This is not a book I would usually go for, although it seems pretty popular. I promised a friend I would, and his unrelenting persistence and follow-up forced me to read it. Thanks dear friend.
It’s not an easy book to read for several reasons. Firstly I’m in to science, and the philosophies that use methods of thinking. The premise of this book is about putting all that aside, and as such it was hard for me to follow. A great thinker once said “all philosophers who are genuine to themselves have some value to give, the key is separating what’s valuable from the rest” he also said “what is said is what is important and not who says it” fittingly I can’t remember the philosopher’s name, and probably didn’t get the quote exact, but you get the gist.
Eckhart Tolle is just that, some one who has several insights into unique experiences and the book tries to conveying them. To give him the benefit of the doubt, he probably has a lot more, but I haven’t grasped them yet. Still the few things I managed to understand, with the caveat that understanding and applying are two different things, are rare, insightful, and more than make up for any shortfalls.
Plato quoted Socrates saying “the unexamined life is not worth living”. How profoundly true this is. Only when I reflect on my self do I get to see why others do what they do, and understand I shouldn’t judge anyone except myself. This is not so easy though, and is a kin to asking a fish how wet is it. Eckhart Tolle elegantly continues on this theme, by clarifying the barriers to self-examination, and an explanation. But like most things, and he clarifies this very well, while it helps to know, it is the experience that matters, the focus on, and final achievement of experiencing inwardly.
Tolle tries to explain the experience, and as with cheese, one can explain what it tastes like in an infinite amount of words, but until one tastes it, they would not know. So following up with trying to experience what Tolle is talking about is an integral part of his philosophy. Unfortunately most of it requires unthinking, or to be more precise, the belief that thinking is just another bodily activity, and does not by itself make the whole. The isolation and containment of thinking, the detachment, the observation of thinking, becomes paramount.
This opens up the door into a unique world where actions, reactions, all those things that fit with a materialistic deterministic world are observed in the self, analysed, and understood for what they are. Once this is experienced there is great relief, for one understands, the insignificance of it all. Anger, jealousy, pride, love, and all the emotions are temporal. Many of the wise will tell you don’t react quickly, take your time before you respond to a provoking or distressing email, be calm etc.
The way I felt about my car when stolen ten years ago, then, is different from the way I feel about it now. If only I could have understood it then, right after the incident, I would have been less upset. But still I do the same thing everyday, think, think, think, worry, worry, worry. The point is knowing, and understanding is not enough, training yourself to contain the thinking mind is what Tolle tries to convey.
The significance of the moment is another of Tolle’s gems. Probably not the first to talk about it. “Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is a Mystery, today is a Gift and that’s why they call it the present” is a lovely saying. Understanding its significance is good for philosophy and talking about it, but to benefit one needs to believe in it, make it a part of the self, it is a mindset, and not so easily achieved with problems, regrets and responsibilities, fighting for control over the mind.
The snake bites, while the scorpion stings, because it’s in their nature, could ours be to worry and think, and can we change our nature, I’m still trying, but Eckhart Tolle seems to have attained this. His acute depressive disorder at a young age might have rewired his brain to leave him with this amazing gift, and for this alone, and at minimum to hear it from him, the book is worth reading.