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Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, an Autobiography Hardcover – May 12, 2009
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In his lush new memoir, the religious scholar Smith dances among the whirling dervishes in Iran, camps with the Aborigines in Australia, shares a chuckle with a gaggle of Masai warriors on the darkening Serengeti plains. Each anecdote reveals Smith’s sense of marvel at the strange bounty of the world (Washington Post Book World)
In this delightful autobiography, Smith tells us how he became the dean of world religions. Intellectual playfulness is definitely the spirit with which this book was written. Right to his final act, Smith is proving to be the consummate professor, giving us a valuable master class on faith and life. (San Francisco Chronicle Book Review)
Smith has long been our clearest and most radiant explorer of all the world’s great religions. Thank heavens for such wisdom, delivered with light and fire! (—Pico Iyer)
One of our foremost scholars and interpreters of the world’s religions . . . What he has learned, he has applied to life. (—Bill Moyers)
My admiration for Huston Smith’s work is boundless. With each new book I have been astonished, edified, and greatly heartened by his brilliant mind and heart. He is the wisest, sanest religious scholar of them all, and so wonderfully readable. (—Anne Lamott)
Smith is America’s best-loved religion tutor. (—Jack Miles)
Huston Smith is the world’s ambassador to religions everywhere. (—Thomas Moore)
“Smith parts the curtain on his past and says, “Look!” with the enthusiasm of a child--something he has not yet lost at age 90. The result is a joyous romp with a favorite uncle among holy places and mystics--the most interesting of them the author of the book.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Remarkably brief and humbly written for a man of Smith’s fame and accomplishment, Tales deals simply with his life and his encounters with the great and the good (Eleanor Roosevelt, D.T. Suzuki, and Frithjof Schuon, to name a few). Highly recommended.” (Library Journal)
Smith . . . [has a gaze that] bespeaks mischief, curiosity, bluntness and wonder . . . In an age of generalized fear and “just say no,” Smith, who taught for years at Berkeley, a venerated figure there, has said “yes” to life’s possibilities. (San Jose Mercury News)
“Tales of Wonder brims with fascinating insights and tidbits.” (Boston Globe)
“It is the pulse of Smith’s humanity that breathes life into Tales of Wonder.” (CNN.com)
From the Back Cover
Huston Smith, the man who brought the world's religions to the West, was born almost a century ago to missionary parents in China during the perilous rise of the Communist Party. Smith's lifelong spiritual journey brought him face-to-face with many of the people who shaped the twentieth century. His extraordinary travels around the globe have taken him to the world's holiest places, where he has practiced religion with many of the great spiritual leaders of our time.
Smith's life is a story of uncanny synchronicity. He was there for pivotal moments in human history such as the founding of the United Nations and the student uprising at Tiananmen Square. As he traveled the world he encountered thinkers who shaped the twentieth century. He interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt on the radio; invited Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at an all-white university before the March on Washington; shared ideas with Thomas Merton on his last plane ride before Merton's death in Bangkok; and was rescued while lost in the Serengeti by Masai warriors who took him to the compound of world-renowned anthropologists Louis and Mary Leaky.
In search of intellectual and spiritual treasures, Smith traveled to India to meet with Mother Teresa and befriended the Dalai Lama; he studied Zen at the most challenging monastery in Japan; and he hitchhiked through the desert to meet Aldous Huxley, dropped acid with Timothy Leary, and took peyote with a Native American shaman. He climbed Mount Athos, traipsed through the Holy Land, and was the first to study multiphonic chanting by monks in Tibet, which he recorded with Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead. Most important, he shared the world's religions with the West—writing two bestselling books and serving as the focus of a five-part PBS television series by Bill Moyers.
Huston Smith is a national treasure. His life is an extraordinary adventure, and in his amazing Tales of Wonder, he invites you to come along to explore your own vistas of heart, mind, and soul.
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Top Customer Reviews
Huston Smith has just turned 90, and has long been my model for what I'd like to be like when I grow up. He is a gentlemen, a scholar, and one of, if not the, world's greatest authorities on the religions of the world. His classic book The World's Religions has introduced millions of readers to what's good in the religions of the world. While he has the accuracy and objectivity we expect from a professor, though, he doesn't have the dryness or too common air of intellectual superiority, because he actually spent years practicing each of the religions he writes about, to gain direct experiential knowledge of what's good in them.
Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine is a series of intimate and inspiring glimpses of a wonderful man - and his wife Kendra, who is very much a part of the story, keeping him grounded in reality - as he pursues meaning and the good life in modern times. Raised by missionary parents in China, he feels he is basically a Christian, as well as a member of the world's other major religions. When you get to the bottom line, though, his religion, like that of his friend His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is kindness....I can't praise him or his book highly enough...
A self-professed Methodist missionary family "favorite," the description of his early life in Dzang Zok, China, and his early academic life as a high-achiever at Central Methodist College in Missouri are particularly enjoyable. This story provides readers a compelling glimpse of the whole person (and family) and provides readers with insight as to why he does what he does. Dr. Smith reflects upon his own life story with the same enthusiasm, openness and critical thinking that pervade his academic endeavors.
Dr. Smith is quick to give credit where credit is due. Not only to his teachers - who comprise a veritable "who's who" of 20th century religious, social and philosophic leaders - but also to his wife and best friend Kendra and their three daughters who allowed him to follow his enthusiasms while keeping the home fires burning. Dr. Smith acknowledges the trade-offs between his personal and professional life and yet, with wisdom and reflection, lets us know that as he approaches his 90th birthday that he would probably do it all over again. As his own borrowed final words echo "Thanks for everything! Praise for it all!"
This is an extraordinarily well written book. Jeffrey Paine of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (formerly a judge on the Pulitzer Prize committee) writes this amazing story of Smith's life.
A fascinating read. Huston claims the soul of Christianity as his faith and became a practicing Muslim, Hindi and Buddhist during his lifetime. The metaphor Smith uses to provide a framework for understanding human existence is the cross:
"Our life in historical or chronological time, measuring and minding, cautious and comparing, forms the horizontal arm of the cross. Our experience of the unqualified, of inner, immeasurable time (or timelessnesss) is the cross's vertical pole. We live in two kinds of time or perspective simultaneously. The horizontal and the vertical are at once quite distinct and entirely overlapping, and to experience their incongruity and confluence is what it means to be human." (p.41).
Huston's life can be characterized by the following phrase:
"to think of how to think the way I do not think," (p.130)
His life explored the dilemma whereby "Once different religions knew about each other only enough to kill or convert one another." (p.51). Smith's life exemplified that the exploration of a varierty of faith persuasions allowed him to tap dimensions of the human experience that he was unaware of. His life illustrated the observation that, "The great changes in history occur, I believe, not through argument but through seeing things differently." (p.106).
This autobiography of Huston Smith provides tangible evidence that great changes in human beings occur, not through argument, but through seeing things differently.
This is truly a divine adventure. I recommend it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not often you get to read a book like this. The reader is the friend of Huston.Published 1 month ago by Soren Kerk
I find Huston Smith one of the most universally spiritual writers/people of this age. This memoir helps tell why.Published 8 months ago by Art Severance
Huston Smith has been revered as a spiritual exemplar, he has been a warrior for Truth in all its manifestations in _The World's Great Religions- and he has been a loving husband... Read morePublished 9 months ago by nora hope
Beautifully written, wonderful sharings of an incredible life. I am impressed that Mr.Smith could write so elegantly , with great sense of humour and humility: wisdom in the mist... Read morePublished 14 months ago by j'aimelire
an honest and open look at the human being's endless search for the divine with all it's rituals and dogmas. What a nice man.Published 15 months ago by Angela Sturdee
I enjoyed this book.
It’s also true that I was a little disappointed, as I’d assumed that it would be even better than its 2012 follow-up “And Live Rejoicing”. Read more
I first read Huston Smith's book on world religions some 20 years ago and was taken with his genuine appreciation of other religious beliefs and practices. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Turtle beach