2 out of 4 stars
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“Life is not about safety. It’s about whether we live with love or without it.”
At one point or another, most of us have felt that there's something wrong with how our society operates. We've at least felt anxiety or dissatisfaction. Chet Shupe, in Rediscovering the Wisdom of Human Nature: How Civilization Destroys Happiness explains that these feelings are born from our “spiritual imprisonment” to a civilization that smothers our emotional intelligence and spiritual freedom. The author believes that, when the first Homo sapiens let their instincts run free and lived in the present moment, there was no anxiety, depression, or dissatisfaction. However, as men developed language and, with it, the ability to devise long-term plans, our happiness started to wither. Shupe explains this process in detail and reveals how he believes we can break free from our “culturally imposed dementia.”
On a positive note, the premise of the book is interesting and original. The core ideas of the book – living in the moment, paying attention to our feelings, and living in service to others – are highly valuable. The book is also well-organized and even includes some table summaries and a glossary. The many examples the author uses bring to life an otherwise dry philosophical text. I was especially astounded by his example of how some soldiers miss war due to the brotherhood it entails. I also applaud the importance Shupe places on sisterhoods and returning women to their power.
However, I found two main flaws in the book: it’s repetitive and unreliable. First, the author repeats his basic premise until both it and the reader are exhausted; concise explanations would’ve been more powerful. Secondly, the author addresses few issues that stem from his theory. Shupe states that the human desire for knowledge separates us from our origins and, hence, our happiness. However, isn't curiosity an innate human trait? He also fails to explain the place of some people in his ideal society. If, according to his theory, the purpose of romance is reproduction, what would happen to homosexuals or those unable to procreate? The answer I predict from him, “let life find its own way,” is not enough for me.
Furthermore, he repeats that domestic violence is a reaction to “the emotional suffering that blights human life, under civil rule”. Honestly, this sounds like a lame excuse for abusers to continue committing crimes. Assertions like “wives often get mistreated as a result of their devotion, because it offends men’s souls” are, ironically, plainly offensive. Furthermore, the author never gives evidence, bibliographical or otherwise, of this idyllic past we should strive to return to; his only proof is the behavior of primates. The author only superficially mentions what led him to these beliefs. However, diving deeper into his story would've enriched the book and, perhaps, enlightened the reader about some unexplained aspects.
The editing mistakes of the book are minor, but exceed ten occurrences. Due to the original premise, interesting examples, and commendable intentions, I rate Rediscovering the Wisdom of Human Nature: How Civilization Destroys Happiness by Chet Shupe 2 out of 4 stars. I deducted two stars because of the repetitive nature of the text, the editing flaws, and some highly questionable assertions.
This book will appeal to readers interested in philosophy, sociology, psychology, and evolutionary studies. This is not a book I would recommend to devoutly religious people, anyone without the patience for repetitive text, or those unwilling to entertain ideas that could be considered outlandish. Readers who prefer fiction might want to stay away from this book.
Rediscovering the Wisdom of Human Nature
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