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The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life Hardcover – September, 2000
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A Breakthrough Paradigm for Leadership, Relationship, and a Life of Possibility "In their playing you hear not only precision, color and balance, but thunder, lightning and the language of the heart." This is what the Boston Globe said about a performance by conductor Benjamin Zander with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, but it could apply equally to the Zanders' inspirational book, the product of a synthesis of the diverse worlds of the symphony orchestra and cutting-edge psychology.
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There is something here of being trapped in the very logical form which the authors ask us to twist ourselves free. There is the call for Promethean act of will, an act that only imprisons us more surely in the very logic of will, ego and defeat that we are being coached to escape. This strikes me as either blind or empty. We must recognize that so often the act of overcoming is worse than what is it is we are trying to overcome. Such attempts at overcoming are symptomatic of a reactionary form of modernity with ontological assumptions of social and facile positivity as well as the attitude of optimism, the jargon of resoluteness, the acts of decisiveness and will that leads to the easy acceptance of belief and ideology. This is reckless, the dialectic of change does not provide a free ride. The much-touted can-do outlook and the art of possibility is too easily reproduced as ideology. A positive vision of a reconciled future, given the reality of the human condition, is the most gullible frame of mind easily led down the optimistic laden path of ideology. Possibility is very deceptive. There is the possibility of impossibility as Heidegger saw it and there is also the impossibility of possibility as Levinas saw it. In this book, the possibility of possibility is assumed without ever asking what possibility is or how possibility is even possible. We are given as the basis for this book the mysterious transcendental conditions of possibility dreamed up by the authors. Only by considering that the art of possibility may indeed be impossible are we permitted hope in the possibility of human flourishing.
At one level, I would label this book a hoax but I do not believe the authors are attempting a hoax, they very likely believe in what they have written. The trouble is that what they have written pretends that human beings are not exceedingly limited creatures. This book is endlessly beset with the Promethean myth of overcoming the human condition. There seems to be enormous difficulty in accepting limitedness of the human condition and strong causal deterministic antecedents to which human existence is subject . Life does not proceed with a sense of wonder, it proceeds with a sense of disappointment. This, along with the recognition of meaninglessness should lead to a deeper recognition of the profound limitedness of the human condition and our inherent frailty.
I do apologize for posting this review, I understand that this unworking of possibility injects a heavy dose of skepticism into the art of possibility but this skepticism is a necessary aspect of the manner in which we inhabit the human condition. It is an antidote that acknowledges our limitedness and prevents us from falling in love with the world and walking down the dreamy road of endless possibility.
This is book is not hoax after all, but it is a dream, just a radiantly impossible dream that perhaps slips into a borderline nightmare. Perhaps it would be better if it were a hoax after all.
Here is an example of what's in the book, which may enlighten you as to whether you would like it. The author's father was fairly absent from her life and she grew up feeling unloved. She decides to believe that her father would/did love her if he had only taken the time to know her. She knows that when she was young she was just making up her reality. Instead of growing up and realizing she really didn't know what her father felt she made up a reality she preferred. Perhaps you have done this, made up a preferred reality. I know in High School we would say that some guy who paid no attention to us would have preferred to go to a dance with us if he'd only known us. Now we thought this was a joke, laughing at how we could rationalize reality in our favor. Why make anything up? The author could just make peace with the reality of not feeling loved doesn't mean you know what your father felt. You can make peace with not getting what you want, and not having things the way you want them. You can even give up wanting things to go the way you want....or you can tell yourself you believe the story you want to tell yourself. If you are able to tell yourself and believe the story that makes you happy then this is a good book for you. If you can only look at the author and say how your father felt about you has more to do with him than you, that you don't know how he felt or would of felt and that regardless of what he did/felt, did and didn't do has no bearing on your value on the planet than this isn't the book for you.
If you want to read this book I wish I could give you mine.
Sad to say, many Landmark devotees are encouraged by their participation to "create" endless testimonials reflective of their own egos, swelled to megalomaniacal proportions by various psychological tricks and techniques, and the Landmark Corporation by proxy. "Spreading the word" is part and parcel of the whole trip. Keep a shovel handy.