January 24th, 2010

Books!

If it's not about "Thriving", then ...

Sometimes books that I really want to like just don't connect with me, and I find the reading somewhat uncomfortable. This is a prime example of this scenario. I got Sandra Ingerman's How to Thrive in Changing Times: Simple Tools to Create True Health, Wealth, Peace, and Joy for Yourself and the Earth via LibraryThing.com's "Early Reviewer" program last month (the third month in a row that I'd "won" a book there), so there was that slight disconnect anyway (in that I hadn't really reached out to acquire it, only indicating that I'd be willing to review it), but the book wasn't really what I was expecting.

Ms. Ingerman is, apparently, a "newage shaman" and does workshops and is involved in assorted "trade associations" along those lines. This book has the "feel" of something that would accompany a workshop program, but really addressing "soccer moms" or the like, as it relies very little on the reader having any background in esoteric subjects. Now, as long-term readers of this space will recall, I've both been studying various forms of Shamanism for over a quarter century, and have very little patience for "fluffy bunny light working". The combination of these two factors probably "sets me up" for having a difficult time attempting to productively interface with this book.

Now, this "thriving" concept is something that I've seen cropping up more and more in various contexts, and I'm not sure if it's a legitimate cultural meme or simply the "concept du jour" among the newage crowd. Unfortunately, there's not much specifically about "thriving" (at least on a personal basis, the author keeps coming back to a concept she calls the "healing the earth quotient", which might be where she envisions this happening) in the book, but a lot of "small exercises" that are sort of "shamanism lite" which would, admittedly, serve as a functional toe-dip into the mystical for the cliché bored suburban housewife. As I kept reading, I kept getting more irritated, wanting her to "get to the point", only to realize that there was NO point she was "getting to" here, only a process, an introduction, and something of a guidebook for somebody who'd attended a weekend workshop (or something of the sort) to continue on with on their own.

It also seemed to me that Ms. Ingerman spends a lot more time than most authors I've read promoting her organizations, friends, and websites in the book. I can't say if she's doing this as "presenting her credentials" or simply flogging a marketing opportunity, but it's something that stood out to me as being "above and beyond" even the newage norm. And, speaking of "newage norms", the book has a lot of that "if we just think bright shiny thoughts the whole world will be new and nice and there won't be anything bad in it anymore" vibe to it, and I was bumping up against that with some good solid cynicism over and over again.

Given the above, you might well think that I ended up hating the book, and this is (oddly enough) not the case. Frankly, there are several substantial bits of information, from the existential (avoiding negative inputs like the news, avoiding presenting oneself in ways that will generate negative social vibes, etc.) to the esoteric (looking at the dynamics of "group action"), to the practical (a fabulous exercise to develop a visceral sense of "attraction" using strong magnets). Some of the stuff in here is a bit on the fringe (I was wondering if she'd attempted any double-blind experiments on some of the physical things she claims to have been able to effect), and a lot of it is off in the fluff-bunny zone, but there are enough "solid bits" that reading the book was at least worth the time I invested in it.

Again, I was probably looking for one thing in the book, and the author was presenting another. I would have much preferred this if it was about Thriving on a conceptual and/or philosophical basis, bringing in concrete examples as needed to illustrate and bolster the main material. Instead this is a workbook which feels like it's targeted to folks with little or no mystical/occult background, framed in "Green" contexts to make it palatable. If one is in this "target audience" then How to Thrive in Changing Times might well be a great introductory book to start doing work of this kind, but if one is simply looking for insight into, well, how to thrive in changing times, you might find yourself as disconnected from it as I was.

Obviously, as an "Early Reviewer" book, this has just come out (it even has a 2010 copyright date), so is likely to be at your local brick-and-mortar book store, although Amazon has it for less than ten bucks (reasonably priced for having less than 200 pages). This really wasn't "my cup of tea" but it did have enough solid material in it that it wasn't a waste of time ... obviously, I'm a bit of an "outlier" on the "esoteric reading" scale, so (in the immortal jest of Dennis Miller) "your mileage may vary", and I suspect that most folks wouldn't have the same points of irritation that I was finding with various aspects of the book!


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