Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review of Awaken: Buddhism, Nature, and Life--A Vision of Poems for West and East

Book cover is designed by Uyên Nguyên.

In the world in which we live there exists as many stories, songs, thoughts, and feelings as there are stars in the night sky and possibly more. But life in this world is as fast as it is breathtaking. There are various bouquets of passionate emotions that take the form of music and art, but as I find myself listening to the radio and roaming the shelves of the library, I find myself thinking about how each of the stories, whether they are conveyed in stanzas, sung verses, or between two covers, are echoes of the same thing. The themes in today’s society are often tainted with dark clouds of fear and malice. The essence of dystopia hangs heavy in the air, so starkly different from the thirst for adventure that lingered on the tongue of my childhood. Now the everyday quest for the common person seems to be to survive the onslaught of mandatory duties and attempt find happiness in the meager scraps of their lives.
Phe Bach’s book Awaken: Buddhism, Nature, and Life--A Vision of Poems for West and East holds the essence of enjoying life’s gift of the moment, of treasuring each breath that fills our lungs. It was interesting for me, a girl raised in the Catholic faith, to read this and take in the teachings Buddhism offers. Much of the religion in my life as a child was abundant with things such as worshiping a book I could barely understand, sitting at a pew wearing a cotton dress, and the odd taste of round wafers placed on my tongue. I think along the way I lost the true meaning of religion: to teach others to love and respect those in your life. As I was searching for tools that could help me write the words on this very page, I came across one of my favorite prayers: the Prayer of Saint Francis. “O Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is discord, harmony; Where there is error, truth; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, joy.” A time ago, religion became such an odd  concept to me. I stopped going to church, and I began to question everything I was taught. But now, in the shadow of this book full of beautiful poetry I have read, I realize it doesn’t matter to me. I shouldn’t spend my time worrying if there is a God or not, but instead helping the world become a better place and spread kindness and love whenever I can. Awaken is full of rejoice, full of honor and thankfulness to the blessings the author has received. I believe people can learn a lot from pausing, even for a moment in their everyday life, and appreciating their surroundings and everything they have to be thankful for. As Phe Bach says, “There is happiness in this impermanent world.”
While it remains true that the world we live in is flawed and imperfect, it is also beautiful. Awaken helped me truly realize this, and recognize that we as coexisting human beings must appreciate all that we have, strive to relieve others of their suffering, and attempt to plant the seeds of peace and love wherever we can. To sweep this array of scattered thoughts into a constellation of a conclusion, I will say that this book has truly opened my eyes to the wonder and beauty of this transient world in which we live.
Irene Jacobs 

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