3 out of 4 stars
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In The Paradise Man: According to Thomas Merton, Linhxuan Vu states that his purpose for writing the book is to help readers find more inspiration for their spiritual journeys. True to the subtitle, the book is based on contributions from the works of Thomas Merton, "the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century." While paradise may conjure images of vacation spots and relaxation, Merton teaches that it is an attitude of the heart that occurs as the ego diminishes, and his concept of paradise "belongs more properly to the present than to the future life." Throughout the book, Vu refers to those seeking paradise as travelers. He explains the traveler's experience and transformation in union with God, with fellow humans, and the "cosmic dance" with the world of creation. Vu clarifies that the book isn't Merton's biography; the focus is on his teachings.
The book is divided into three sections that discuss union with God, union with creation, and relationships with others. Vu's references to the New American Bible and contributions from Merton's works are distinctly and correctly cited. Refreshingly, the reader is not left questioning if the content is from the author, Merton, or the Bible. Vu clearly explains how Merton's teachings can be applied to fulfill commandments from the Bible. For example, as the ego diminishes, and the entity of "I" disappears, the total focus of love, energy, and concern is centered only on God, fulfilling the first commandment. Jesus referred to this commandment as the greatest: "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." (New American Bible Matthew 22:37).
I most like the portion of the book about Christ as the ultimate "Paradise Man." Vu describes Jesus as the "Second Adam" and the "Light of the World" and cites scriptures that exemplify Christ's mercy and love. He states that the Christian life is a "return to paradise."
There isn't anything I dislike about the book, but it will benefit from another round of editing. I understand Vu's tendency to mimic Merton's frequent use of capitalization to emphasize certain words. However, Vu inconsistently capitalizes the key words: Paradise Man, Paradise man, and paradise man.
Unfortunately, due to the numerous grammatical errors, I am required to deduct a star. Therefore, I rate The Paradise Man 3 out of 4 stars. I recommend the book to Vu's target audience of Christian and "churchgoing" readers. However, he also quotes Gandhi and speaks positively about Buddhism. The book may appeal to readers of various faiths given its focus on Merton, a mystic and proponent of interfaith unity. It contains no profanity.
The Paradise Man according to Thomas Merton
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