Issue 154, Spring 2000
Schweitzer, The Teaching of Reverence for Life.
Tich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness.
Mortimer Adler, Ten Philosophical Mistakes.
John Stuart Mill in the familiar
formal attire of a Penguin Classic.
A few with psychoanalysis in the titles.
I see how it might get tiresome to have such titles
imploring you day after day to change your life.
It could easily plunge you into the classic
cycle of guilt and self-improvement, mindfulness
followed by depression, each glance at those familiar
spines reminding you of all the mistakes
you've made in the past, and the mistakes
to come. Who wouldn't want to clear the titles
from the shelves and return to the familiar
routine of a comfortable life
undisturbed by thought? A blissful mindlessness.
Throw away every last unread classic
(there's no such thing as a classic
anyway, they now say). Look, the whole mess takes
up only one can, though to undeniable fullness.
But wait. Digging down, I find the serious titles
have risen to the top like cream, or like the life-
preservers they're supposed to be (familiar
wisdom hauling us back up to the familiar
from uncertain depths). Or else these classics
have been placed on top deliberately, as if life
depended on concealing our ... mistakes?
No, just dozens of trash novels flaunting bold titles
and heroines with breasts of unreal fullness—
like the fantasies our minds are full of,
hidden by good intentions—sound familiar?
What is this bizarre collection of titles
(quasi-porno side by side with classics)
but the unfinished, bound-to-be-full-of-mistakes
bibliography of someone's inner life?