Book Reviews - Pearls from the pain
by Life Positive
Alexander McCall Smith, the man who created the fictional world peopled with characters like the affable Mma Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s first lady detective, notes in one of his novels that all young readers have a Khalil Gibran/ Prophet phase. He adds that it is something one inevitably grows out of because the Prophet will only take you so far on the path of insights. One is probably tasked with creating ones own ‘Prophet’ over the years, so the original does not ring as true anymore. Gottlieb’s remarkable little high-school calendar size book is the psychologist-writer’s attempt to address life’s big posers.
However, while the Prophet offers immutable principles and insights into living, Gottlieb is more anecdotal and personal in his approach. Gottlieb was a successful 33-year-old psychologist when life doled him a Prince Siddartha hand. Like the Tathagatha, who began his spiritual quest after he witnessed death, sickness and old age for the first time, the writer began his quest for answers after an accident left him a quadriplegic. He had been doing quite well as the director of an outpatient substance abuse programme and had a beautiful wife and two young daughters who were just beginning their school days when tragedy struck.
Being bed-bound for weeks, Gottlieb began to observe. He saw that many visitors were unable to cope with the anxiety his condition generated in them. This, he feels, is why his best friend did not visit at all. Those who had absolutely no anxiety but merely wanted to be there for him and those who were vulnerable were the ones who were the best company. ‘When they were open and nurturing, I felt safe. And when they felt vulnerable, I was nurturing and we both felt better.’
From this beginning, Gottlieb goes on to talk about love, parenting, death, the eleventh commandment among other topics. Learning from the heart is very Dharmic in its approach. It emphasises conscious living, and forgiveness, and is suffused throughout with a deep compassion for all who suffer.
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