Books I have read

‘Intuition’ by Osho Delves Into Our Other Intelligences

After watching, Wild, Wild Country, I purchased a book written about the spiritual guru, Osho, who was featured in the Netflix series.

Knowing that he taught a doctrine of free love, I attempted to steer clear of that topic, and chose ‘Intuition,’ but since the doctrine is, in many ways, at the core of his beliefs about repression, the subject did surface in this book as well.

Overall, though, I felt the book was basically a New Age work. I don’t say that to diminish it because I have read several New Age books and find their philosophy interesting. This book also leans heavily on Eastern and Buddhist teachings, which is no surprise, but Osho does seem to have an issue with Gandhi (a contemporary of Osho), which I did find odd. I presume there is a history between them.

A couple of my favorite quotes from the book were:

Have you ever come across a child who is stupid? It is impossible! But to come across a grown-up who is intelligent is rare; something goes wrong in between.

By your fixing a destination your future is no longer a future, because it is no longer open. Now you have chosen one alternative out of many.

Intuition is only a mirror. It does not create anything, it only reflects. It reflects that which is.

If I were to sum up the teachings of Osho, based on this book, (which I am reluctant to do), he is a believer in living in the moment and listening to one’s ‘inner guide.’ In that regard, his beliefs remind me of Quakerism. Overall, he is a believer in trusting oneself, but his morality is jarring to many Westerners because of his belief in open sexual relationships. He does believe that sexual repression is part of humanity’s problem.

For people who read self-help books, they would find this an enjoyable read, as would people interested in Eastern philosophy.

Rating 4 out of 5. This is an easy read and it flows well, especially considering the book was not written by Osho in the technical sense. It is compiled from his many speeches.

Advertisements
Categories: Books I have read | 2 Comments

‘Hollowing Out The Middle’ A Vivid Description Of My Hometown

“It is dangerous and misguided to fund and operate rural high schools with the primary goal of getting the academically oriented student to college and assuming that the non-college bound will somehow get a job on their own.” — Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America

“…thank goodness for us Walmart came to town when the economy was down and sales tax (revenue) continues on the rise,” Preble County Commissioner during the recent State of the County address.

In Preble County, 50 percent of the county’s revenue comes from sales tax, another 22 percent comes from property tax, the commissioners recently told those in attendance for the annual State of the County address. This was apparently presented without cause for alarm even though economists have argued for years that both taxes unfairly target the poor and underemployed.

It is these antiquated beliefs that Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America by Patrick J. Carr and  Maria J. Kefalas explores. Published in 2009, the book is the result of a married couple moving to a small Iowa rural community and interviewing 100s of residents as they sought to understand the demise of the Heartland’s dying small towns.

Four Types Of Students

Even though the book is a ‘scholarly study’ it’s an enjoyable read because of the way the authors tell the story. They do this by segmenting the story into the following types of students at the local high school: Achievers, Stayers, Seekers and Returners. They conclude the book with a “What can be done to save small towns’ section.

As I read the book, their types rang true locally, in large part, because of my daughter’s recent high school graduation. So my memories are fresh concerning her experience. One problem small towns have created for themselves is their approach to education, which like the quote above points out, is bias.

In Eaton, just like in the Iowa study, there is an effort to educate the ‘best and brightest’ along a career path which includes college with an understanding that these students will leave the region — contributing to our brain drain. Conversely, there is also a drive to let those who remain in the community fend for themselves.

A Stayer in the book talks about his high school experience — one too typical in rural communities. According to the man, a teacher advised him to quit — and he did. Years later he reflected on that moment and said that his mother,

“didn’t try to keep me in school, and my dad was kind of a bit [concerned], but he didn’t really say much. I mean, nobody really tried very hard to keep me in school…”

This can leave a region, like Preble County, with an under-educated workforce, one that easier to manipulate, and cheaper to employ, but a workforce that also makes it difficult to attract higher-skilled positions to the region.

Besides the four student types heavily detailed in the book, the authors also look at disturbing trends that exist in rural areas. Here are a few:

  • A disproportional amount of military personnel are culled from rural regions. As the study points out, though, this is not due to a abnormally high level of patriotism, but rather many join the military based on economic need.
  • Drug use is rampant in rural towns as drug cartels target them as easy markets.
  • The lack of in-migration has intellectually and economically hampered rural regions.
  • Low educational levels have reduced the ability of the regions to attract the creative class, and with it, higher-skilled and higher-paying jobs.

The book, which highlights the mindsets destroying small towns, is a strong indictment against the status quo. It ends with a very compelling quote,

Why let small-town America die when, with a plan and a vision, it could be reborn and once again vital?

Rating 5 out of 5. The book offers plenty of ‘food for thought’ for individuals wishing to understand why small towns are dying. For community leaders wishing to reverse the trend, the book offers suggestions for revitalizing the towns.


Afterthought

Ohio has been one of the hardest hit states post-Great Recession, and locally our over-reliance on sales tax revenue is tenuous at best since it puts our destiny in the control of a state economy. But, one of the most interesting aspects, for me, concerning the State of the County address was learning the county has about $26 million (roughly two-year’s worth of expenditures) in reserves. This buildup occurred during the national economy recovery which began under Obama in 2010.

A wise investment, of 5-10 percent of that fund, would be to invest it in the people of Preble County. Instead, our board of commissioners tends to let the state dictate what projects we pursue. A recent example of this is the ‘no-brainer’ decision to build a $1.3 million structure on the county’s fairgrounds. Like extreme couponers who cannot resist hording ‘free’ toilet paper and toothpaste, the commissioners could not resist the ‘free’ $400,000 (an Ohio grant) that will cost us of $900,000 (to finish the building). The building benefits a minority of the county’s citizens and Preble County has significantly more pressing needs.

Categories: 8th congressional district, Books I have read, My America

Larry Norman And The Creation Of Christian Rock

Playing at the White House in the late 1970s may have been the pinnacle of Larry Norman’s career.

When you’re raised in an Evangelical church and you want to be rebellious — without going wild — and it’s the late 1970s, you buy a LP of Only Visiting This Planet by Larry Norman, or any of his works. As a teen you know that any Norman album is hands down better than the Gospel quartets (or George Beverly Shea) the church is promoting.

My interest in Norman began as a teenager and over the years I would see him in concert nearly a dozen times. The first time I saw him, in 1984 at the Ichthus Festival in Wilmore, Kentucky I was honestly star-struck.

By the time Norman died in 2008, I had moved in a new direction and had lost touch with some of his later work. But, when I noticed a biography had been written about him, and released earlier this year, I bought a copy. The book, named after one of his most popular songs (from Planet), is titled Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock.

The book is an interesting read, even for someone not familiar with his music.

In The Beginning

Norman, as the book points out, is a complicated, and contradictory individual. His career began in pop music as one of the lead singers of People!. The band scored one Top 10 hit, I Love You, which was a remake. By 1969, Norman left the band and recorded what many call the first Christian Rock album, Upon This Rock. Although his first attempt was shaky, his songwriting talent — he worked as a songwriter for Capitol Records — convinced executives to take another chance.

In 1970, he recorded Only Visiting in England’s AIR Studios (where the Beetles recorded). The album, which always ranks in the Top 5 of Best CCM albums (usually one or two), was inducted into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2013. The registry preserves as “cultural, artistic and/or historical treasures, representing the richness and diversity of the American soundscape.” The album was the first Christian Rock album to receive the honor.

It is a fitting award because the album did usher in a movement and a genre. Today CCM is an estimated $500 million industry. (By contrast, Only Visiting sold about 10,000 copies)

Famous In His Heyday

Norman, mostly unknown today, rubbed shoulders with a lot of famous people. He started a church in his Hollywood home, and knew Dudley Moore and Bob Dylan, to name just two from his era. His personal manager Phil Mangano would go on to work as George W. Bush’s (and Obama’s) homelessness czar.

But, as the book points out Norman seems to implode in the early 1980s. After producing four of his best albums, Only Visiting, So Long Ago, In Another Land (Dudley Moore plays piano on this one) and Something New Under the Son, his personal life unravels. The book places much of the blame on his first wife, Pamela Ahlquist. She was an actress (small, non-reoccurring roles on TV), and model. Their marriage lasted about six or seven years, and in the book, she is portrayed as deceitful, engaging in ‘non-Christian’ photo shoots — posing in a porn magazine but, for some reason, turning down a Playboy centerfold. She is cast as a partier (who tried to smuggle pot on an overseas flight), a high spender, and someone who is jealous of Norman’s career.

This may be true, but other histories, like the film Fallen Angel, suggest Norman was not as saintly as this book makes him appear. This saintly martyr view leaves the reader feeling some of Norman’s darkness — from allegations of shady business deals to allegations he fathered (and abandoned) a son in Australia — has been minimized or erased.

Rating: 3.5/5

The book is rated 4.5 stars out of 5 on Amazon. I would give it a 3.5 — simply because a lot that’s in the book is common knowledge to people who followed his career, and the book relies too heavily on Norman’s private papers to tell the story.

His story is worth reading. Norman paved a unique road, and his music has been recorded by hundreds of CCM artists, and a few songs have even been covered by non-Christian artists like Cliff Richards and Petula Clark.


Afterthought

There is a potential Norman connection to the current White House. Vice President Mike Pence apparently drove to Ichthus in 1974 and credits that event with his conversion to Evangelical Christianity. Since this is in the heyday of Norman’s career, it is highly possible that Norman was one of the performers Pence heard.

Categories: Books I have read, Religion