Ordinary But Uncommon
By Elihu Genmyo Smith
Shambhala Publications, 17.95, 240 pages
This book is presented as a series of talks, each building upon each other. Author Elihu Genmyo Smith patiently leads readers through a thicket of koan-like, iterative expressions that guide one towards a meaningful life. Persistence is required. One might already need to be an experienced yogi to complete a reading.
“Self-centered habits are what create the gap of our life, the gap that we live out of right now.”
Each chapter finds new language to discern the primary theme of “direct experiencing,” the dwelling comfortably in “our capacity right now.” In other words, to accept the radical contingent nature of life, we must embrace the diverse inconstancy of life. We are large, we contradict ourselves, and we are multitudes. Holding on tightly to the sense of self, we damage the true freedom that life provides. ||The book is at its best when the author shares terse, dense thoughts. He demonstrates, a bit too well, that words are but a way station toward that freedom from self-conceit. This form leaves the reader at a paradox: she must work hard to make sense and interpret the words, and conversely let things be by accepting the inviting richness of language as is. This book can captivate a reader who parses small bits at a time, rather than speeding through the whole text.
Reviewed by Neil Liss