Review by KEN KORCZAK
There is a common saying within the Zen community: “To speak about Zen is to not know Zen.” To write and read about it is to not know it either. Of course, that hasn’t stopped uncounted monks, teachers, lecturers, poets, sages and authors (of all traditions) from spewing millions of words and publishing tens of thousands of pages about – ironically – “that which cannot be named.”
But that’s the way it is. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a paradox. Talking and reading about transcendence will not help you achieve it or get there, but you have to talk and read about it anyway. That’s what’s endlessly weird about “enlightenment” or “full realization” or whatever you want to call it.
However, that doesn’t mean that every book written on this ultimate topic is of equal quality – and this book, AWAKENING’S TREASURE, is an unqualified disaster.
This is a struggling, stumbling, clumsy and muddy attempt to point the way and inspire, but goes fantastically awry on multiple levels.
It’s riddled with imprecise metaphors, clichés and hackneyed phrases, painfully repetitive imagery, and that imagery is pedestrian, pretentious, dull, pompous and boring – and depressingly so.
Let me prove that what I am saying is accurate with selection examples, starting with:
Hackneyed and cliché phrases
EXAMPLE: “We’re drawn to our inner garden/ignoring all else/Like a moth focused only on the flame”
Not only is a ‘moth to a flame’ a hackneyed metaphor, the way it is used here misses the mark.
When we use ‘moth to a flame’, we are generally talking about a negative event, or an unfortunate happening. The moth gets fooled, and then singed or burned to death – yet the author choses this negative cliché to describe how we are drawn to the transcendent state!
EXAMPLE: “… when our inner Ocean rains its grace/A rising tide lifts all boats.”
Well! How about a tired phrase gleaned from politics and greedy businessmen? The ‘rising tide’ comment was popularized by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s in reference to his trickle-down economics favoring tax breaks for the extremely wealthy, and has since worked its way into common usage.
The phrase was actually first coined in a speech by President Kennedy in 1962 – and his speech writer borrowed the phrase from some businessmen selling yachts in New England.
But the bigger offense is that ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’ is a dull, overused image that does nothing to inspire – much the opposite, it drags us down by invoking the dull dreariness of life.
I could go on with many more but let’s move on to:
Improper, imprecise language:
EXAMPLE: “Waiting only the turning of our heads to see it, Like (sic) sunflowers tracking the motion of the sun.”
Again, a worn-out metaphor – but also an inaccurate one based on a common misconception – you know – a delusion.
Let’s me tell you as a guy who lives in a rural area next to a large field of sunflowers – they don’t follow the sun. Sunflowers come up facing the sun in the east, and when the sun sets, their faces remain glued to the east.
This from Wikipedia:
This old and chronic misconception was debunked already in 1597 by the English botanist John Gerard, who grew sunflowers in his famous herbal garden: “[some] have reported it to turne with the Sunne, the which I could never observe, although I have endevored to finde out the truth of it.”
One of the primary paths to enlightenment involves what spiritual masters call, “just seeing.” That is, just see your world for the way it really is. Don’t overlay your world with pre-formed ideas or what you have pre-conceptualized based on common knowledge – but just perceive directly. So I find it painfully ironic that the author trots out a metaphor based on a common misconception – and a well-known one at that.
That this is a short book, and that there are so many examples of clumsy usages and utterly bland imagery borders on the astounding.
My rather severe and strict Ninth Grade English teacher, Mrs. Allen, often withered us with her red-penciled condemnations if we allowed “colloquialisms” to slip into our school essays. A colloquialism is a word or phrase that is employed in conversational or informal language but not in formal speech or formal writing.
Mrs. Allen would roll over in her grave if she knew that books like Awakening’s Treasure were on the shelves and floating around as ebooks in cyberspace – it’s almost as if the author made a concerted effort to break the record for the amount flat colloquial usage that could be fit into a limited space.
Just a few of the “dead wood” and “junk phrases” clogging up this manuscript:
“Asleep at the wheel …”
“All this stress calls out for a cosmic shock absorber …”
“Just running on autopilot with life in overdrive …” (Yet another automobile metaphor, I guess)
“Prime the pump …”
“Dirty laundry is laid bare …”
“Grasping at straws …”
“Crawl out on a limb …”
“Can’t get a word in edgewise …”
“Collapse like a house of cards …
“Providing a wake-up call …”
“Speaking with a forked tongue …”
“A poster child on automatic pilot …” (the author uses both forms, ‘autopilot’ and ‘automatic pilot’, demonstrating again a painful inattention to word choice)
“Emerge from a cocoon…”
“Like a hall of mirrors …”
“Swept under the carpet …”
And there’s lots more.
So the writing is either lazy, sophomoric or amateurish, but is there at least some substance delivered in terms of what the book promises – to help people find their way out of the delusional daydream of unreality to a state of transcendent clarity?
The answer is that is offers absolutely nothing of substance. Rather, this document is like a caged parrot repetitively squawking without understanding threadbare phrases which do nothing to illuminate transcendent concepts that have been been known for centuries.
Ken Korczak is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS