the past several years. This is a book that I will really never finish reading and will consistently read portions of it. I hope you get the chance to pick up this book and find it as enjoyable as I have.

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

I suppose I was way behind the curve with this book because I had never heard of this book or the controversy surrounding it until this past week. My brother passed the book along to me and almost everyone I've talked to recently has heard of it.

In case you are in the same position as me, the book follows the 6 weeks in a rehab clinic of a 23 year old drug and alcohol addict. I found it pretty tough to read but impossible to put down. The book is brutally honest and open about the rehabilitation process and I found myself really pulling for the characters to recover.

The book was originally portrayed as entirely autobiographical account of James Frey's experience, but he later admitted to embellishing certain aspects of the book. It's probably better knowing that before you read the book and I didn't seem to mind the exaggerated portions. He explains the embellished details in the introduction and his intention behind them. I didn't find it to negate any of the message he is trying to get across, especially if you look at it as a piece of literature rather than a detailed account of someone's actual life.

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