Peace at the Edge of Uncertainty by Neil Hanson

Review: The short version…

The writing is sincere, and you can clearly feel the deep emotion the author drew upon to pen his words. I love to ask and listen to a person’s expression of their beliefs whether it is religious, Christian, Buddhism or any other belief system. I feel this is part of what makes a person unique, part of their heart, mind and energy. For many people in the world, faith and belief is integral in their lives. I find that very interesting in getting know a person better.

The problem I have, as a whole, with some religions, their adherents, etc. is that they then try to press those beliefs on others, telling them what they should do or believe, or attempting to impress their definitions and beliefs on others. Rather like trying to superimpose their dogma over other people’s beliefs and ideas. That is the problem I have with religion. Not the belief or believing or faith, but the attempts to convert others. The ending passages of this book went to that unacceptable level for me.
I believe for Christians who follow their god’s teaching and religious books, this would be a book they would enjoy very much. For myself, I found I could not rate it higher despite it’s flowing style and honest personal message because it attempts to speak of Truth and Wisdom in a general sense as if their interpretation is correct and applicable for all, and I do not believe that.

Note:  I took this book in several weeks ago, and since that time I rewrote my guidelines to elucidate on religious directed work fiction or non-fiction, as we do not accept them any longer. I pondered whether to post the review after reading and reviewing the book. I decided to go ahead and share it because I believe it is entirely up to the reader to decide what they wish to read. My opinions are simply my opinions, and nothing more than that. I believe many people will enjoy this book, as I said above.

Commentary: The work itself overall was very opposite to my own inherent beliefs which basically is, Things simply are. We live our lives, some things we understand, some things we do not, but we do not let it stop us from living, or doing good, or being good. There are Mysteries which need no definition or defining. Though I’ve studied Christianity and literally several dozen different religions, belief systems and their variations throughout history, this is why I do specific in my guidelines that I don’t read religious directed works because they all inherently seem to present their own ideas as if they are the most logical, most believable and correct view. I questioned whether I was the reviewer this should be sent to, because I do not believe many of the things the author put in their work, so it prompted no revelations or deeper thoughts for me. These were topics in former years I’d studied, debated and dismissed as unnecessary for my own personal well-being.

I can understand “near death experiences”, I have had them myself but what it produced in me was very different than what the author described, who put it in their terms of religious belief. So again, simply stating to me that I should translate it to my own beliefs doesn’t work for me. In my experience as a world traveler, highly interested in other cultures including their religions, superstitions and traditions, I would say that is not always possible, nor should be expected as being possible. Some things just don’t translate. Just as I could attempt to explain some of the internals of Native American mysteries, but some just will not be understood unless the person wishes to be immersed in them, or intimately knows the people themselves in order to experience that kind of gestalt.

I think it’s the difference in that some people seek definition and to define something, and some just live, experience it and have no need to give a name, or a title or description, even something which the author mentioned again and again, the “soul”. And again and again the author generalizes using terms like  “in our culture”, “in our society”, “in our world”, and his culture is not my culture, his society not my society.  I live on the world, the earth, but I guarantee my world is very different than his, so making the assumption the reader is like himself in some way, I felt an alienation and this disconnected me from the text as whole.

As suggested by the author if one’s father were dying, one would feel a sense of loss or emotions the author did, and that is simply not the case with some. You can’t know their lives or what happened. I realize he is presenting his view, and his story is personal to him, but maybe without the trying to include the reader personally in the story, it might have spoken differently to me.

Although it’s not touted to be, I found it very much a religious directed work, specifically Christian, as well as a personal message to listen to this person’s God, as the author believed them to be, which I also found objectionable.

“we build rules and
creeds and dogma and doctrine and tradition and interpretation
that allow us to “know”G-d.
And that, in my opinion, is the height of arrogance and blasphemy.”

To incorporate all humans into that generalization is to me its own kind of hypocrisy. I don’t. My culture doesn’t. Their belief system does not.

“Every single day, we pass through moments that are fertile
with closeness to G-d.”

You try to give to me, the reader, your definition of a god, your God, and what my life may also contain. This is the base reason I reject religion as a whole. When someone tries to superimpose their beliefs onto my life.

Description: In this story told in the first-person form of a letter from a middle-aged man to his deceased father, Hanson invites us to journey with him through the final days of the father’s life, finding a magical transition waiting at the end of that journey. The story weaves end-of-life reality and spiritual questioning into a sensitive and revealing tapestry of Truth and Wisdom. The tapestry is colored with true stories of mystical experiences that inform the spiritual path of the son. Most of us will face difficult and painful end-of-life decisions with the most important people in our lives. The threads of this aspect of the story are sensitive, and Hanson reveals the struggles and destinations of the son as he wrestles deeply with the journey that he must walk in making these decisions for his dying father. These struggles are played out within the context of the spiritual canvas that the son has built his life around. Hanson opens the Kimono to the personal experiences and traditions that have led the son to his spiritual reality, and invites the reader to rigorously reject certainty when it comes to either spiritual faith or rejection of faith, in order to open paths that could lead to greater Understanding.

Published: May 3rd 2010
Publisher: High Prairie Press
ISBN: 0982639104
ISBN13: 9780982639108

Available in print & ebook at Amazon.

Source: Author

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13 Comments

Filed under Non-Fiction, Reviews

13 responses to “Peace at the Edge of Uncertainty by Neil Hanson

  1. Thanks for the comments and review of the book – I do appreciate it.

    Interestingly, I agree with many of your comments on religion as a whole, and why many of us reject organized religions when they try and tell us what we should believe, when they try and impose their view of the universe on us. We each need to process and interpret the mysteries of life in a way that works in our individual lives. We need to stop looking for certainty and simple answers, and accept that things simply are, as you say.

    As the author of this book, that is exactly the underlying message I tried hard to wrap into this story – the message that there’s a whole lot that happens in this world that is a mystery, and that it’s probably counterproductive to try and change that uncertainty into clear “facts”. We need to find peace with that uncertainty.

    The quote you use from the book sums this up well – that it’s the height of blasphemy to try and create rules and dogma and doctrine to explain these things that “just are” as you say.

    Your criticism that I do approach this from the context of a Christian upbringing is exactly correct, and I agree with you – I do approach these mysteries from the context of my life. I also expect each of us will do that, and that our contexts are not the same. The key is respect for different perspectives, rather than trying to convert someone else to your perspective. Apologizing for my perspective wouldn’t be appropriate, nor would it be appropriate for you to apologize for yours. Reading or listening to you describe your view or your context isn’t the same as attempted conversion – it’s simple honest sharing.

    As you say early in your review, it is very interesting to learn from others what their perspective is, as it helps you to learn more about them. In the case of this book, I have presented the reader with events, and have tried to do so in an extremely honest, open, and transparent fashion. These events were colored by the context of my life, and they helped to build the perspective within which I live today. I have no desire for anyone to read this book and change their perspective – I’m simply opening my heart and my perspective for you to hear if you want to.

    Most of all, these events taught me much about how I need to live my life with regard to building and maintaining loving relationships with those close to me in my life. Nothing religious about that – just being a good human being. (Of course, I suppose we could debate the definition of “good” at some level…)

    I really do appreciate the time you took to read this book, and the time you invested in writing this review. I agree with you that it sounds like books of a spiritual nature are probably just not your bag, and it clearly took effort and thought on your part to publish the review. Thank you.

    In responding with this comment, I wanted to make sure your readers had the chance to hear from the author that what you saw and heard in the story seems to be exactly the opposite of what the author intended – in that respect I failed you as my reader.

    Thanks again!

    Neil Hanson

    • No matter the topic or subject, I would never expect a person to apologize for their perspective, just as it wouldn’t occur to me to apologize for my own. It would seem a little strange to me. It is their perspective after all, personal to them, making them special and unique.

      As for being “good”, honestly, we do not believe in good per se, or evil or sin. Again, they are simply “things.” My parents are of the generation that were still taken away from their tribes in the US, and forcibly converted so I admittedly have a strong wariness towards Christianity. I do, however, write about such topics explaining what I’ve learned from elders or experienced, at Songs of the Universal Vagabond, my main site, and read many spiritual books, Buddhism, Shintoism, and certainly those related to Native Americans (among others), and almost daily in some capacity have discussions on belief systems and even religion, for I live in a house of meditation that is open to all.

      We regularly have groups staying and practicing here, and have had everyone from Maori holy men to Christian priests. I just don’t choose to interact online regarding unless its private with an individual or group I know well to be objective, as all too often people have shown they are not truly open to discussion. They are quick to be offended and attack with derision, dismissal and very intolerant, prejudiced behavior. Without exception, the one who have done so have always been Christians.

      I had been planning to write an article about responding to reviews, as some authors very strongly advocate NEVER responding to any review unless it is completely stellar. To do so, in their opinion, is to be confrontation and offensive, and gives readers the impression you are defensive and argumentative. I completely disagree, and believe there is a way to do so tactful whatever is said, and that it presents as a reasonable person still professional.

      I greatly appreciate your taking the time to respond. And I actually expect authors to respond if they wish, as a review can be a perfect forum for them to explain more about their work. I believe discerning readers can also appreciate the reasoning behind it.

  2. Pingback: Reviews Upcoming This Week & The Rest of July | Flying With Red Haircrow

  3. Hey thanks for the additional comments on Amazon Red. And I really appreciate your attitude that it’s good for an author to reply to reviews. Personally, if someone gives me a stellar review, all I can really say is “thank you”. If someone reads something I write and say they just don’t like the writing, then all I can really say is “we all have different tastes”. The only reason I wanted to respond to what you wrote was that you seemed to appreciate and enjoy the writing, but what you took away from my writing was so counter to what I intended or what I believe. Not a failure on your part as a reader, but a failure on my part as a writer to communicate to you as my reader.

    In that light, I wanted to try and “atone” for that failure, by sharing my thoughts, feelings, and points of agreement with you.

    As for “Christianity” as a whole, your experiences with Christianity, and the experiences of your ancestors, I believe I understand your perspective. There are few cultures on earth that haven’t been brutalized by the “conversion theology” of Roman Christianity. Probably no single “people” has suffered as much over the centuries under that tyranny as the Jews, the religion of Jesus himself!

    There are many of us out there who are Christian because we believe in the teachings of a man 2000 years ago. Many of us find the pain inflicted on others in the name of that religion to be disgusting.

    It’s unfortunate that so many in the world take the word “christian”, and use it to paint us into the same bucket as those people and practices that we despise. When I write about what I believe, it’s only that – what I believe. It’s not in any way meant to tell you what to believe. Just as in your reply you say, “we do not believe in good per se, or evil or sin. Again, they are simply “things””, you are sharing with me what you believe. I don’t think you’re trying to convert me to your way of seeing the world – you’re sharing with me your view of the world.

    And that, my friend, is exactly my intent. Just sharing my view. You might learn from it, you might reject it out of hand. It makes no difference to me, because I have no illusions that my view is any “better” or any more “right” than your view. By sharing our views with one another, it may be that we each grow and evolve our viewpoints into something that fits even us even better than what we had before.

    I really do appreciate your spirit of openness and sharing – thanks again!

    • There was not a misunderstanding on my part of what you meant in your book and the fact you were sharing from your perspective. I got that. I also have/had absolutely no thought you were trying to tell me to believe as you believe.

      When I said “we do not believe in good per se, or evil or sin. Again, they are simply “things”, you’re right I was revealing a belief. That is not the same as sharing what I believe. It was a statement in and of itself without any direction or imposing that on someone else. I was careful with my wording, but I always am regarding such things because I regularly interact with people of all faiths and belief systems in an über multi-cultural setting.

      I’ve revealed here a very small portion of my background, I haven’t and couldn’t explain my perspective wholely, and in some ways it would be irrelevant…but anyway it’s a part of memoir that is releasing later this year. Being personally brutalized over many years can affect someone’s view. Just the same, I’ve many Christian friends in general, and besides liking them for themselves, I admire their strong faith that still allows for tolerance of others. Not to mention I believe in the person of that Christ. So there have been some assumptions that were incorrect.

      As for the “use it to paint us into the same bucket as those people and practices that we despise”, I don’t condone blanket statements, but it’s just plain and simple fact that the unbelievably brutal and inhuman acts some “Christians” have done in the name of their religion over the years has understandably colored opinion towards them. And they were not all “evil” visibly or in known acts or any such thing, they were ones who kept carefully hidden secrets. Those using the title “Christian” have brought that negativity upon themselves. It’s unfortunate there are so many of such ones that substantiate that reality and have damaged so many, but of course, not everyone’s like that. As on Amazon, I spoke about the ones who always think they are superior are very discriminatory, biased and intolerant, yet they believe that is what their faith advocates. Really strange, because that’s not what the Christ taught.

      And that’s my end of religious discussion online and why I generally don’t, though I am not uninterested in the topics. Too many assumptions are made about things that are unknown regarding a person or about what they know, don’t know or actually believe. It generally makes for further misunderstandings that can be avoided.

  4. I read your review and comments on the book ‘Peace on the Edge of Uncertainty’ by Neil Hanson with interest. If I may say so, you have me a bit confused. In your first comment after giving your views on the book, you stated:

    “The problem I have, as a whole, with some religions, their adherents, etc. is that they then try to press those beliefs on others, telling them what they should do or believe, or attempting to impress their definitions and beliefs on others. Rather like trying to superimpose their dogma over other people’s beliefs and ideas. That is the problem I have with religion. Not the belief or believing or faith, but the attempts to convert others. The ending passages of this book went to that unacceptable level for me.”

    Note the last two lines. They clearly show that you felt Hanson was attempting to ‘convert’ you to his way of seeing things.

    Further down in the review, you continued to be suspicious of his motive: “You try to give to me, the reader, your definition of a god, your God, and what my life may also contain. This is the base reason I reject religion as a whole. When someone tries to superimpose their beliefs onto my life.” This last line speaks for itself.

    How then can you say in your final comment responding to Hanson’s own response, “I also have/had absolutely no thought you were trying to tell me to believe as you believe.”

    • Flat out you’re wrong. When there is someone making assumptions about what I said as you’ve done, trying to actually interpret my emotions, motives and basically my personality when they do not know me in the slightest, I do not make response to that because I find that in very poor taste and something not to address as you have absolute zero ability to define or impute wrong motives to me, plain and simple.

      Plus you very obviously didn’t read my last comment fully. I’ll add it here again for you: “And that’s my end of religious discussion online and why I generally don’t, though I am not uninterested in the topics. Too many assumptions are made about things that are unknown regarding a person or about what they know, don’t know or actually believe. It generally makes for further misunderstandings that can be avoided.” That’s not difficult to understand unless someone actually wishes to try to have an argument or they think they think they are more clever than someone else. To me it is a waste of energy that could better be spent elsewhere. What are you trying to prove? What are your motives? Rhetoric questions.

      My trademark quote: “I welcome questions. I hate assumptions.” Your comment was rampage with them, but I will answer the final one, which really is obvious, I’m sorry you missed it. My writing a review of what I think a book contains is very different than what I personally feel. I spoke on the author’s message and how as a reader might interpret it, and I have read enough religion directed book of all faiths where they are specifically trying to inspire an individual to follow their path, that I recognize some of the differences in other kinds of work. My comment is utter truth therefore, as I never thought the author was trying to tell me personally to believe as they believe. That’s very different and I’m sorry you cannot understand that nuance. Case in point however.

  5. Tony and Red both, thanks for the comments.

    I’ve really tried hard in all my comments here to avoid any discussion of religion. I agree with you Red – one must be quite careful having discussions of religion online, because there’s so much room for assumption and misinterpretation.

    My sole and only purpose in posting comments here (and Amazon earlier) was to provide the reader with the author’s viewpoint of what I was trying to do. I was concerned that your reading (and thus interpretations and assumptions) about what I was trying to do was so very counter to where my head was really at when I wrote the book, that I wanted to give your readers that perspective.

    That’s all – no discussion of religion at all.

    Two things, I’d like to offer your readers a free eBook copy of this book so they can take a gander for themselves. If they’ll contact me and refer to your website, I’ll send them a coupon they can use to download the format of their choice. Here’s my website if they want to do that: http://neilhanson.com

    Second, I’ll paste here the “Notes to the Reader” that appear in the very front of the book. This should make my intentions quite transparent I think. These comments do talk about religion a bit, which my comments have stayed away from. However, I think these comments will help your reader understand where my head and heart were at when I put the story into words.


    A couple of conventions that I use herein warrant mentioning upfront.
    First, I refer to something that I spell out as “G-d” throughout the story. I describe why I do this later in the story, but for now, I would ask this of you: When you see this word, please understand that I use it to refer to something that is beyond my ability to understand well. If you are Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, you may infer your own particular understanding of what this word means. If you are Hindu or Buddhist, you may infer a different understanding of what the word means. Please make no assumptions or pre-judgments about what I might mean by the word, and instead, paint the word with your own beliefs. I think that you’ll enjoy the story more that way.
    In fact, if you are Atheist or Agnostic in your view of the world, this word should work for you as well. Use it to refer to whatever in the universe appears as mystery beyond understanding to you.
    Second, I user gender references interchangeably when referring to this thing I call G-d. This might feel a bit confusing at first, but it is quite intentional. While I apologize for any difficulty this might create for the reader, it is an important convention that allows me to stay true to the same convictions that lead me to use the term G-d. Again, more on this later in the book.
    Finally, thank you in advance for the indulgence of an open mind as you read this story.

    Then, nearly the last paragraph in the book wraps up a similar message:

    It is my sincere hope that reading this story might help some of those who consider themselves certain to receive the blessing of uncertainty. I truly believe that it is only through humility, respect, and tolerance for the views of others that I can approach Truth. So long as I worship at the alter of certainty, Wisdom will be locked tightly away from me.

    Most of all, best of luck to you Red on your upcoming memoir – I look forward to hearing more about it!

    Neil

  6. If anyone still doubted why this website doesn’t accept religious based material, fiction or non-fiction, here is the perfect example. Neil Hanson’s post on his site regarding my review ably supports my reasoning, as well as that which I’ve stated above. To resort to insults of ethnicity and name? We were just discussing a topic like this on a forum at Goodreads.com. and how some writers behave unprofessionally, school room tactics, which result in this kind of example. http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/635754-should-authors-review-each-other#comment_id_35758287 Judging wrongly, insulting and in a few instances, outright mendacity.

    “A reviewer who calls himself Red Haircrow reviewed the book last week as well, and gave the book only 3 or 4 stars (depending on which review site.) He doesn’t like spiritual books, and readily admits he was probably not the right reviewer for this book…
    …thanks Red Scarecrow for taking the time and energy to review a book that clearly falls outside the realm of the sort of book you enjoy and want to review!”

    My reply:

    “You don’t have to disrespect and insult others simply to hold your own ground. If you do, that shows how shaky your own position is.”
    — Red Haircrow

    For the full post:
    http://neilhanson.com/2011/janette-fuller-review/#comment-160

  7. Wow, do we have a language barrier problem here possibly? I believe you are way off base here Red. The better part of judgement tells me to leave this alone, but it’s important to me to set the record straight. You are accusing me of disrespect and insult, and nothing could be further from the truth.

    I mentioned your review on my site, even though you didn’t give the book a terribly favorable review. I mentioned it in the context that you yourself gave me. You said that you didn’t generally like reading this sort of material or reviewing it. I acknowledged that, and then thanked you more than once for taking the time and energy to review the book anyway – even though it is outside your normal genre.

    Please don’t resort to distortions on this. I have not insulted you or disrespected you. Quite the opposite – I have acknowledged you and your kindness.

    Thank you once again, Red, for taking the time to review this book that falls outside your normal zone of books you like to read. You had many kind things to say in your review, and for those I thank you again.

    Best of luck to you on the release of your upcoming book!

    Neil Hanson

  8. Hey again – after reading the post you left on my website, I now understand why you feel insulted. I got your name wrong when I referenced you, and I made the mistake of not understanding that Red Haircrow is your name, not just a pen name or name you use as an author.

    A completely innocent (though clumsy) mistake on my part. Please forgive me. I will correct the spelling of your name on my site. And again, please accept my apologies, and I ask your forgiveness.

    Best of luck!

    Neil

    • I was surprised by the comment and tone, but I was not personally offended. Thank you for the correction yet I found it quite interesting you chose to use mockery both in your post at your website, and it was your first response here as well: “Language barrier? Way off base. Distortion, etc.” And I’ll understand if you “leave it alone.” My trademark quote is “I welcome questions. I hate assumptions.” I make reply as long as I believe it serves a point, but following this… I’ve said what I needed to say regarding this issue.

      This continues to be case in point of why I do not accept certain material. Not because I don’t read it at some time personally, but the mentality of too many of the individuals tend towards judging others first in an ethnocentric way and that’s their initial response: to believe their own way, thoughts are inherently the correct one and the other person obviously has gotten something wrong. I speak and understand English as well as you do.

      My guidelines, my requirements and my “About Me” section are all there for a reason. Even from the very first, if you’d read those, as suggested, you would have known not to mock someone’s name just because you assumed it was made up. And since you had no typo’s in your post and had written it correctly before, ending your comment with “Red Scarecrow” after you said I was afraid to read religious material because I didn’t like it? If you choose to say it was a complete mistake on your part, okay.

      And to completely clarify for you: Flying With Red Haircrow is a professional site that accepts requests from those who meet the requirements and guidelines. It is not about like or dislike. Reviews for books I personally like/dislike, read and self-purchased are on my personal website.

  9. Pingback: The Best Of: “Messages from ‘Hell’” Reviews Posted or Declined, etc. | Flying With Red Haircrow

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