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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound, humane and rewarding, 13 Dec 2008
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This review is from: Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Dread of Death: Overcoming the Terror of Death (Hardcover)
One irritated quibble out of the way: a previous reviewer said that as a Christian he "knows" that death is not the end. I can only assume that this is the sort of parapraxis all too frequently encountered in the religious who actually mean to write "believe" and mistakenly write "know." Some people, for reasons best known to themselves, believe that death is not the end of personal consciousness, which is entirely their right: they do not know as much, however much the religionist likes to conflate these two entirely different and separate concepts.

Anyway. Yalom's latest book is a delight - much as one would expect from so engaging a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Trying to tackle the human existential terror of annihilation is a tall order for even the most ably qualified of people, but Yalom, as an existential therapist with nearly half a century of experience, is superbly placed. This is not necessarily to say that Yalom could succeed or has succeeded where innumerable philosophers past and present have failed (in reconciling the human existent to the end of life and consciousness): but it is no disservice to so wise and engaging a man or his book to say that it is a beautifully attractive whistle-stop tour of what both ancient thinkers such as Epicurus (something of a hero to Yalom, as well he might be) and contemporary psychotherapy can do to speak to the human condition vis a vis death - finite and mortal creatures, we all have to face up in one way or another, reality-based or not, to the end of our individual lives and those things which we have created within those lives.

Contrary to what the previous reviewer may think, countless people outside his own atypically religious society and culture do indeed face up to the end of life (their own and that of others) without the dubious alleged 'benefits' of death-denying religious stories. Yalom, as an existential psychotherapist, reminds us not just how but more importantly why such an effort is made. One might say that the entire book is in a sense an expansion of the famous remark of Bertrand Russell, paraphrased roughly as saying that looking hard reality square in the face may be chilly at first, but ultimately becomes bracing. I cannot recommend this book highly enough - a lovely, lyrical and at times highly personal meditation from a true humanist.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Jan 2011 10:28:04 GMT
T. Roy says:
Totally agree with your first paragraph and have never seen it expressed better. How can anyone 'know' stuff that can't possibly be known? Everyone to their own 'beliefs'. Am definitely going to buy this book.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Jun 2014 07:41:43 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Jun 2014 07:42:18 BDT
I'd go further and say that it is precisely the finitude of life (and our foreknowledge of same) that gives it form and meaning. For thinking people not tainted by the goddy* virus, the idea of eternity would be quite simply unendurable, and that of eternal bliss excruciating; its only 'meaning' is that of prize and reward for voluntary submition to unreason (and by implication being among the chosen, the elect, the 'special'). Man: weird animal!

* The G word is not in my vocabulary. How can there be a word for something inexistent ?
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