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For the Time Being Paperback – February 8, 2000
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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For The Time Being is educational, interesting, and quite thought-provoking. Dillard begins the book with a description of two bird-headed dwarfs, and then she jumps to a passage from the Talmud about a blessing said when seeing a person deformed from birth. "What's this book about?" I asked myself as I read about chromosomes, sand, God, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, China, clouds, Confucius, numbers (chickens outnumber humans four to one and more than 3 percent of humans are mentally retarded), Israel, birth, evil, encounters, and sand.
There is so much information that I've read the book twice and am still discovering things I didn't see before. And it's all written in such an engaging manner! I learned about the Baal Shem Tov, Hasidic rabbis, and Emperor Qin who declared himself the first emperor of China 2,200 years ago. I learned about Happy-puppet syndrome, why sandstorms nauseate people, and new words like dummkopf and dunlin. And yet, the book isn't like a textbook.
There are dozens of highlighted passages and short quotes in the book, but this is one of my favorites. It's by Teilhard. "By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers."
For the Time Being is fascinating, informative, and interesting. I highly recommend it to anyone who is genuinely curious about the world and its people, past and present, and who wants to think outside of his or her narrow worldview.
She writes of buried Chinese statuary, and at the same time reminds us all, over a long enough time, we too will be buried my microscopic eflluvia....dust. A thousand years will do it. If the world goes on, some day in the future, paleontologists will be looking for us. in her own words, "....if you stay still, earth buries you, ready or not."
She speaks of hospitals this way: "This hospital, like every other, is a hole in the universe through which holiness issues in blasts. It blows both ways, in and out of time.” We each were "inners" one time, wrapped tightly by the nurse, she says, in a swaddling blanket. The outers lie ahead of us, but for the time being....of which we have less and less.
There are morals to all her stories, fiction and non-, but you hare to derive your own. If you want a moral worth having, follow this story-teller whose book leaves are worth parsing.
There are lots of mini-topics in this book - and plenty of fascinating facts - but the one I walked away with was this: What is a single life worth and are all lives worth the saving?" My mind is still bouncing back to that topic long after I have finished reading this book.
I especially liked reading the Muslim and Jewish facts and stories from this book that were presented alongside her Christian remarks. Never was there judgment about one being better than the other; they seamlessly wove themselves together to create a three-dimensional story.
In For the Time Being, Dillard is exploring the problem of evil. She discusses such horrors as birth defects, torture, and mass murders, and she cries out to God, "What's with all the bird-headed dwarfs!" She's referring to a debilitating birth defect. She's asking how does God allow such atrocities? Is there a God if this type of world exists?
Dillard reviews the traditional arguments about the problem of evil. Her conclusion: "I don't know beans about God." She quotes Augustine, "We're talking about God. What wonder is it you do not understand? If you do understand, then it is not God." But though she doesn't understand God, she still does decide to live in a universe for love. Love (=God) is still worth living for, and that's her message, I think. Delve into the mystery that is God and that is love.
I can't do justice to this book. It is one of those that I love a bit too much. Just read it. It's an experience like no other.