Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Novice

I recently finished reading the The Novice by Stephen Schettini. The book is an autobiographical tale of a journey, both physical and spiritual, that the author took as a young man which had lifelong ramifications. Schettini begins the story with his upbringing as a typical (though troubled) young man in England in the 1960s who decides to take a journey across Europe and Asia to "find himself." Schettini eventually comes into contact with exiled Tibetan Buddhists in Northern India and is absolutely captivated by them. This infatuation eventually leads him to abandon the familiarity of his upbringing (Western, Christian, etc.) and embrace the new found Eastern Buddhist culture. In fact, he embraces it with such zeal that he becomes a Buddhist monk. As a monk he goes on an amazing spiritual and intellectual journey - but not the one he expected to have. The story ends with Schettini leaving Buddhism and reentering Western culture. (I don't want to give too much away as to his reasons, for those who might want to read the book for themselves.) I found the whole story fascinating, especially the insights he gained as he moved from one culture to another and back again.

Here's a few of my favorite quotes:

"Denial is rooted in the pretense that we know what's going on, and only when things get desperate do we tend to admit otherwise."

"I tell my students that if they don't cultivate integrity they'll end up grumpy old men and women, and that there's no third option."

"What do I believe? That we have an instinct for right and wrong, and push it aside when it's inconvenient. That the more deeply we're motivated by emotion, the more insistently we pass it off as reason. That denial is a force to be reckoned with, and our principle obstacle. That ethical codes are as likely to produce hypocrisy as goodness. That belief is precarious, especially when it demands certainty. That no religious, scientific, or academic faithful can be trusted that can't laugh at itself. That the only way to respect the truth is to take it with a pinch of salt. That life leads nowhere until we consciously take the direction it provides."

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