Friday, May 15, 2015

Book Review: Trying Not to Try by Edward Slingerland

I tried something new. Well, it wasn't really new for me. I am a great fan of books about ancients with incredible wisdom. This is one of those books.

Trying Not to Try is a fascinating look at ancient China and the secrets many of their philosophers once shared. Lao Tzu, Confucius, Mencius, Xunzi, Zhuangzi - all purveyors of infinite wisdom.

Some fascinating passages really captivated me. The stories and metaphorical allegories were really compelling, however, I got lost in the diatribe that too resembled a textbook. The author shares personal wisdom and a relatable prose, but then it falls back into a lecture series at the University. In fact, I often felt, while reading it, that I was sitting in front of Professor Slingerland.

This would make for an amusing and fascinating semester in college, but I was really more interested in the concept and reason for creation of the book: the interesting idea of wu-wei and de. Ancient Chinese philosophers examined the human condition (which, surprisingly is not unlike today) and the spiritual aspect of different versions of divinity - each with their own perception. Wu-wei ("ooo-way") followed amongst all the traditions as the concept of effortless action or trying not to try. De ("duh") being the energy that emanates from the person - that which is felt by others, be it charismatic or otherwise.

These two concepts and their evolution, as well as the potential for the author's examination, are what drew me to the book. However, I lost interest in the classroom feel the book has - or de, as it may be. I appreciate that the author is a Professor of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia with a clear passion and integrity for the body of work he created. But, I think I got all I needed in just the first few chapters.

**This book was given to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. Honestly.