Thursday, February 27, 2014

Feb 2014 Books

The Coldest War: A Memoir of Korea by James Brady
Published: 1990
Rating: 4

Having read his fictional account of the Korean War, Marines of Autumn, I wanted to read his memoir.

Ironically, Brady joined the Marines to avoid the draft. But in June 1950, newly commissioned in the Marine Corps Reserves as a second lieutenant with plans to serve his time attending weekly meetings and summer training, the Korean War started and his reserve class was mobilized.

He served in Korea from November 1951 to the summer of 1952, first as a rifle platoon leader in Dog Company, Second Battalion, 7th Marines then as Executive Officer of Dog Company, then as the Battalion Intelligence Office.

Memorable quotes:
Because it began along an artificial frontier dividing a single nation effectively into Soviet and American zones, a deal cut in part to lure the Russians into attacking the Japanese in 1945, Korea might be thought of as the last campaign of World War II; because of the vague way it ended in 1953, as the opening battle for Vietnam (1). 
You never really mastered war, never got on top of it.  It was always too big, there was too much to it ever to finish the job (109). 
When you weren't fighting, the war was pretty good (111). 
If you have never been to war, you cannot realize that some of it - not all, of course - is such sheer, boyish fun.  You lived outdoors, you were physically active, you shared the boisterous camaraderie of other young men, you shed fat and put on sinew and muscle.  Except for those nagging, minor hurts, you were clear-eyed and generally healthy, and your body responded, instantly and instinctively, whenever called upon (114). 
The stars were far off, too.  And in a strange way, very close.  Overhead they shone, my lone companions, frosted diamonds incredibly near in the black night, incredibly far their fire.  Cold, the night was always cold, and that had frightened me too, reaching for me through the scientifically blended layers of cloth, as if the cold were already within, dangerous cold.  How could you ever get warm if the cold were inside you?  Even the snow at first was sinister, the snow I had always loved, lying in a warm bed with the blinds open so I could watch it drift slowly down through the yellow cone of the lamppost light.  The snow at home was warm, friendly.  This snow had seemed hostile and different (123).

Other books by Brady to read:
  • Winning of War: A Novel of the North China Marines (2002)
  • The Marine: A Novel of War from Guadalcanal to Korea (2003)
  • Hero of the Pacific: The Life of Marine Legend John Basilone (2009)

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Published: 2013
Rating: 4.5

After a few unsuccessful attempts, it finally took 2 hours of straight reading while noting Ursula's modes of death to clarify the novel's unique structure. 

Dog-earred and underlined with numerous quotes in my journal, I plan to write a post on Josh's blog with additional thoughts. 

A few select quotes below:

On Ursula's birth - from her point of view:
An icy rush of air, freezing slipstream on the newly exposed skin.  She is, with no warning, outside the inside and the familiar wet, tropical world has suddenly evaporated.  Exposed to the elements.  A prawn peeled, a nut shelled.
On Ursula's birth - from her mother's point of view:
Big dewdrop pearls of sweat on her skin, a horse nearing the end of a hard race.
On Ursula's vague memories of prior lives:
Her memories seemed like a cascade of echoes. 
The past was a jumble in her mind, not the straight line that it was for Pamela. 
Words and phrases echoed themselves, strangers seemed like old acquaintances.

Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives by Brian Weiss, MD
Published: 1988
Rating: 3.5
Author web site

My daughter received this book from a friend and thought I would be interested.

It is the 3rd book I've read by skeptical non-believing physician/scientists whose experiences have caused a complete and radical paradigm shift in their understanding of the physical vs. spiritual world, the afterlife and even reincarnation.

The other two are Proof of Heaven by Eban Alexander, MD and My Son and the Afterlife by Elisa Medhus, MD.   Not only have all three become ardent believers, but feel called to share with others through books, web sites, workshops and interviews.

Essentially, this is an account of Dr. Weiss's work with a young woman plagued with phobias that were severely affecting her daily life.  After conventional therapy did not relieve her symptoms, he used hypnosis to help her access childhood memories…..except she began relaying a life back in 1863 BC!  More lives followed and in subsequent sessions after re-living a death, she entered what he calls an "in-between state" or "space between lives".

Her voice becomes rich and husky and the words are profound, universal and resonate with truth and beauty.  In one such state, she told him facts of his deceased father and son and how each of them died - details she could not have known.  His response:
I saw in awed silence as my numbed mind tried to sort things out.  The room felt icy cold….She was revealing truths.  And what about my father and son?  In a sense, they were still alive; they never really died.  They were talking to me, years after their burials, and proving it by providing specific, very secret information….Beneath my chill, I felt a great love stirring, a strong feeling of oneness and connection with the heavens and the earth….My life would never be the same again.  A hand had reached down and irreversibly altered the course of my life.
Through this past-life therapy, this young woman was totally healed.

In the afterword, Weiss sums up what he has learned in the 20 years since the book was published, after successfully using past-life therapy with several thousand patients to overcome phobias, grief, pain and psychosomatic illnesses.
To paraphrase the mystic Teilhard de Chardin:  "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience."  Our bodies are temporary.  We are souls.  We are immortal; we are eternal.  We never die; we merely transform to a heightened state of consciousness, no longer needing a physical body.  We are always loved.  We are never alone, and we can never be harmed, not at this level.
We have lessons to learn in this school called Earth.  We need to comprehend completely the concepts of compassion, love, non-violence, non-judgement, non-prejudice, patience, generosity and charity, and hope.  We need to recognize the deceptions and traps of ego and how to transcend them.  We must become aware of the interconnectedness of all living beings, that energy connects us all, and that there is no death, only life.
This sound very similar to the lessons from Proof of Heaven.  

So another small book that leaves much to ponder.   I've tried to process in my journal and ended up with several pages of thoughts and questions - fodder for a future post on Josh's blog.