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A Physician/Biologist Looks at Life

Joseph N. Abraham, M.D.
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A doctor & biologist uses science, Zen, and metaphysics to discuss happiness, and life.

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"If you're so smart, why aren't you happy?"

With this question, Dr. Abraham explores the confusion and unhappiness that dominate so much of our lives today. In the modern world, we now have all of the luxuries that humanity has ever dreamed of: comfort, convenience, health, arts, cuisine, limitless diversions, and world travel.

Then why are we so unhappy?

As a physician, an artist, a writer, a research biologist, and an inveterate traveler, Abraham has seen unhappiness from rural emergency rooms, to Manhattan skyscrapers, to the slums of the Orient. And he tells us that the people in these different locales are more similar, and more closely linked than they might imagine.

He takes us on a journey inside ourselves, and inside of our ancient ancestors; how we are not so different from stone-age people as we imagine, and why many of the dreams and fears we inherited from the caveman do not serve us any more.

What did the Buddha say to the hotdog vendor?
"Make me one with everything."

In the Buddhist discipline of Zen, the master pursues a child-like total absorption in the moment: "Zen mind, beginner's mind." The master, through total absorption becomes one with the moment, transcends the pains and fears of everyday life, and becomes a larger, even a complete being.

The classic work on Zen is Eugen Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery. Herrigel writes about things that are puzzling to us in the West: a Zen master fires two arrows at a target in near-total darkness. Not only does the first arrow hit dead center, the second arrow splits the first one.

For the master, splitting the arrows is a parlor trick, and unimportant. His goal is not to hit the target; his goal is to be the target. And the bow. And the arrow. And the student, and the audience, and the wind, and anything else that has a bearing on the task at hand. He wants to be "one with everything."

This seems very strange. How can someone be a bow, an arrow, a target? How can someone be something external to his or her body?

After pondering this for many years, I have an insight that may help explain this idea, that you are probably experiencing at this very moment.

Right now, you are reading.

One interpretation of this involves the present progressive verb structure: you are in the process of reading. But in the alternative interpretation, "reading" is a gerund: you are the process of reading.

Often when we are reading, we are entirely absorbed in the process. There is no reader. There is no book. There is no page, no print, no words, no sentences, no paragraphs, and no author. All of these merge into a seamless experience. Without effort, reader + ink-on-page becomes a single entity and a single consciousness. There is only the story; there is only reading. You are, quite literally, reading.

In fact, I would argue that this is when reading is the most enjoyable. When there is total oneness with the material being read, that is when reading is a delight. It is when we are distracted by other concerns, when we cannot (or do not) totally immerse ourselves in reading that reading becomes unpleasant.

I suspect that this total absorption explains why so many of us read for pleasure. Without that seamless experience of reading, without the universalizing experience of "oneness," reading is ponderous, difficult, exhausting. Watch an adult learning to read; it can be hard work.

This is in opposition to children learning to read. Their oneness, and total absorption in the present, makes learning to read seem easy. But with practice--much practice --adults can also achieve that union, and reading becomes entertainment, diversion, balm: happiness.

To be totally absorbed in the present, to be one with the present experience, is to be...


Joseph N. Abraham, MD

Self-help Books :: Personal Growth Books :: Happiness Books
Self-help Books :: Motivational & Inspirational Books
Self-help Books :: Personal Growth Books :: General Books

ISBN: 0967295009
ISBN(13-digit): 9780967295008
Copyright: 1998
Book Publisher: Sheridan Books
Binding: Sewn
No. of Pages: 152
Paper Weight (lb): 60#
Illustrations (B&W): 2
Dust Cover: Yes
Acid Free Paper: Yes

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