Book Review: His Needs, Her Needs

His Needs, Her Needs:  Building An Affair-Proof Marriage, by Willard F. Harley, Jr.

In reading this book, which is part of a fairly large set of books about marriage for someone in my own state [1], I was struck by what would seem to be a few fairly obvious retorts that could be made to the author’s claims, along with some of the short answers to those retorts from the book.  How is it possible to build an affair-proof marriage?  It’s a lot harder than it looks.  What kind of needs do men and women have?  Don’t ask unless you want to know and are prepared to meet them?  Doesn’t the author recognize that not all men and women are the same?  Yes, he does, but the approach the author takes is a good one and a sound one, looking at what can be judged as a pareto analysis of the most important needs people have in marriages.  The result is not the sort of book that is likely to please every reader, but there is little denying that this book is the sort to be of great value to those who may realize their marriages are not going as well as they could and who want to improve matters and who are committed to vows they have made.  This is not always as common as one might wish.

The contents of this book are even more frightening than I thought them to be at the outset, and they may be as well for many other readers.  This version of the book, published in 2001, is marked as the fifteenth anniversary version, showing that the book was originally published in the middle of the 1980’s as divorce rapidly began to become an epidemic in Christian as well as non-Christian worlds.  The author begins with an introduction about his own career as a marriage counselor and the immense failure of that field, provocatively asks the reader how affair proof his or her marriage is, and introduces the concept of a love bank, with good experiences serving as credits and bad experiences serving as debits in this account.  Then, over the next ten chapters the author discusses various needs that women and men have, in general, alternating between her needs and his needs in the following order:  affection, sexual fulfillment, conversation, recreational companionship, honesty and openness, attractiveness, financial support, domestic support, family commitment, and admiration.  Then the author gives some painful advice on how a marriage can survive an affair, and how couples with the will and commitment can move from incompatible to irresistible.  The rest of the slightly more than 200 pages of the book’s material is made up of the most important emotional needs, the emotional needs questionnaire, and some additional forms as well as information about the author and some of his other books.

There are some aspects of about this book that I found deeply troubling.  For one, the author’s insight that the love bank never closes gives a strong edge to my own interactions with many women over the course of my life.  It is probably only my native shyness and timidity when it comes to matters at the heart that have kept me single so far, as well as being single have kept me from having a fairly disastrous role as the “other man” in the troubled marriages of people I have known personally, aside from any sort of claims to virtuous character that I occasionally protest [2].  I was also somewhat terrified by how easily my own deepest needs from an intimate relationship could be so baldly and clinically stated in this volume, which would be a deeply awkward and uncomfortable read for many people.  Ultimately, this is a book that reminds us that if we want a good marriage, we have to work very hard at it, and we have to be aware of our own needs and those of our partner, and work very hard and intentionally to remain, as best as we are able, the sort of charming and attentive people who managed to fool someone into making a lifelong vow to, if we have been so fortunate as to fool others in such a fashion.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

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Book Review: The Mystery Of Marriage

The Mystery Of Marriage:  Meditations On The Miracle, by Mike Mason

There are some books, like this one, that tell as much about the author as they do about the subject matter.  This is not a bad thing, as this is an author I can definitely identify with, without a question.  Some context helps here, as the author is someone who had seriously thought to enter a monastery and ended up marrying.  Yet in his marriage he found himself deeply pulled in contrary directions, from his own selfish and deeply private native personality to the radical transparency and openness that is required to marry successfully.  And it is that tension between two people who are pushed by love to be together, who have made vows to be loyal to each other through good times and bad until death do they part, and who are pulled by fear to be isolated and alone is a moving and gripping one that makes this book an amazing one out of the rather large body of work of books about marriages [1].  Some people might be afraid that this book is a volume from a would-be modern-day Pharisee, but instead this is a rather deeply personal and intimate set of essays and reflections about what pulls us to other people and what often pulls us apart.

Given the foregoing, it ought to come as little surprise that the book consists of a bit more than 200 pages that have a fair amount of introductory material–a foreword and preface and then a prologue, and then sustained meditations the following subjects:  otherness, love, intimacy, vows, sex, submission, and death, before ending with an epilogue and a touching poem about a lover’s hermitage where, as is the case in the book, the author compares marriage to a monastery where one has made vows of loyalty instead of chastity.  Over and over again the author wrestles with the otherness of a partner, with the need to see someone as a person, and how all too often we reduce the complexity and depth of others, the qualities that mystify us and sometimes even terrify us about those we live into a caricature of fantasies and imaginations and our own interpretations.  This is not a book calculated to harangue or calculated to calm, but rather one I found deeply chilling in the way the author’s dark reflections mirrored my own.

The book, as a whole, is a strong one.  This is not the sort of book that everyone would enjoy, it should be mentioned, but this book is the product of someone who is deeply and painfully reflective and more than a little bit melancholy.  I don’t know what happened in the future after this book was written and published in 1985 to the author and his marriage, but the book is clearly written by someone for whom the process of getting close to someone was unusually anxiety-ridden and difficult.  I can certainly empathize with that.  One would like to think that people who have mused over what about them makes it difficult for them to be able to become one flesh with someone else, who have stared into the darkness with them, the horrors of their memories and imaginations, and who have decided to commit to someone for the rest of their lives would do it better than those who rush in headlong thinking that they will find someone who perfectly suits them and that they will not have to be deeply and fundamentally changed by the process.  Yet in reading this book it is worthwhile to ponder that this author is not someone whose view of marriage is neither the one of a cynic who cannot bear to be alone nor of a man whose sight has been clouded by rose-colored glasses, and that gives this book a power that it would not have had otherwise.

[1] See, for example:

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One of the more humorous aspects of writing as I do is that I occasionally get messages about my writing from others.  To be sure, I would like to get a great deal more messages than I do, but it is gratifying at least to see at least some people read my posts and have a thoughtful reply, and from time to time I like to note such messages [1] and comment at some length about them.  Such is the case with a message I saw last night, which gave a good flavor of at least a substantial proportion of the commentary I receive on my posts:

“Hi Nathan…

Don’t ya just love it?
Of course, I found you through your “Why would anyone want to be one of the two witnesses” blog. And since I’m sowing seeds, I’m throwing a few your way.
Here’s why a lot of people want to be one of the two witnesses…The same reason that a lot of people want to be President of the United States….The same reason that people want to be rock stars, movie stars, this stars, that stars, and the other stars….
Why? Well, there are obviously a lot of perks to be had. Myself, I never really wanted to be special…until I hit puberty. And then this super-shy kid wanted the girls to chase him like he saw girls chasing John, Paul, George, and Ringo on the Beatles cartoons. (Yes, I’m old enough to remember Beatles cartoons.) I never really lost my shyness enough to approach a girl until I was in my 40’s. And guess what? By that time I was a rock and roll singer!
So, I’m no different than anyone else in most respects. Except for one major respect. For you see, I desire Truth. Without prejudice. But most people don’t really desire Truth, because they instead desire Truth to be what-they-desire-Truth-to-be….and that’s the exact OPPOSITE of desiring Truth, because that’s the desire to LIMIT Truth; the desire to limit the Limitless! And, of course, that is impossible. But it’s a CAUSE that’s not without an EFFECT….
I could write a whole book on this subject, Nathan. And I did! Because, believe it or not (and I don’t WANT you to believe it until you have good reason to) I know the Meaning of Life. And this is why I know that we are experiencing this world (which is our experience of LIMITATION) because, while we were still experiencing the limitless perfection of Spirit, we made the error of WANTING TO BE SPECIAL!
Remember: “I knew you before I formed you in the womb.” But if this idea doesn’t agree with some of your religious beliefs you can begin to see why the Book of Revelation tells us that the two witnesses will be rejected…just as Jesus Christ was rejected, and for the same reason: They don’t come in the expected form, or with the expected message. It takes an open mind to find Truth, because Truth simply can’t flow through any closed doors. And if yours is open, I bring you a blessing, indeed.
The best place to start is at my website A Course in Truth dot com, which has links to my other website, The Holy Grail is Found dot com and my books on Amazon: The Holy Grail is Found and My Rosie and The Holy Grail. 
My God, have I been blessed! And I’m all about sharing that blessing, which is a large part of the reason I have been so blessed.
I encourage you to question me in every which way, because Truth is found through REASON and not blind faith. And it’s no coincidence that the word curious has at its root the word CURE. But I find that most people do not have the level of curiosity that I have. So, I’m certainly not too busy to correspond. Yes, I can assure you that God’s two witnesses are indeed being ignored and rejected….just as God promised! So, no, this job doesn’t have the perks that one might like…unless one is in love with Truth as much as I am!
Peace and blessings be yours!
[Name redacted]”

There is much that could be said about a message like this one.  While I am generally positively inclined to read and review the books that are written by those who send me e-mail, I am rather skeptical of those who claim that they have discovered the meaning of life and adopt such a chummy tone with strangers.  Perhaps I am a bit more restrained and certainly a great deal more prickly than most people are about being treated with respect and dignity, but this message definitely rubbed me the wrong way.  The author’s tone was not the sort that is well-aimed at gaining a positive reading from me.  This is to be regretted, as this e-mail must have taken some time to write.  It is lamentable that someone who evidently wanted to convey a long message and promoting himself as some sort of authority in the matter of dealing with the Two Witnesses and our purpose for existing was so ill-equipped to guess at what approach would be most likely to gain a fair and enthusiastic hearing.

At least a few of these errors deserve to be pointed out, so that future people who wish to write messages to me may profit from it.  For one, as it has been noted, I dislike it when total strangers adopt an air of affected friendliness and intimacy with me.  While I am certainly friendly with other people, I am not the sort of person who is intimate with very many, and certainly not to people whom I do not know.  Perhaps my rather excessive candor online leads people to believe that I am far more warm and easy in my manners than I am, but it should be noted that I am deeply cautious and highly awkward when it comes to intimacy, and that assuming one is an intimate friend or acquaintance is not the best way to go about encouraging me to think well of you.  Also, to brag about your own books to someone who writes at the level I do while not offering to send them for reading and reviewing is in rather poor taste.  I have no interest in buying the books of a perfect stranger, not least one whose tone and bearing is at least mildly offensive.  I may be willing to overcome such offense to read what one has to say and give it a fair and honest review, if offered to me freely.  Third, I really dislike the use of all caps as a style in any book or message that I read.  I am aware that it was a popular advertising style in the 20th century, but I greatly dislike reading it, and my knowledge of its popularity at one time does not matter as I find it greatly bothersome.  I dislike raising my voice, and in interpersonal conversation I have an extreme aversion to arguments and find them deeply unpleasant.  Taken in that light, I view reading someone writing in all caps not merely as an ineffective and obsolete marketing technique that deserves to rest in the rubbish bin of writing but as someone seeking to raise their voice at me, which I view as extremely unwelcome [2].  Again, in my own writing I make it clear that I do not use all caps as a way of showing emphasis, and I strongly prefer that they do not use such a style at all with me.

There is a yet more substantial problem to be addressed, and that is the problem of wanting to be special.  It is deeply offensive when someone openly comments that many people wish to be considered one of the two witnesses [3] because it makes one feel special even if one will be rejected because of mankind’s rebelliousness against God, and then to comment that one has written a book about the “error” of wanting to feel special when one obviously feels special about having discovered the meaning of life and having written about it.  It is extremely unjust to criticize in others qualities that are so obviously apparent in our own life, especially to lack any sort of awareness about the way we come off to others.  I do not think it is wrong for the author to feel special about himself, for I believe that we were all created to feel special, as well we ought since our heavenly Father is the God and Creator of all.  Of course we’re special.  Why feel guilty or insecure about it?  It is the special nature of our purpose and creation that obligates us to treat others so well.  What makes us special as being simultaneously makes a lot of other beings special that we are not inclined to treat so well.  The foundation of our own self-worth is our love and respect for others.  To attack the image and likeness of God is to reject the only claims that we can bring forth for others to respect and love and honor us.  The author seems strangely unaware of his predicament.

The final error I would like to comment on is the author’s false dilemma between reason and blind faith.  A person firmly committed to reason ought to be aware that data and evidence have their limits.  Indeed, our ability to discern evidence itself depends on some sort of worldview that is based on faith.  Do we have faith in our own capacity for rational thought?  Do we have faith in external authority of some kind?  Do we claim to have faith in nothing?  We can assess nothing of what goes on in life without having some ground to stand on.  In that ground we have some sort of faith, although it may not be blind faith, and we should hope that it is not.  It still must be faith of some kind, though, because every proof of logic depends on some sort of unproven but assumed premise(s).  This is even true in Euclidian geometry, perhaps the most rational pursuit most people are remotely familiar with.  Even in the most circumscribed aspect of mathematics when it comes to rationality we still depend on faith, namely the faith in the correctness of our premises, from which we prove theorems and discover corollaries which become the premises for further theorems and so on and so forth.  In no human endeavor is it possible for reason to exist without being dependent on some sort of faith.  Even to engage in communication is to have faith that one can understand others and make oneself understood, something I must admit I doubt on occasion when it comes to dealing with specific people who do not seem to understand or even want to understand, largely because they think they understand everything already.  What faith is more blind and more misleading than that?

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:


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Book Review: KJV Word Study Bible

KJV Word Study Bible:  1,700 Key Words That Unlock The Meaning Of The Bible, edited by Thomas Nelson

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

It is little secret that I review a lot of Bibles, many of which I use in my own personal Bible study [1].  It so happens that I have reviewed a Bible almost exactly like this one, the NKJV Word Study Bible from this same publisher.  In fact, these two Bibles are so similar that I spent much of my time looking at it trying to find the differences, which was a more difficult task than might seem to be the case.  Although the translation is different, it is the exact same words examined as before, and the language of the word studies and the introductions to the books are identical between those two Bibles.  To be sure, there are some differences, but these are mainly in supplementary areas, like the overall introduction to the Bible, the glossary and the maps at the end, and the fact that the two translations are themselves different and therefore read differently.  Basically, if you liked the NKJV Word Study Bible and wanted it instead in King James’ English, this is the Bible for you.

The contents of this book are a bit different, at least in reading them, because of the way this ebook is organized.  It was not possible to request the hard copy of this Bible, and I do not know if it will be possible for would-be readers to purchase the hard copy of this Bible, and so the Bible itself reads differently than it would otherwise.  Instead of looking at the sidebars to see the word studies, one has to go to the end of the Bible or click the hyperlinks.  Indeed, this Bible is not really all that enjoyable to navigate, although it is understandable why the book is organized the way it is as it is easier to lay it out, even if it is far less pleasant on the eyes to see the large number of hyperlinks and to see the supplementary text piled on top of each other at the end of every book of the Bible.  It is indeed more than a little bit jarring to see such an archaic translation in an ebook organized as this one is.  One would think that with so much of the written text of this Bible done with the previous and excellent NKJV Word Study Bible that there would be more attention to designing the book to be pleasant on the eyes and having a comfortable and old-fashioned charm about it the way that the KJV has for many readers, but this was not done.

This may be nitpicking a bit though.  This Bible definitely gave me a strong idea of why, even in this age of digital computers, that I prefer to use either eSword or physical Bibles, for my own Bible Studies, as this was not a pleasant Bible to navigate, especially as I prefer to use the NKJV anyway.  One wonders to whom this book is aimed at for sale if there is no physical copy of this particular Bible version available, as it is likely that those who most appreciate the KJV for the comfort of its text would want the comfort of the tactile feel of the pages in a way that is pleasant to the eyes as well as having the text that such readers prefer with its archaic sense and its rich poetic vein lifted from better translators like Tyndale.  At any rate, the word studies are excellent and this Bible is at least conceivably and in some form quite likely to please those who enjoy the King James Version, for all of its imperfections for this reader.

[1] See, for example:


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Book Review: Second Thoughts On The Dead Sea Scrolls

Second Thoughts On The Dead Sea Scrolls, by F.F. Bruce

This is the second time I have read this slim volume, the first time being quite a few years ago when I lived in Florida long before the age of my public book reviews.  In fact, I think I may have been in high school when I read this book last, and so returning to it was almost like reading it for the first time given the thousands of books I have read in the meantime.  As someone who occasionally reads and writes about the Dead Sea Scrolls [1], and someone who occasionally reads books from F.F. Bruce [2], this book is the work of someone who is used to having their thoughts and reflections considered as important who is not quite as good as he is often reputed to be.  Nevertheless, even if this book is a bit on the overrated side, it does possess a fair amount of charm as the author reflects on the subject matter of an earlier book that he had written that had, rather foolishly, failed to take into account the Dead Sea Scrolls at all.  This is an example of a celebrated author covering over the same ground and trying to catch up with research that had left his previous thoughts behind, and the results are amusing.

The contents of this book, a revised and enlarged edition that still clocks in at barely over 150 pages–one wonders how small the original version was–consist of a variety of chapters with very functional titles.  These titles include:  The First Discoveries, Later Discoveries, Wadi Murabba’at and Kirbet Mird, Dating The Finds, Khirbet Qumran, The Scrolls And The Old Testament, Biblical Interpretation, The Messianic Hope, The Teacher Of Righteousness And His Enemies, The Qumran Community, Qumran and the Essenes, and Qumran and Christianity.  The contents are somewhat self-explanatory, and the author uses the book as a soapbox for his ideas about the text of the Bible and making speculations as to the time period of the Teacher of Righteousness and to the significance of the book for OT and NT studies.  The result is mostly, but not completely, harmless, and overall the book appears as a bit of a cash grab from someone whose earlier skepticism about the Dead Sea Scrolls and their legitimacy led him to wonder what scholars like Albright and others like him saw in the scrolls early on.

So, aside from being generally inessential but mildly amusing (if one has a scholarly turn of mind), what can be said about this book?  There are some areas where the author’s speculations appear particular of interest.  For example, contrary to the general and erroneous view among many scholars that Daniel was written very late, the Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrate that the popularity of Daniel as a material for commentators in the Second Century BC signifies that the book was written long before, and Bruce speculates that the book of Daniel we possess may be an exemplar of a larger volume, which is entirely possible given the episodic nature of the material we possess.  Although, it should be noted, that episodic nature is similar to Ezra and Nehemiah, which are perhaps a recognition of a particular genre convention among inspired writers in the early Persian period.  We are all influenced by the writings of our times, after all.  And this writing is certainly of its time and context as well.  That does not make it entirely inessential, but it does make the book an obvious attempt by a noted scholar to jump on the Dead Sea Scrolls bandwagon, a demonstration that no scholar who took early Christianity or late Second Temple Judaism seriously could avoid reflecting on the implications of those writings.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

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Book Review: The Untold Story Of Qumran

The Untold Story of Qumran, by John C. Trever

This was a fun book to read.  Although the book is obscure and by no means new, there is a certain excitement and joy in reading this first-hand account of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls [1] near Wadi Qumran and how it is that they came to be introduced to the West in the midst of a drama of theft and war.  This is not to say that the account is a perfect one–Trever, like many insiders, talks up his own role in the Dead Sea Scrolls and writes a bit too much about himself and his own views at times [2]–but it is a very energetic account that mostly makes up for its occasional failures with verve and sincerity.  One can tell, in reading this book, that the author is committed to the Dead Sea Scrolls and desired to help out the people involved in their discovery and also preserve the scrolls for scholarly exploration, something he managed to have an important role in through his photographs of some of the early scrolls.  This is the sort of book that manages to sound somewhat like an Indiana Jones adventure in the best way.

In terms of its contents, this book has between 150 and 200 pages worth of material, depending on what one counts, possibly including the author’s thoughtful and personal endnotes, and it is divided into several chapters that are based on the chronology of the author’s understanding and not according to the chronology of how and when things happened, making this book read somewhat like a film.  In fact, it is somewhat surprising that I do not know of any film being made of this, as Trever’s story would make an exciting film involving planes being shot down and the author trying to avoid being shot while making his rounds between the American School in Jerusalem and a Syrian Monastery which managed to obtain some early scrolls from Arab deals who themselves had gotten them from Bedouin youths, the price of the scrolls going up each time they got passed from one hand to another.  We see the author try to scramble to get high quality film so that the fragile scrolls’ text can be preserved for posterity’s sake and see him learning enough paleo-Hebrew to try his hand at understanding an exciting historical mystery.  If you like archaeology and its relationship with human and social issues, this is a great book to read.

That is not to say, though, that the book is perfect.  The book’s failures, though, do not result from problems in the story, but in the shortcomings of the storyteller.  For one, the author has a strong anti-Jewish bias that is more than a little bit unpleasant, as it is pretty clear his sympathies lie with the Arabs.  Likewise, the author clearly lacks a strong enough belief in the proper chronology of the book of Daniel for his textual knowledge to be all that insightful.  One gets the sense from this book that the author was a textual neophyte who considered himself far more knowledgeable than he was and had some bad teachers when it came to understanding biblical chronology, and so his comments on textual criticism fall more than a little bit flat.  Again, though, with these caveats, if you are reading this book for an insider’s perspective of a dramatic historical moment when the Dead Sea Scrolls became known to the West, and the dramatic events associated with that rediscovery, this is a fantastic adventure account.  If you are reading this book for its value in textual criticism, you are likely to be either disappointed or led astray by it.  Read with caution, therefore, but also enjoyment.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

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Like No One’s Watching You

A few months ago [1], I commented that for the first time I had realized I was disabled as a result of having to fill out a document at work that happened to have one of the conditions I am unfortunately inflicted with [2], and recently I had to fill out another of those forms and was struck with a certain sense of shame and embarrassment that I had to consider myself disabled.  What does it mean?  I have never asked for any sort of special favors from work or school or anywhere else as a result of the disability I have suffered from.  I have never felt a part of any community because I suffered from PTSD, because I am not a part of the two most notable and noisy groups of people who suffer conspicuously from this illness, namely military veterans and female survivors of rape.  I suppose, given the fact that I have had PTSD since early childhood, a textbook case of it from the very beginning of its diagnosis, that it should seem somewhat odd that I have trouble relating to the desire on the part of some to use their disabilities to avoid work, and that I have never personally faced the difficulty of the limits to disability benefits with regards to one’s savings and income.  Indeed, I cannot think that I have gotten any benefits from my disability at all except for a deep compassion and empathy for my fellow sufferers that is not often recognized or understood.

Given the unpleasant personal circumstances that led to my acquisition of PTSD as a disability, I have tended to feel somewhat isolated from the two groups that are most conspicuous in suffering from it, and which use it frequently for political benefit in ways that tend to leave me feeling awkward and uncomfortable.  For military veterans, they acquired the disability as part of their service to our country (or whatever country they happen to live in), and as a patriotic American I tend to have a high regard to veterans for their service and a deep wish that such service on our behalf would not lead to the sort of torments that PTSD provides.  For veterans, PTSD is part of that lifelong price to be paid for one’s service on behalf of fellow countrymen, and a reason to lobby for increased benefits for veterans with regards to mental health.  The other conspicuous group that makes their own suffering from PTSD well known consists of female rape survivors who march near universities to take back the night.  For these people as well their own trauma and suffering serves as the handle to a fierce political effort to attack and belittle men.  As a male survivor of early childhood rape and incest, I find such an attack unappealing on multiple layers, given that I have never considered myself particularly aggressive by nature when it came to my own awkward and uncomfortable efforts at courtship, and given my horror at those efforts being misconstrued as the presence or threat of any sort of violence.  No one who has suffered as I have would wish to inflict such suffering on anyone else, even though I find my own suffering has tended far more to isolate me than it has to make me a part of a lobbying group for benefits and honor on my behalf, unfortunately.

One of the earliest attempts at lobbying, at least as far as the United States was concerned, for the cause of military veterans was in the aftermath of the American Civil War.  Just as the aftermath of the American Revolution had led to dramatic political instability in the cause of poor veterans looking for the payment of back wages owed to them, so to the end of the Civil War led to a sustained and long-term desire on the part of suffering surviving veterans for their service to be remembered, efforts that led to such veterans being viewed as freeloaders attempting to sponge off of the labors of hardworking Americans.  Their long-term wounds and suffering was viewed with a low degree of compassion and the addictions to alcohol and pain-killing opiates rampant in that population was also viewed in a highly negative light.  Not much has changed since then.  Our nation as a whole is remarkably unsympathetic as a culture with those whose suffering is invisible and internal, and not inclined at all to cut slack to those who seem to be falling below expectations in terms of behavior and success.  Every attempt in American society at trying to gain a greater share of the common fund for those who have done meritorious past deeds or suffered past wrongs has tended to make such people seem even more unworthy of any such aid that they presently gain, something that ought to be remembered by those who seek such efforts in contemporary society.

What is it that we want?  I cannot speak for others, but I will speak for myself.  I would like to sleep peacefully, and live life in such a way that I was not constantly uncomfortable and so easily alarmed, and so constantly anxious.  Due to my own self-knowledge and family history, I have sought to deal with such unpleasant matters as far as possible without any sort of self-medication, but I have recognized the temptation as a serious one and one that requires a great deal of thoughtfulness in how I approach life.  No doubt others have found much the same is true for them.  If we want the sort of life that others have, if we want to live in a way that is normal, despite having a great deal against us, we acknowledge that we want to be successful more than we want for our life to be fair.  There is little fairness in this life, and given that we cannot see inside other people and know their own motivations and inner struggle, it would be vain for us to attempt, as is so often the case, to compare ourselves with others or compare our own struggles and sufferings with those of others.  We want to live the best life possible, however ill-equipped we may be to achieve it, and given the world of scarcity we find ourselves in, it should be of little wonder that this provokes such a great deal of difficulty, regardless of our abilities.


[2] See, for example:

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Book Review: Esperanto For Hope

Esperanto For Hope:  A New Way Of Learning The Language Of Peace, by Máire Mullarney

As someone who greatly enjoys reading books about Esperanto [1] and getting a feel for its literary culture as a whole, this book is delightful and somewhat odd, just about what one would expect as a book from a thoughtful polyglot of Irish descent and considerable political and personal quirkiness, as one would expect.  Although I find myself with a much different political worldview than the author, as one might expect given that she was a politician and activist for the Green Party, I find as well that there are a lot of ways that her own life and behavior are very intriguing, from her appreciation of the way that an interlanguage like Esperanto would save many millions to organizations who spend alarming amounts of their budget on the work of translation and not on the work that is their reason for being, like providing aid to needy around the world, and the way that she not only homeschooled her large family but also wrote a book on how parents can do anything the schools can do better, something I happen to agree with quite strongly.

The book itself is made of somewhat loosely connected lessons that manage to teach Esperanto to the reader almost by accident while also serving as a memoir of sorts of the author’s own connection to the thorny problem of languages in the contemporary world.  Given her own experiences growing up in Gibraltar and also her own learning of a variety of languages including Spanish, French, and koine Greek, the author’s fondness for Esperanto and for the way that it opens up ways of understanding and communicating with people around the world in a neutral language that cannot be connected to any imperialistic ambitions is something that ought to be easily understood.  The book talks about the author’s writings as a journalist, her travels, her work in various technical groups and cooperatives, all of which is sprinkled with delightful vocabulary and history, and overall this is a book that is to be enjoyed and appreciated, at least for an audience that shares the globalism and idealism of the author.  Even those readers who do not share the author’s political worldview are likely to appreciate what she has to say about the importance of Esperanto as a way of reducing the confusion and linguistic problems of our world.

Coming in at under 200 pages, this is not a book whose length will place any demands on the reader if they are familiar with the wider body of Esperanto literature or enjoy a good read.  The style is entertaining and the book itself is a strong defense of the friendliness of Esperanto culture, making it as appealing as possible to those who like broad communication with somewhat eccentric people of high ideals.  Whether or not the reader is convinced to learn Esperanto after having read this book is something I cannot say as a learner of the language myself, but those who read it should at least appreciate the way that the author serves as an example of the sort of person who would appreciate Esperanto, and those who can identify with the author will find much to appreciate in the language that she so eloquently defends, and in the ecumenical and cosmopolitan culture whose operations during the 1980s she describes here.  For my own part, I found myself a bit envious of the fact that she was able to mix and mingle so easily as a result of being a freelance journalist attending all of these interesting meetings and gaining a close understanding of linguistics and Esperanto’s role in the process.  Perhaps you will feel the same way.

[1] See, for example:

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Book Review: The Idea And Practice Of World Government

The Idea And Practice Of World Government, by Gerard J. Mangone

It should at least be said of this book that the author, who appears to be a frighteningly committed globalist, is fully aware of the difficulties of achieving a unified global order.  As someone who reads more than my fair share of booked devoted to lofty-minded ideals of cosmopolitan elites ruling over a unified world state [1] and speaking a unified language, this book was refreshing in being brutally honest about the difficulties faced by those who wish to create a new world order.  The book was written in 1951, in the early days of the United Nations, and it was already evident to committed globalists like the author that the UN would be a very pale shadow of the desired government of the world.  What makes this book particularly frightening is the fact that despite the fact that the author is aware of the general unpopularity of the UN within the United States as well as the unsuitability of most of the world’s cultures for the full fruits of democracy, the author dedicates the book “to those men and women everywhere who will not let the light of reason go out nor the fruits of democracy spoil.”  One suspects that this book’s brutal realism is a call to arms for a global elite to behave as FDR did during WWII, largely deceiving the populace of their nations to maneuver the nation into doing something it would not have freely chosen on its own.

The roughly 250 pages of this book are divided into ten chapters and four parts that are breathtaking in their scope and ambition.  The first part of the book looks at the theory of world government, starting with the premises, then looking at the forms, and then examining the consequences, depending on whether that world government is freely chosen or is enforced from above.  The second part of the book looks at the progress of world government, starting with the idea of progress and then looking at the implications of world government for economic and spiritual progress.  The third part of the book shows the author wrestling with questions of justice, the practice of international law, and world culture and community.  The fourth part of the book looks at the interaction of democracy and world government and the alternatives to destiny.  There is a great tension in the discussion between the realities of people whose emotional attachments are to regions and local matters and a perceived need for global unity, as well as tension between the high costs of imperial control over large swathes of humanity and the dismal likelihood that the people of the earth will vote for unity, or that statesmen and politicians would give up their power over anarchical states in order to grant power to a world state that is capable of enforcing its global order.

In reading this book, though, I was struck by the way that the author frames the problems of enforcing unity on humanity in a way that is just and enlightened would require godlike powers of self-restraint and insight, to say nothing of the power to make any attempts at revolt from the global order utterly fruitless.  What is terrifying to think of when one thinks of the corrupt elites of a world that believe they act for the greater self-interest and blind themselves to their own fallen nature and the wickedness of their schemes is far less terrifying to think about when it comes to God establishing His rule over His own creation with the support of heavenly armies of angels and believers as is written in the prophecies of the Bible.  If we are to have a just world order that rules for the common benefit of mankind and that educations all people as to their rights and obligations, we must be ruled by beings who can demonstrate a far higher standard of service and honor than we get from the elites of our contemporary world.  It is only a shame that the author does not aim higher than the human in fashioning his own plans for a global order.

[1] See, for example:

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Book Review: International Relations: A Concise Introduction

International Relations:  A Concise Introduction, by Michael Nicholson

I imagine this book serves as a fairly familiar, if a bit outdated, primer for the IR field but for a variety of reasons this particular book fell short for me, mostly political in nature.  I do happen to be very interested in international relations [1], but the field itself has strong political implications and this book does not quite manage to dodge all the minefields.  There are some clear ways this book shows a political bias, as it would perhaps be unavoidable, but there are definitely some areas this book could have avoided if it was trying to appeal to an audience that didn’t happen to be leftist, and it failed in those opportunities, particularly in its enthusiastic speculation on climate and on its picture of the earth as a closed system, albeit a somewhat anarchical one.  One thing the author does well is to remind the reader that this book is an introduction to a debate, and so it is, and implicitly the author admits that International Relations is still very early as a field, given the fact that it seeks to tackle massive questions with a woefully inadequate theoretical framework.  One cannot fault its ambition, only its execution.

The contents of this book are admittedly brief enough, at about 230 pages of main material, that they do not present too much of a challenge for the reader.  Each of the book’s twelve chapters, moreover, contains recommendations for further reading, which means that if the reader likes the approach the author takes as well as his perspective that there are plenty more books to read if one is so inclined.  The chapters themselves are also organized in a thoughtful order, introducing aspects of anarchy in the international order, discussing states, nations, and governments, looking beyond the state to non-state actors in the modern world, providing a brief and mildly depressing history of the twentieth century, looking at imperialism and its general family of relationships, giving some of the theories of IR like realism, pluralism, and structuralism, giving post-positivist theories like Marxism, postmodernism, feminism, and constructivism, basically worthless theories, then moving on to issues of security, violence, and the military, before three chapters on global political economy, globalization, and the global environment before closing with a final chapter on the insoluble nature of moral problems in international relations.  It is striking that a book which seeks to present International Relations as much as possible in a scientific light should end where it should have begun, with a recognition of the essential nature of morality to any discussion of what is and what ought to be.

In reading this book, many of the fundamental problems of International Relations become more clear.  For example, the free rider problem, a difficult problem within societies, is even more difficult when one is dealing with states that do not really recognize any higher authority that does not agree with them or cannot be persuaded.  Additionally, many of the theories of the field are basically full of smuggled moral assumptions that masquerade as scientific approaches.  Related to this is the fact that much involving international diplomacy as well as the behavior of both state and non-state actors depends heavily on the psychology of the people involved.  The general fuzziness of matters of history as well as psychology make International Relations a particularly dodgy field when it comes to its own theoretical base.  A field is only as strong as its weakest link, and International Relations has plenty of weak links, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) plenty of people whose theories are a bit too close to home for more than loud yelling to happen in a world where alternative facts run rampant.  Welcome to the debate, indeed.

[1] See, for example:

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