Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Conversations with Calliope- Staying Afloat

(Nantucket Lighthouse)

CALLIOPE: Good morning Joe. I missed you yesterday.
JOE: Sorry about that. I had some web difficulty I was unable to resolved before I left for the day's activities.
CALLIOPE: I see. Glad to have you back. What's new.
JOE: Beth Cahaney's review of my book Navigating Life just arrived.
CALLIOPE: I would like to see it.
JOE: I thought you might. Here goes:

A review of Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections For the Voyage by Joseph G. Langen

Psychologist and author Joseph Langen discusses life and relationships in his latest book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections For the Voyage. People and places in western New York figure prominently in the book, and as a native of the area, I am amazed at his insight as he examines lives well lived, including his own. Langen reflects on his years of practice, his life in a monastery, and his own spiritual journey in his attempt to help us navigate our lives.

The book is a deceptively easy read, many of the essays having appeared in his weekly newspaper column. They are arranged in chapters with titles such as “Appreciating Life around Us” and “Making Sense of Society.” Within the chapters are essays, each followed by Langen’s Life Lab Lessons. While Langen captivates us with each well written essay, his Life Lab Lessons force us to confront our own lives in reaction to the essay. It’s no easy task as Langen directs us, for example, at the end of “The Power of Will” to list our most important values and then to list the most important values of a person with whom we are in conflict. Listing my most important values—what a good idea, yet one I hadn’t attempted since my sophomore year in high school when my all-time favorite teacher encouraged me to do that very thing as I tried to understand a difficult novel. Perhaps I should have listed my values more than once every fifty years, but I thank Langen for exhorting me to do so.

Langen uses an excellent format for each of his essays. He begins with a quote from an intellectual or spiritual leader or perhaps an anonymous source or even a sports or media personality, then his own well chosen words, often with reference to noted scholars, then wrap up with the Life Lab Lessons. Imagine my joy to find some of my favorite writers imbedded in Langen’s essays: John Eudes Bamberger, Karen Armstrong, Teilhard de Chardin. But perhaps my greatest joy is to read about everyday folks in Langen’s work, folks such as Carol Gomborone and her aunt, Lucille Rider, and to see Joe Langen’s love come shining through. That is the true measure of a life well lived and one from which we can learn to appreciate our own lives.

Elizabeth Cahaney, Professor of Humanities
Elizabethtown Community and Technical College

CALLIOPE: Great review. Thanks for sharing it.
JOE: Glad you liked it. Talk with you tomorrow.

No comments: