Born in 1919, Huston Smith had the privilege of being born to parents who were missionaries. I say privileged, although he grew up in rural China which was known for poverty, Smith sees the experience as having lived an enriched life. "Even now, as an adult in my twilight years, I don't think of myself as having been deprived, for growing up in China immeasurably enriched my life by expanding experience," he says.
He feels he has lived two different lives. "Being raised in an ancient world meant owning far less paraphernalia, while my life in modern America has meant accumulating more encumbrances than I think I need." I envy Smith for his adventures, his opportunities and for having lived a life that allows him to understand and embrace the differences in life.
In And Live Rejoicing, Smith recounts visits with many famous people of his generation. Among them Noble Prize winner in Physics and discoverer of the laser, Charles Towns; Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama and Joseph Campbell. He tells stories of visiting exotic places such as China, Japan, Tehran, and India. He was able to study many religions in many lands, therefore discovering the true essence of each religion. How could a man who was able to experience all this not be rejoicing? I'm sure there are some who would view the travel and experiences tiring, troublesome or intimidating, but not Huston Smith. He tells his stories with ease, honesty and as someone who truly realizes his good fortune to have lived an adventurous and privileged life. Privileged because he recognized the value of his experiences and the importance of sharing his insights with readers.
Not all his experiences were happy, but all bore lessons that served him well in later life. Being told he was a slow learner, for instance, may have hurt his feelings for a short while, but it taught him to be more patient with his students when he began to teach.
Smith's writing flows and he keeps his stories interesting because he puts the reader at the location in which he is at when the each event is happening. Although the lands and religions he speaks of may be overwhelmingly difficult, Smith explains them by telling a short, easy to identify with, experience he had while encountering the region or religion. He also didn't just study the religion, when he could he lived the religion. He didn't just read about or observe the spiritual practice of sitting in a sweat lodge, he participated in a sweat lodge.
Enlightening and interesting, after reading And Live Rejoicing you feel as if you've just left the company of a very good friend.
on September 28, 2012
And Live Rejoicing by Huston Smith is a remarkable and memorable memoir by an amazing soul that has truly lived while here on Earth. In his worldwide travels, Huston has experienced many different religions, met with numerous leaders, and embraced spirituality and traditions of cultures with enthusiasm, awe, and the ability to tell his journey about it all like no other.
And Live Rejoicing is a different kind of memoir than most I have read. It is more of a spiritual memoir that is told by someone that quickly seems like your close personal friend or mentor by reading it.
Huston's life and the religious studies he has embraced around the world is amazing. What I love most about this book and the author is that he embraces everything that is thrown at him, and rejoices at the experience of it all. Lucky for us, he has compiled many of his traveling and religious encounters with us in this memoir of his spiritual journey.
This is a beautifully written account of Huston Smith's life. I highly recommend it.
* Thank you to the publisher of And Live Rejoicing, New World Library, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.
on January 11, 2013
This is a flat-out fabulous book, and I can't recommend it highly enough. I brought it with me on a week-long silent, solitary retreat, and it has been a perfect companion. Full disclosure: I've known and admired Huston for a long time, so I'm not an unbiased reader. But even accounting for my personal bias, this is a book for the ages and for people of all ages. And if you are over 70, as I am, and are looking for a model of aging not only with grace but with gusto, style, and flair, look no further: Huston Smith is your man!
on August 9, 2015
I have always liked anything that Huston Smith has written. This latest book is no exception, filled as typical with intelligence and wisdom. Now in his 90's, it is great to see that he is still productive and willing to share his insights into religious, spiritual, and, at times, mystical experiences that can not only add meaning to a person's life, but help provide foundations for a socially just world.
on November 2, 2014
This book is a joy to read. It is suffused throughout with a sense of joy, of a depth of experience and of a life well lived. Furthermore it reads well and easily. It is one of those books where I feel better about the world and myself after reading it.
I am new to reading Huston Smith. Years ago I read an interview with him in Shaman’s Drum magazine: I remember nothing about the interview other than that he sounded someone worth reading and listening to. The name stuck in my head and led to me picking up this book on a whim. On reading it I find that it is a sequel to his earlier autobiographical tome “Tales of Wonder” and I am left feeling that I may have missed the main course, as my impression of this book is a series of vignettes and reminiscences rather than a look back in detail at his life. However, I am sure that it will be essential to those wanting to know more about this unusual man. He certainly seems to have been well ahead of the mob in the West’s encounter with both the East and with traditional cultures.
There is so much in this book, so many interesting well-known people, so many interesting journeys, but the relative brevity of each reminiscence can be frustrating. I was often left wanting more. Parts that interested me particularly were the chapter on his ten week Zen (Rinzai) training experience in Kyoto in 1956, and his briefer descriptions of a 10 day meditation in Burma with Sayagyi U Ba Kin in the late 1950s and a sweat lodge in the 1980s. However, I really do not do justice to his book in singling out specifics, as there is something permeating throughout that leaves it greater than the sum of its parts. Perhaps this can be best summarised with a quote from the introduction:
“From his exotic childhood growing up in rural China to his meetings with many of the most remarkable men and women of our time, Smith’s life has been inspired by the unswerving conviction that we are ‘in good hands’. And because of that dazzling gift, he has long believed that we should live with ‘infinite gratitude’ .”
I have really enjoyed this book.
I have also appreciated the other reviews on Amazon.com.