Summer Book Review
Each season, I hope to post here a review of the books I've read recently that I think other Green Wizards may find useful and informative. For this Summer Review, I have two books to highlight, the first by ADR and Ecosophia regular Bill Hulet (aka Cloud Walking Owl) titled "Walking The Talk" and the second is "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies" by C. Norman Shealy.
"Walking The Talk" by Bill Hulet
(Cloud Walking Press, 2015 - Buy at Lulu.com)
With the new Green Wizard website going up this Spring, I have been doing a lot of thinking on how to expand the audience for what Greer has talked about for over a decade, that we need to prepare for a Future of Less. While moving forum posts to the new site, I happened across a past comment Bill Hulet made. This lead me to his profile and to the link to his book, "Walking The Talk". The Lulu.com book blurb reads:
"The human race is facing the greatest challenge in its existence due to climate change. Yet, if you talk to most people or read the newspaper, all you see is business as usual. Why? "Walking the Talk" suggests that at least part of the problem is because society has rejected the two ideals of faith and patriotism, which is what were used to mobilize the citizenry to make heroic efforts in the face of past crises. While Bill Hulet agrees that these two motivators were horribly misused in the past and need to be replaced, he suggests that the substitutes on offer, "self actualization" and "following your bliss", are not enough to fill the void. Instead, Hulet suggests that people acquaint themselves with "practical philosophy" as manifested in Western and Eastern philosophy, such as Stoicism and Daoism."
It was intriguing enough to order and I will say well worth the mere price of $10 (or so).
First thought, "Walking The Talk" is not a book you read from front cover to back one weekend. Instead it is a book you read a few pages, put down and go outside to sit in your garden and mull what Bill said. The ideas and concepts he puts forward have a deep flavor you want to savor and roll across your mental tongue before taking another sip. It was my lunch time book for most of July, as the short twenty minutes my company gives me, didn't give me a lot of time to read, yet the 4-5 hours until the end of my shift gave me plenty of time to bounce what I had read around in my head.
Second thought, you'll want to reread it a second time straight through when you finish it the first time.
Now to the meat of the book.
Bill begins by explaining how in the historical past, the two concepts of "Faith" and "Duty" served to motivate much of human civilization to work towards the good of the whole. Faith in one's Religion, Race or Destiny, and Duty to one's Country and King provided something bigger than the Self, and allowed the Community, be it a city, town, religious organization or nation state to put its needs first, above its citizens. And those citizens accepted this concept as Right and Proper. As a student of History, I found myself agreeing.
(He covers much more about the situation we are facing with climate change, but the decline on Duty and Faith are key points to his later discussions.)
He goes on to explain how in the aftermath of the Great Depression and the Second World War, a psychologist named Abraham Marlow began promoting a theory of "self actualization". Over time this theory morphed into an idea that "You should follow your bliss". America's myth of the rugged individual who could accomplish anything forgot that it was a country who had put their collective good at the forefront of a national war effort that had won the War, not the heroics of one lone soldier. At a time when our industrial might gave forth untold plenty to most of the people, the idea that they should voluntarily sacrifice seemed outmoded and old.
Bill then goes on in the middle third of the book to discuss practical philosophy, in particular how its focus on finding value in a collective discussion with like minded people, what he calls the "community of the dialog" runs counter to Abrahamic religious, like Christianity, Judaism and even Islam, which focus on a revealed knowledge from a greater power and the rejection of reasoned truth. This difference lead to the persecution of early schools of philosophy by those same religions. Particularly hypocritical considering all that those religions and their written words borrowed and outright stole from the writings of practical philosophy. Bill gives several pages of examples of Biblical writings and a near identical saying from philosophy.
At a time when organized religions are loosing their popularity with the People, is it time then to relearn what practical philosophy teaches?
I found especially interesting Bill's discussion of Buddhism, and especially the way it has changed in the Western World. He makes the point that the key foundation of Buddhism, that is "renunciation" or the giving up of your personal rights in favor of the community rights has been almost abandoned by Western practitioners. The firm hold that "self actualization" has on Western thought, means that the idea you must give something up, is almost unthinkable.
And yet, the idea of renunciation is going to be critical to coming up with a way to address climatic change.
Along with the discussion is a general explanation of both Buddhist schools of thought as well as Daoism. This second Eastern branch of philosophy, seems to me to be of great importance for our Future in a Collapsing World. The whys and hows of that thought, are much longer than a mere blog post, and I hope to discuss it further in the Green Wizard forums soon.
Back to "Walking the Talk"...
In the last third of his book, Bill begins to lay out his thoughts on how activism in today has gone wrong, and how it must change to actually have a chance of bringing people together to address climate change (and for Green Wizards, a gearing down of our expectations as the American Empire and the current global civilization unwinds. He gives examples of how many larger activist organizations have become nothing more than fund raising mechanisms to pay for their leadership's salaries. And for academic circles, a way to get grants. He discusses how he thinks environmental groups need to organize to be more efficient at promoting positive changes.
He reintroduces the idea of renunciation as a way of "leading by example", and points out how the failure of leaders of the fight climate change movement have hurt the cause by refusing to do just that.
Bill closes out the book with the idea that we must introduce a new ethos to the Public, that is the concept of "Environmentally Based Ethics". As with the idea of "The Commons" or an area of shared land and resources, we have moved past the normally held beliefs that there is a usefulness in putting the community's good over the individual. That it is better for a community to accept shared limits, than to allow the individual free rein to exploit a common resource. While it goes against the idea of self actualization idea of "I can do what I want", in allowing an individual to cut down an entire communal wood lot for their own profit, rather than past practice where people voluntarily took just what they needed, it is just that "Environmentally Based Ethics" which needs to be reintroduced.
(There is an extensive list of footnote references for more detailed reading too.)
All in all, I found Bill Hulet's "Walking The Talk" a well reasoned and informative book, one I will put into my Green Wizard library for rereading often. No doubt I'll also buy several more copies to lend out to friends. I give it Five Stars and recommend you buy it (and read it too.) I think that many of his ideas will be discussed by the Green Wizard community and will no doubt make their way into the skills and knowledge Future Green Wizards learn.
The second book I'd like to talk about this Fall is C. Norman Shealy's "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies".
Buy At Amazon
(Note : The cover of my book is not the same as the one offered by Amazon.)
I happened upon this book by accident. I was in a nearby Barnes and Noble bookseller, a month or so back, picking up some light reading of a fictional nature, when as I left, in the discounted tables this book caught my eye. Discounted from $40 to a mere $15 is always tempting for a book on subjects that all Green Wizards need to learn BUT opening the hefty book (over 400 pages) sealed the sale. The Encyclopedia is filled with great pictures and useful information.
In particular I was delighted that Shealy has divided the book into three major sections. The first is good introduction to herbal medicine, including the philosophy behind it as well as the practical knowledge of how to prepare and use the herbs themselves. The second section is a catalog of plants, listed by their Latin name. Each entry includes a photo as well as a data file on properties, uses and further notes.
Here is two pictures of some sample pages:
Then to help you further, the third section is a catalog of illnesses. And at that I think the book shines. Each entry, lists a general description of the ailment and its symptoms, then discusses how it might be treated by a wide range of herbal medicine traditions; Indian holistic Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese Herbalism, more Western Herbalism, Traditional Folk Remedies, Aromatheraphy, Flower Essences, Nutritional Information and Mind and Body Healing (think Yoga and exercise), with a few others thrown in when the illness (and author) had further info.
I've only had the chance to skim this book but already love it. See if you can't find it on sale or as a used book, its worth the full price but then Green Wizards always look for bargains.