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Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Time Event
12:05a
Eh, might as well get this review done too ...
Wheee ... look at that, I'm reviewing a book on the very same day I finished it ... how efficient of me! Frankly, I sort of want to get this out of the way, not only for reasons soon to become obvious, but with this I've reached my goal of having read 72 books in 2006. Whoopie! Now I can plow into some of those 600-page monsters that I've been putting off.

Ram Dass & Mirabai Bush's Compassion In Action: Setting Out on the Path of Service is one of those books that's been sitting around on my to-be-read shelves since the early 90's, and, to be honest, I have NO idea why I bought this, or even why I ended up slotting it into my reading queue. I have gotten some very strange looks from my family when they've seen me reading this ... Shah, they understand, Castaneda, they expect, Crowley they assume, but they see me with "Compassion in Action" and act like I've had a stroke or something! I must admit, I had certain trepidations when picking this up, because my tolerance for "newagey" treacle is notably minimal, but it ended up being far better than I'd feared.

Actually, the first half of Compassion In Action is quite fascinating, being something of a "spiritual memoir" by Ram Dass, covering several recollections that I'm sure were not easy for the former Dr. Richard Alpert to write about! In this part of the book Ram Dass takes a look at how he did or did not have compassion, or "heart connection" in various situations through his life, and how assorted unusual events moved him towards a more compassionate stance. Lovely stuff, and reasonably inspiring.

The second half of the book, however, is handed over to Mirabai Bush, who seems to be a "professional do-gooder" with all the newagey Leftist baggage that one would expect. I suppose that it is to her credit that the first 2/3rds of her part of the book at least tries to present a balanced look at "the path of action" (with sections that look at why people become activists, and the judgment errors so often involved in "well meaning" action, etc.). However, the last 50 pages of the book might as well be called (to borrow Lenin's phrase) "How To Be A 'Useful Idiot'" with advocacy for the worst sorts of anti-Western, anti-American, anti-sanity Leftist troublemaking. I suppose that the book saving the moonbattery for the last 15% of its duration was far better that what I expected going in, but it does drag what had been an engaging read down into the muck. If you stop reading about page 245, it's an O.K. book, if you persist through 299, it's abysmal.

Needless to say, Compassion In Action is not something that I would particularly recommend, unless one is looking for more material on Ram Dass. Inexplicably, this is still in print, so might be lurking around your local bookstore, but "like new" copies of the hardcover edition can be had via Amazon's new/used vendors for as little as 25¢ ... and I would certainly advise going that route if for some reason you felt a need of adding this one to your library!


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