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Review: First Book On The Summer Reading List

Ganesha
To the folks who invited me to do something tonight: Thank you for the invite! Please don't take my hermitude as a lack of love for y'all...it's just that with like 3 free weekends this whole summer and with just having come off such a busy time, if I didn't get to have at least one night at home with no guests and no games and no cleaning deadlines and some peace and quiet, I was going to go nuts. =)

Everyone is out of the house right now and having the house to myself is awesome. Just me and my LJ and my music...

I finished updating the eVite for WindRose's Ganesha puja at the end of the month, and added a couple more folks I found out were interested. I have some great ideas for this ceremony and I am really, really looking forward to it. I think I'm going to take some time to work on the draft this weekend...especially the ritual drama portion I have in mind. Trying to decide if I should just look for a choli to wear with my sari/harem pants that I got at FSG or whether to shop for an actual sari and learn to wear it...or alternately a Hindu dance costume of some sort which might be easier to move in. (Hey Puggles, I so wish you could join us down here for this!!!)

Anyway...

**********************************************

On to the point of this post, which is to review the first book I've finished off of my summer reading list:

Pronoia Is The Antidote For Paranoia: How The Whole World Is Conspiring To Shower You With Blessings
by Rob Breszny

(First a side note-- if this is the rate at which I am going to make my way through my list, I have very little chance of actually finishing the list this summer. *g*)

If you've spent any time at all reading my LJ, you know that I am already a devoted fan of Rob Breszny and his Free Will Astrology, so this is admittedly a highly biased review as he is totally my husband and just doesn't know it yet. I got this book the instant it came out and have been savoring my way through it ever since.

Pronoia is a philosophy book of a most unusual stripe. It takes a lot of the ideas that Breszny has developed on the Free Will Astrology site and particularly that he included as themes in his amazing novel, The Televisionary Oracle, and expands on them, shaping them into a chaotically coherent philosophy of life. The style is undeniably Breszny-- quirky, irreverent, soulful, linguistically athletic, challenging, hopeful.

This is not your college Philosophy 101 class's philosophy book. It's structured rather freewheelingly, part creative workbook (including spaces for you to write your own thoughts and even your own chapter), part essay collection, part word art (noting the inclusion of "homeopathic medicine wheels" that cram negative information in a circular paragraph enclosed by healing symbols and words), part exuberant poetry slam, part instruction manual for the inner development of "rowdy bliss". Big and packed full of interesting information and musings, illustrated lavishly with quirky graphics and nifty fonts, it is the kind of book that you can either read straight through or flip around, seeing where the pages fall in a somewhat bibliomantic attempt to receive an eccentric oracle. One thing's for sure, one reading is not enough to completely absorb everything this book contains, but it will be a pleasure to go back and re-read many times in the future.

No doubt the less whimsically inclined would regard this book with a raised eyebrow and no little incredulity; Breszny's a holy fool, a sacred clown, and he can be downright outrageous and goofy even when he's at his most heartfelt and profound. Cynics may find his relentless optimism over the top.

But this is a smart man who's invested a tremendous amount of contemplation and personal experience into every idea he proposes. He is in no small measure radical, as he challenges the assumptions about the bleakness of the world that are so constantly fed to us. His optimism and faith are not at all blind nor are they syrupy or saccharine; he addresses the existence of sorrow and suffering in the world and encourages his readers to adopt the scientist's tools to test and evaluate our beliefs.

At the heart of his philosophy is that we all have the right to experience tremendous joy in our lives, the ability to shape the world around us, and the unceasing gifts of a benevolent universe that longs to help us and communicate with us. He takes the previously-little-explored concept of "pronoia" and expands it into a creative, active, loving, lusty way of life. Not for him is the traditional religion's dichotomy of material=bad vs. spirit=good; nor the "fluffy newage" optimism that shoves the shadow self into the closet and slams the door. He proscribes neither quivering submission to and timid requests of a scornful punisher deity, nor spartan rejection of the world in seeking a cold and lonely enlightenment. His ideas belong in the world, not apart from it; they go boldly into crowds creating beauty and weirdness, offering a hand to others, and proclaiming the dangerous notion that the world is a rich and beautiful place. He recruits "guerrilla prayer warriors" and sacred artists and tantric clowns with a charisma and dedication that is thrilling in its possibility and irresistible in its charm.

This is not a book to read if you are determined to be unhappy or if you don't want your world shaken up a bit. However, if you have the sneaking suspicion that leading a happy, fulfilled life might just not be a heresy, or you are tired of the status quo and eager for a truly unusual point of view, or if you need the kind of healing that makes you laugh and cry at the same time, or if you have already been crusading for beauty, truth, freedom, and love-- you need this book. It is hope and humor and beauty and love. Discordians and adherents of the Church of the Subgenius, both of which are mentioned favorably within, and tricksters of all stripes may particularly enjoy Breszny's antics.

One of my favorite parts of Pronoia was the "Anti-DSM-IV", which is a section that turns the DSM-IV, that manual of the mental health professions, on its head by describing a long list of different states of psychological and spiritual health and happiness. As someone who's long thought that the field of mental health seemed to focus far too heavily on the miserable without clearly defining what constitutes happiness and well-adjustment, I was thrilled to see this marvelous and insightful bit of writing.

I found Rob Breszny's writing at a time in my life when I had just begun to clearly articulate my growing beliefs in the inherent goodness of the world, the benevolence of the Divine Wow, and the human capacity for joy and love. Reading his work was a confirmation of those beliefs, an inspiration to take it even further, and an exciting realization that others were thinking along these lines and maybe even creating a bold new movement in a weary and discouraged world.

This book gets a huge thumbs-up from me. Even if you think it sounds corny or suspect, I recommend giving it a read-- there just might be something in there that surprises you.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
evcelt
Jul. 18th, 2005 03:11 am (UTC)
Sounds intriguing. May I borrow it?

As someone who's long thought that the field of mental health seemed to focus far too heavily on the miserable without clearly defining what constitutes happiness and well-adjustment,

Yeah, ain't that the truth. I'm not sure that anyone even got around to it before Maslow...
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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