Mini “earth” trend here after The Pillars of the Earth.
I was happy to see that I would be reading non-fiction again. I wasn’t too put off by it seeming to be a self-improvement book; I think reading The Artist’s Way this spring helped inspire me to start the Book Club project and I like to read about cycling training lately. Self-improvement is a good thing and books can definitely be helpful and inspirational.
Initially, A New Earth resonated with some things I had thinking about. Tolle talks a lot about meditation and observing your own consciousness. I am a failed meditator (so far, keep meaning to try some more), but I see a lot of value in it for quieting the running monologue and putting the day’s stresses in perspective.
Tolle’s formulation is unappealing, however, because he says that the goal of meditation is to let go of everything that makes one an individual (interests, intelligence, values) because it is “of the earth” and to get in touch with a universal consciousness. He challenges readers to look past the actions and characteristics of others to see the universal consciousness in them as well. But how can I be interested in one person rather than another if I only see their fragment of a universal constant? The things I love about the people in my life are what make them unique, even if flawed. I found this aspect of the philosophy recognizable as an outgrowth of various religious traditions of seeking God or the universal in everyone, but taken too far, diminish the meaning of human relationships.
Where really wrote off Tolle was his leap to the global effect of a lack of higher consciousness. First, he seems to believe global warming is one such effect, not in the sense that if people were more in tune with themselves they would be more conscious of their effects on the earth, but in the literal sense that lack of transcendance has an effect on natural phenomena. He also indulges in some “law of attraction” nonsense, which I think is more like blaming the victim.
At times I wanted to put this book down because it so frustrated and annoyed me, but I couldn’t help wondering where it was going. I found myself mentally rewriting sections to turn Tolle’s ideas into something reasonable and palatable to me. As with Follett, I know Tolle is immensely popular, but on the basis of this book, I can’t see why.