Having read and reviewed the book a year ago, and even liked parts of it, I think what turns so many people off, and should be taken more seriously is the plethora of books by Americans that are so self absorbed.
Its rare to read books in Europe, Asia etc., by authors who are so self absorbed and living extremely well off material lives. Who then run around the world trying to find themselves.
Heck many if not most Americans don't do this. Instead they discover themselves by helping others in their communities.
Many a therapist will suggest if you are depressed because of a situation that you stop dwelling on you and start doing for someone else. That and change your diet and get rid of the junk. You don't have to run away as the author did, to find what matters.
Ditto. Yet another book that has been Oprah-fied as some kind of "bible" for lost women. Just the self-absorbed ramblings of a woman who thinks you have to go to the other part of world for a year to "find" yourself. I wish I would have had the money and time to run away after my divorce. Instead of whining about her privileged, financially secure life, why didn't she do a year of volunteering for people that really are in a bad way?
yeah, I tend to agree with you Beth. I read this well over a year ago and it was good, sometimes very good. It didn't however, change my life. Last week I was watching Oprah and I was shocked at the audience's reactions to Mrs. Gilbert. They kept saying "your teachinngs", "your lessons", as if she was some sort of Oprah-made deity. I love Oprah, so I am not trying to put anyone down. It just seems that we, in true American style, take a good book and make it some new Bible.
This book is more of a heavy weight than people give it credit for. I say that as someone with an advanced degree in theology and some background in comparative religion. I also say that as somebody who has struggled for years, spiritually and medically, with depression. What I happen to like about Ms G's book is that she makes some otherwise esoteric teachings and makes them accessible -- not manufactured New Age fluff but the kind of consequential stuff that binds some of the world's great religious traditions together but without watering down the distinctiveness of each. She also doesn't claim to be the originator of these, so if others do/think that it's their doing instead of hers.
For me, personally, it was helpful to hear a learned woman and gifted writer speak intelligently (I did the audiobook, putting it on Ipod to enjoy again and again) -- not to mention honestly, humorously -- about her foibles and hard-fought faith. Her humor is so self-depricating and she's so good about documenting the sources of her inspirations -- everything from the origin of the Rosary to the best place to buy pizza in Italy -- giving others credit where credit is due, I think it's interesting that people -- women in particular -- are so quick to jump her about being "self absorbed." Heck, aren't we all? How could you live in North American culture and not be -- unless you do what a lot of women do, myself included, which is to immerse yourself in a lifetime of exactly the opposite, "running away" mentally/spiritually from reality if not globe-trotting like this travel-writer does, neglecting anything interior that is authentic in favor of "going thru the motions" of appearing to be spiritual/selfless/upright/etc on the outside. That's all fine and good if that works for y'all, but when the you-know-what really hits the fan -- or your hormones shift just enough to throw your psyche out of whack -- your lack of a vibrant interior life usually downs you like a house of cards. I'm a practicing Christian, a neo-conservative Catholic in fact, and would possibly rank some of the insights I gained in this book right up there with Teresa of Avila's classic --called, what? The "Interior Castle." Hmmm, maybe Teresa was being too self absorbed... Or Henry Adams, too -- his memoir voted the number one U.S. nonfiction book of all time -- him interiorizing his own travel experiences in order to wax so eloquently about modernity's battle between "the virgin" and "the dynamo."
To those soooo rankled by this book, I would suggest a simple spiritual truth that pops up in everyting from classic western Christianity (monasticism especially) to classic 12 Step: Our strong reactions to people about X or Y have a lot less to do with them and lots more to do with ourselves. What wounds exist out there in readers that she's rubbing salt into, exactly, I wonder? Simple envy? Too much interreligious dialogue for orthodox tastes? Her nerve to walk away from such a conventional marriage? Raw unbridled fear that we too might find ourselves in a heap on the bathroom floor -- or smug self-assurance that it could never ever happen to us? And why do we women either totally trash other successful/happy women or mindlessly gush over them like a guru? What are we so afraid of that we've got to toss up this wall that keeps us from truly listening to the helpful subtleties being made that allow truth and beauty to sprout from pain? (I wonder, sometimes, if people have read the same book I have when they can be so callous/forgetful about the pain revealed in these pages....) I'm mightily uncomfortable with either extreme, basically, and think it points to some troubling stuff in our culture--for women especially, especially when "evolution" isn't keeping pace with the ungodly demands being made on them nowadays. Or especially when, as part of that, we're already so prone to things like depression. I want something more trustworthy and wholesome for my daughter and myself. Just my 2 cents. Er maybe 4 given the length... Sorry about that!
ShyChicag notes: I think it's interesting that people -- women in particular -- are so quick to jump her about being "self absorbed." Heck, aren't we all? How could you live in North American culture and not be -- unless you do what a lot of women do, myself included, which is to immerse yourself in a lifetime of exactly the opposite, "running away" mentally/spiritually from reality if not globe-trotting like this travel-writer does, neglecting anything interior that is authentic in favor of "going thru the motions" of appearing to be spiritual/selfless/upright/etc on the outside.>>>>
Actually there are many of us who are not self absorbed. I know many a woman who is lower middle class, stay at home mom, caregiver for an ill child, spouse or parent, who because they don't watch a lot of tv or live online as examples who understand that life isn't supposed to be pain free or easy. Good grief read most of the Catholic classics and one reads very little of 'self absorbing' types who ran away from challenges. Most monastic writings I own and the monastic style life I live, are so far from seeking pleasure for oneself.
I think what was lacking in this book (by men and women), and many of its ilk, is any sense of the need for personal sacrifice. As harsh as it sounds I think many an American would do well to shut up, give thanks for the bounty one has. Helen Keller had neither sight or hearing yet she was never self absorbed as a woman but daily thankful for all she did have.
Guess its the whole hypocrisy one sees on so many shows Oprah does. On the ones with Suze Orman they discuss getting out of debt and NOT buying anything unless its food, meds etc. Then on many others the discussion is all about MUST HAVES. Or the holiday show where stuff people do not need are highlighted. And I almost gag now when I do watch and some idiot makes the comment that Mothers are the most important people in the world. Few shows ever ever show women living simple content lives sans all the materialism others deem a NEED.
And its not about envy. That's a copout. Its about materialistic driven Americans of both sexes who are self absorbed. And then want the government or someone else to bail them out when they cant pay the credit card bills for clothes, eating out etc., or the to big home full of stuff.
BHD: For once I agree with you. One should be grateful for the blessings one has. But shut up? What are the psalms but a crying out to God, with either selfless adoration or in self-pitying pain? The monastic stuff you study still endorses the praying of the psalms throughout the day, no? What then, if there are no blessings? Or blessings get eclipsed by a "dark night of the soul" like Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross? Many I'm sure will get ticked that I compare her trials with theirs -- but it's the same nonetheless, clearly a dark enough mix to have her entertain thoughts of suicide. How dare we judge the depth or legitimacy of another's despairing pain. Just because you're a little higher on the economic scale doesn't mean you're exempt -- or a spoiled brat. I had a lot of blessings growing up -- and have a lot now -- but that doesn't take anything away from the fact that I also had an extremely difficult childhood that I had to reconcile somehow. God knows, I tried to escape it by throwing myself into all manner of holy and charitable deeds, but God chased me down and forced me to look/love inside as well as outside. I think we weak-minded humans too strongly force a false dichotomy. It's not "Love your neighbor or love yourself," it's "Love your neighbor as yourself." Both together.
ShyChicago notes: One should be grateful for the blessings one has. But shut up? What are the psalms but a crying out to God, with either selfless adoration or in self-pitying pain? The monastic stuff you study still endorses the praying of the psalms throughout the day, no? What then, if there are no blessings? >>>
Yes, shut up is Biblical. Look at the many places one reads we are to be STILL and simply know the Lord is there. I think many people are so buys talking they forget to 'shut up' so they can actually hear the answer. I believe many people struggle, spend money searching for an answer, running off somewhere looking for an answer, when if they would 'shut up' and stay put they would receive the answer. I believe many people stumble and get more frustrated, because they are being still. Aren't staying put. Look at how many people find God while confined in some way. Maybe being unable to run away finally allows the answer to come? Stuff wont make one happy.
Why is it as I have noted before, we have so many 'self absorbed' Americans who are so damn unhappy, who when told 'less is more' break out in a panic sweat? Who when told to NOT buy stuff, think you are somehow depriving them of something? We are the most addicted country I know of. Addicted to material things, drugs, alcohol, food etc.
Where is the book that is a best seller that is all about saying no, all about less is more? The day I read such a book and actually see a lasting change in society will be the day I say we are not a self absorbed country.
You then note 'I think we weak-minded humans too strongly force a false dichotomy. It's not "Love your neighbor or love yourself," it's "Love your neighbor as yourself." Both together. >>>>
Actually I think to many American actually do 'love' their neighbor as themself. And its an unhealthy love. We need to define what Biblical love is. To me its having the gutts to say no. To be honest enough to tell people to 'shut' up' and be quiet so that they can hear the answer. Turn off the cell phone. iPod etc and be quiet.
I think quiet scares people. Thats a whole new subject.
I liked the first portion of the book----the second was Very Boring---the third, self absorbed. When I finished it---I was let down. What was the book about? Why is it credited with being so Good? What did it say? What did it accomplish? Goodness--How did it become a Best Seller? Are the other books on the Best Seller List so boring, that this is the Best we can do?
Betty R. Myrtle says: I liked the first portion of the book----the second was Very Boring---the third, self absorbed. When I finished it---I was let down. What was the book about? Why is it credited with being so Good? What did it say? What did it accomplish? Goodness--How did it become a Best Seller? Are the other books on the Best Seller List so boring, that this is the Best we can do? >>>>>
What did it accomplish? Now theres a GREAT question.
I am one who believes that actions speak louder than words. So look at the tens of millions of have read the book and liked it. Now ask yourself how did they change how they live and give?
Statistically with all the best sellers on the New York Times and other lists dealing with self improvement and growth, one would expect to see positive change here in the states.
Yet reputable data each year for the past four years, shows giving to the needy hasn't changed or is down. Addictions haven't gone down. Bankruptcies are up as are foreclosures. Obesity is going up not down. Personal debt is going up not down. More people are on meds for depression and sexual dysfunction. People list stress as #1. Divorce is still high. You name a self absorbed concern and the rates have not gone down.
I don't see how the author is any more self absorbed than any other person in America...At the very least she acknowledges she is self absorbed...that's a step in the right direction. I think people are just upset because she found spirtual happiness without a particular religion or religious figure and this makes people angry and scared...
Bwookie says: I don't see how the author is any more self absorbed than any other person in America...At the very least she acknowledges she is self absorbed...that's a step in the right direction. I think people are just upset because she found spirtual happiness without a particular religion or religious figure and this makes people angry and scared... >>>>
Acknowledging one is self absorbed is good and part of life's journey or life's growth. But Americans tend to think the whole damn world needs to take part in the journey. How would her life have changed had she not written the book? What ever happened to living ones life and not being a damn exhibitionist for lack of a better word?
Tens of millions of Americans probably have a much more profound life experiences with challenges beyond their control, who have grown and become magnificent people. Yet none of these have found the need to expose the rest of the world to their experiences via a book.
Most lead by example or as my Dad said when I was growing up, walked the talk and knew that actions speak louder than words. 'Get over yourself' is a good saying.
She didn't FORCE you to open the book and read it...She didn't force anyone to. She didn't write it with an intention of being Oprah's book club pick, either. Is that what irritates you--the fact that she wrote a book--or the the fact that she wrote a book so many people like? "Getting over yourself" is easier said then done--as Eat Pray Love proves. "Getting over yourself" is a lifelong journey--that's what this book makes me realize. I am happy that Gilbert was self-absorbed enough to write a book so that I can share in her journey. I love reading books like this-very inspiring...
Bwookie says: She didn't FORCE you to open the book and read it...She didn't force anyone to. She didn't write it with an intention of being Oprah's book club pick, either. Is that what irritates you--the fact that she wrote a book--or the fact that she wrote a book so many people like? "Getting over yourself" is easier said then done--as Eat Pray Love proves. "Getting over yourself" is a lifelong journey--that's what this book makes me realize. I am happy that Gilbert was self-absorbed enough to write a book so that I can share in her journey. I love reading books like this-very inspiring... >>>>
The biggest section of book stores since the 90's is the 'Self Help' section where this book is stocked. Now ask yourself how is it with ALL these self help books that all have much the same message, info, Americans are still so messed up? You also say that "Getting over yourself" is easier said then done. My question would be. Why?
To me this is like someone in a McManison living the lifestyle Oprah encourages, saying its harder to me non materialistic than it seems. Why?
Whatever happened to self discipline?
And this book repeats most of what a plethora of other books have been about. Why cut down more trees just to repeat the same message?
I like what No Impact Man (Google No Impact Man) says about we Americans and our sense of self importance and how this then plays into our materialism, and alas loneliness. 'If we get to do the things that other people do and have the things that other people have, that means we're as loveable as everyone else. If we go the places they go, then we're as cool and, therefore, again, loveable. Consumption has become a surrogate for being loved. Instead of going and spending time with people we buy things or show up places like movies because the culture has sold us a bill of goods that says that this is what will make people love us'.
I agree. "The wise man stays at home" said Waldo Emerson. Mostly, what we need to know can be found in our own back yard. But, I do like to read about the various intriguing ways people use to get back their groove.
P. Emerson says: I agree. "The wise man stays at home" said Waldo Emerson. Mostly, what we need to know can be found in our own back yard. But, I do like to read about the various intriguing ways people use to get back their groove. >>>>>
Guess for me, I just wonder how many of the great authors like Emerson etc have all these new authors read? And if read, why didnt they take those timeless lessons, and use them, and thus save themselves time and money?
All the talk about global warming and what all the fuel we use, and yet certain people seem to ignore this and deem their self centered quest for meaning as being more important, and travel the world.
I am consistently shocked by people's strong negative reactions to this book. To me, it is simply a memoir of one woman's search for meaning. I don't think it was intended to be a self-help book. I think all the people who say "oh, nice work if you can get it" are responding to this expectation that has been set up that we should read books for what we can get out of them. Whatever happened to just going along for the writer's ride?
Also, a writer should just shut up? Have you ever tried to make a writer shut up? Good luck!
I agree. I think it comes down to why you are reading it. I am just enjoying reading about her journey. I dont necessarily think its the way people should deal with their problems but it was her way and she has chosen to share it. From reading this book, I have become somewhat motivated to learn more about meditation and quieting the mind (which I believe is something inspirational to be taken away from this book). But in general I think the book is a memoir of her experience of getting beyond her broken relationships, experiencing other parts of the world and different cultures, understanding herself, and becoming more spiritual and at peace with herself. I dont believe it is meant to preach anything, but if you can take anything away after reading it, then all the better.
How about a book like OUT OF THE FRYING PAN. Here is a book where the woman was destitute and pulled herself...in some times blaming herself for making poor decisions...and becomes a world class chef. These are the people we should be celebrating.
I was turned off by Gilbert's comment on pg. 206 (in the paperback) which compared the Taliban to conservative Christianity. Why alienate two of major religions, knowing the Taliban is immediately associated with 9/11? She also says that Alexander the Great sent ambassadors to India, to talk with great sages but none were foolish enough to leave India. Wrong! Calanus (Indian: Kalyana) followed Alexander to the ends of the earth. In April 326, the Macedonian king Alexander the Great reached Taxila, the capital of one of the Indian kingdoms in the Punjab. Onesicritus of Astypalaea, one of Alexander's officers and biographers, writes that Alexander sent him to the Indian sages, only to be ridiculed by them and to be taught cosmology. Another biographer of Alexander, Arrian of Nicomedia, states that Alexander personally interviewed the sages, who may have been traditional Brahmans or innovating saddhus. Of these, Kalyana was so impressed with Alexander's beauty, spirit & energy that he became part of the Macedonian's entourage. I put this data in here because if someone is going to take the time to write a book and to make comments about someone like Alexander of Macedonia, why not get it right? It makes me wonder about her other data when she gets something so easily researched wrong. And when people react strongly against X or Y---maybe that's because X or Y needs to be reacted against. If your teeanger was told by X or Y friend that taking drugs was great, wouldn't you love it if your child reacted negatively/strongly & said NO! You don't have to experience everything to know certain things are bad, some are good & some not worthwhile. I've been in a heap, weeping, experienced extreme spiritual bliss & have traveled all over the world, living amongst people in Scotland, Iceland, Hopi Nation. So I've experienced most of what Gilbert talks about in her book. Yet I still found her to be sort of silly. I'm sure she will mature---but really, wouldn't anyone become full of bliss, given a free trip to wherever they wanted to go for a whole year and be Paid to do it?
I don't want to get into the argument between you and ShyChicag, but if you want a best seller about less is more and self sacrifice - try "Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne or "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson ... maybe your (and ShyChicag's) faith in the goodness and sacrificial love of people can be restored.
Sure - why do the selfish, indulgent thing and focus on yourself? Nobody is interested in you doing any self-exploration just because you think it might make you a better person. If you're in a bad marriage, who cares? Grin and bear it, and start focusing on things outside yourself. Nothing like deciding that everyone else's problems and concerns are more important than yours to snap yourself back to happiness. And if that doesnt work, well for god's sake, stop bothering the rest of us with your problems, take some Prozac and get over it. All it takes is a little self-discipline, right? Of course, if none of that works, well just do what people in other countries do - spend your time judging others, especially those that seem self-absorbed, and criticize them heavily for doing anything that even remotely appears to be a selfish act. After all, why should anyone else be considered less important than you?
Art says: Sure - why do the selfish, indulgent thing and focus on yourself? Nobody is interested in you doing any self-exploration just because you think it might make you a better person. If you're in a bad marriage, who cares? Grin and bear it, and start focusing on things outside yourself. Nothing like deciding that everyone else's problems and concerns are more important than yours to snap yourself back to happiness. >>>>
And then there is the common sense approach which is seek help, change negatives, get out of a bad marriage etc., but why feel the need to write a book and show off? Millions of people seek help and struggle with issues every day. No one is saying not to seek help, or make changes. What many are saying is with all the books about self discovery why write another one?