Life, Death, and Other Inconvenient Truths
A Realist's View of the Human Condition
A guide for making sense of life—from action (good except when it's not) to thinking (depressing) to youth (a treasure).
This book offers a guide to human nature and human experience—a reference book for making sense of life. In thirty-eight short, interconnected essays, Shimon Edelman considers the parameters of the human condition, addressing them in alphabetical order, from action (good except when it's not) to love (only makes sense to the lovers) to thinking (should not be so depressing) to youth (a treasure). In a style that is by turns personal and philosophical, at once informative and entertaining, Edelman offers a series of illuminating takes on the most important aspects of living in the world.
Edelman avoids reductive synthesis, staying clear of both exuberance and negativity. Drawing on an eclectic range of sources—quoting from a pre-Islamic Bedouin poem on one page, from Gogol on the next, citing both Borges and Marx—Edelman offers insights into the bright and dark sides of our nature. About anxiety, he observes, “All sentient beings are capable of physiological stress response, but it takes special skills to also do anxiety.” Happiness is “a commodity that Americans pursue with almost as much verve as oil.” Human language, on the other hand, is “an essential window into the sublime.” All in all, human nature has much room for improvement. Working out ways to improve it, accompanied by this guide, is an exercise for the reader.