Clear Horizons Blog:
The Contemplative Reader,
by Tzvi Schnee
Thursday October 17, 2019
When I was young, I read children’s books, like Curious George, and the Little Engine That Could; these books kept my attention occupied in like manner as Lincoln Logs. Yet, I must confess, that the second book mentioned still conveys an important message – the power of trying, and eventually succeeding, as opposed to becoming discouraged.
During my high school years, I read the Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (way before the movies). These books kept my brain entranced in an alternate world, far away from the realities of my life at the time.
Next, I read Alan Watts’ The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, that classic book meant to undermine the Western sense of ego and selfhood. I actually was introduced to this book from within a Jewish youth group. Go figure, east meets west in the confines of what should have been a homogeneous Jewish experience.
Later, in my first year at an early entry college, Simon’s Rock, the classic underground book was Richard Bach’s Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah – a subversive book that throws traditional religion for a loop.
None the better was I for having read either of these books; the first one only led me to being “spaced out,” and the second would have caused me to have delusions of grandeur, if I didn’t already have such a low opinion of myself.
Psychologically speaking, I think it is just such an extremely low self esteem that could lead towards overcompensation with delusions of grandeur – somehow, I was spared. Yet, the question may be asked, where can the balance be found between the nullification of the ego, and thinking of oneself as following in the footsteps of a New Age Messiah? (This is a rhetorical question).
Later in life, still searching at the age of twenty-nine, I read a book entitled, Siddartha – all about the personal journey of a seeker in India, during the time of the Buddha, according to the perspective of Herman Hesse. The protaganist rejects the Buddha, as well as doctrine and teachers in general. The author advocates following one’s own path, hence, another prototype New Age book.
Another book that made a significant impression on me at the time was Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. So far, I read the book four times; each time I gain new relevant insights. Yet, Kitvei Kodesh (Holy Scripture), and seforim (books) written about Kitvei Kodesh in explanatory style are what predominantly occupy my reading attention at the current time.