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New Book Encourages Stressed-Out Nation To ‘Think Small’
An array of recent studies prove that Americans are more stressed out than ever. Simply glancing at a newspaper provides ample reason why so many people find it impossible to relax these days. Sleep-deprived, overtaxed by the burdens of career and family, and increasingly turning to less-than-healthy stress relievers such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, and so-called "happy ending" massages, we are all at risk of a collective burn-out.
In various cultures throughout history, when the underpinnings of society teetered under the weight of widespread malaise, people have turned to the sages for comfort. This universal quest for some type of psychological balm to soothe an indefinable but crippling pain is as old as time itself.
One author has addressed our current problem directly in a new book, and the results are as unexpectedly humorous as they are enlightening. Fables From the Mud by Erik Quisling (Borderlands Press, $9.95) offers readers a badly-needed dose of perspective in these troubling times. Along with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, this may be the only philosophy book you'll ever need to navigate the existential quandaries of life in the 21stcentury.
Fables From the Mud can be read in less than 30 minutes, but its impact continues to deepen with time and repeated readings. By focusing on the trials and tribulations of three humble creatures - a clam, an ant, and a worm - Quisling deftly draws comparisons to the most pressing human concerns. The style of the book is deceptively simple, allowing readers to digest one morsel of wisdom at a time.
The book offers three distinct but related tales, each with its own lesson. "The Angry Clam" introduces us to a mollusk who is unable to find any substantive meaning in a seemingly senseless universe. "Adventures of Glen in My Stone Garden" takes us into the mindset of a misanthropic ant named Glen who struggles to externalize his inner demons. "Grant's Tomb" invites us to consider the angst of an over-the-hill warrior worm named General Weems who is staring into the abyss of his own self-immolation.
What makes the book such a valuable addition to the canon of philosophical literature is the book's liberal use of humor to convey complex ideas. Quisling clearly understands the therapeutic value of laughter, particularly when it accompanies a cathartic insight that can change one's view of the world. When we think small, grand new vistas of insight reveal themselves with a knowing chuckle.
Ultimately, we come to realize that the struggles this trio of creatures face are only "small" when viewed from a human perspective. While we may laugh at General Weems' futile attempt to reclaim his lost glory, we also empathize with a universal need to reconnect with the best within ourselves. And we realize how trivial our own problems must seem from a more elevated perspective.
By taking readers so close to the three "tiny giants" who populate Fables from the Mud, Quisling allows us to step back from our lives and see them in a new light. No single book can be expected to act as a panacea, magically erasing such a huge psychological dilemma as the one our serotonin-depleted nation now faces. But all noble journeys begin with a single step, and on your own road to enhanced inner peace, Fables From the Mud is a great place to start.
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