Manual For Living, by Author (Softcover, 2011)|
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Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
Mr. Chernoff is writing a series of "Manual For Living" books, with some
completed and some yet to be written. This is the only one I have read. It's not
a manual, though. In the Introduction, the author calls it a practical guide.
It's not that, either.
It's a collection of short works, typically 2 or 3 pages long. Some are
"almost essays," while others seem to be random thoughts sprinkled with New Age
or pseudo-Confucian clichés. Much of what he has to say is quite good, but much
of it should be edited out. Removing about half the material in this book would
make it ten times better.
I don't know the proper name for these short works, so will call them
lessons. I think the author intended for each to be the lesson of the day. In
the Note to the Reader (right after the Introduction), he suggests just opening
the book at random and reflecting on what you find.
Given probably and distribution, the reader will open the same few parts of
the book 80% of the time and some of it never. Mr. Chernoff may have written
that suggestion after realizing this book isn't organized into any kind of
His suggestion reminds me of a Sunday School lesson about Bible reading. The
preacher wanted a structured course for Bible study. But many in the church
insisted that it was much better to "be moved by the spirit" and read whatever
page you landed upon by randomly opening the book.
To make his point that random daily readings were a bad idea, the preacher
opened his Bible, seemingly at random, and read, "And so Joseph hanged himself."
Then he closed it, and "randomly" opened it again. This time, he read, "You go
and do likewise."
Back to the structure thing. A useful structure might also help in deciding
what should stay and what should go. The book has inconsistencies, both within
itself and with well-known physical laws. That is, some of the statements
conflict and some are simply wrong.
An example of a conflict is on page 186. There, he says we're complex. But in
an earlier lesson, he said we're simple. As these are mutually exclusive states,
it seems his philosophy can do a 180 degree turn in a few pages.
An example of something that's simply wrong is on page 161. He starts that
lesson by saying, "The world and everything in it is purely energy." I don't
think the people at CERN would agree. On page 171, he says all words are
stored--based on the mistaken notion that vibrations in the air never fade into
oblivion but continue on forever. There are other examples of this kind of
"creative physics," and all of them should edited out. They detract immensely
from the book not just by undermining the author's credibility but also by
insulting the intelligence of the reader.
Despite these shortcomings, this book is loaded with gems. For example,
consider this item from page 194:
"When we are upset or in a bad space, closing our mouths and reconnecting
with our Spirit is the only solution that avoids harming our connection to those
we love." Oh, yes, there are many other solutions. Yell louder than the other
person, drag up long-buried grievances, make angry accusations, toss out a
negative label or two. But simply shutting up until you can get calm again? I
don't think that's the most common response. I do think it's nearly always the
If Mr. Chernoff had built each lesson around a thought like that and simply
expanded on it to provide practical tips and suggestions, he'd have produced a
work that delivers on the promise of the title. The book he did produce doesn't
do that. I recommend improving this book with aggressive editing. As he proceeds
through the series, he should think of how to organize the material before
writing it. He should also not include things that simply don't belong.
This book contains about 100 of these lessons, in 272 pages. If Mr. Chernoff
edited away the "non value added" and objectionable material, he'd have about
140 pages that resonate with the thoughtful reader.