Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Review: Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years by Thomas Mallon

Finale: A Novel of the Reagan YearsFinale: A Novel of the Reagan Years by Thomas Mallon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a general preference, I prefer reading non-fiction (history, biographies etc.) Actual events, motivations and personalities tend to be more fascinating and illuminating than what might be imagined or created. Finale certainly had an interesting cast of characters: Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Don Regan, Pamela Harriman, Margaret Thatcher in my own personal favorite, the witty and cynical Christopher Hitchens. I found Hitchens characterization to be the most interesting and fun of all.

The book is certainly gossipy – – some, maybe most of it has some merit or truth. I don't think that the book shows Reagan in a favorable light, after all, most of the events described happen in the latter part of his second term. There is some question as to the mental and intellectual capabilities of Reagan given his age. The book is not flattering to Nancy Reagan either – – though I do give her credit for her loyalty and love for her husband.

There are stories within stories, some interesting, some not. I started off the book with great enthusiasm and interest but that waned as I got farther within the book. I may check out the author's book on Watergate. This is the type of book that you might get on loan from a library to read.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson (Notes)

"We are not  pre-destined to reach any goal, nor are we answerable to any power but our own. Only wisdom based on self understanding, not piety, will save us. There will be no redemption for second chance vouchsafed to us from above. We have only this one planet to inhabit and this one meaning to unfold.

Human existence may be simpler than we thought. There is no predestination, no unfathomable mystery of life. Demons in God's do not provide for our allegiance. Instead, we are self-made, independent, alone, and fragile, a biological species adapted to live in a biological world. What counts for long-term survival is intelligent self understanding, based upon a greater independence of thought than that tolerated today even in our most advanced democratic societies.

The brain was made for religion and religion for the human brain. In every second of the believer's conscious life religious belief plays multiple, mostly nurturing roles. All the followers are unified into a vastly extended family, a metaphorical band of brothers and sisters, reliable, obedient to one supreme law, and guaranteed immortality as the benefit of membership.

 Unfortunately a religious group defines itself for most by its creation story, the supernatural narrative that explains how humans came into existence. And this story is also the heart of tribalism. No matter how gentle and high-minded, or subtly explained, the core belief assures its members that God favors them above all others. It teaches that members of other religious worship the wrong gods, use wrong rituals, follow false prophets, and believe fantastic creation stories.

 Religious faith offers enormous psychological benefit to the believers. He gives them an explanation for their existence. It makes them feel loved and protected above the members of every other tribal group. The price imposed by the gods in their priests and more primitive societies is unquestioning belief in submission. Throughout evolutionary time this bargain for the human soul was the only bond with the strength to hold the tribe together in both peace and war.

 Humanity arose as an accident of evolution, a product of random mutation and natural selection. Our species was just one endpoint out of many twists and turns in a single lineage of Old World primates of which today there are several hundred other native species, each a product of its own twists and turns."