The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Hardcover)
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One to five stars; everything is rated these days. It goes beyond products. You can rate your professor, your doctor, the medicine you take, the park you visit or even the mountain pass you drive over. According to Google Reviews, Satus Pass is a 4.1 star experience. Snoqualmie—4.4. Five-star rankings are arbitrary, but often exhibit a more outsized influence on our lives than we would like. Small business owners for example, need to monitor Google and Yelp carefully, as a single one-star review can weigh heavier than a dozen five-star reviews. Rankings matter, but who can measure what they really mean? What is the tangible difference between a restaurant pulling a 4.4 star average and another with a 4.7?
It’s the absurdity of rating everything in our lives that serves as the linchpin of John Green’s latest work, “The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human Centered Planet.” Best known for his well-received young adult fiction novels—In 2017 I reviewed his previous book “Turtles All the Way Down” for this column quite favorably—this is Green’s first major foray into adult non-fiction. Across 40 essays, Green reviews—sort of—different aspects of the Anthropocene, the geologic age in which humans saw their rise, and likely fall. It’s quite a potpourri of topics, including Indianapolis (4 out of 5 stars), plague (1/5), air-conditioning (3/5), Canada geese (2/5), and the teddy bear (2.5/5). If it seems like Green is trying a bit too hard to be clever and meta here, that’s because he probably is. One of his biggest strengths is arguably how self-aware he is in his writing, which has made for some sublime genre-bending fiction over the years, but that same self-awareness can hinder him, too.
In the end, the essays aren’t really “reviews” because they rarely stay focused on the merits of the subject at hand. They serve as a jumping off point for Green’s musings about our planet, the beauty and sorrow of living here, and the difficulties of the current global moment we find ourselves collectively enduring as best we can. It makes me wonder if the 5-star gimmick was really necessary at all? Green is famous enough that a collection of his essays would sell well enough without this contrivance.
As for the reviews/essays themselves, I found them a bit hit or miss. Some I found incredibly poignant and touching, such as his essays on “Halley’s Comet” and “Googling Strangers,” while others failed to leave an impression on me. But such is the nature of the essay collection, different essays will speak to different readers.
If the five-star rating does mean anything, the book seems to be speaking to people. Reviews of “The Anthropocene Reviewed” average 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon (n = 2,265 as of writing), and 4.5 out 5 on Goodreads (n = 12,809), and a #1 place on the New York Times Bestseller List. Perhaps it will speak to you.
As for my personal rating of “The Anthropocene Reviewed,” I’ll abstain. Not everything needs to be placed on a five-star scale.— JT Menard
For the first time ever, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate His Holiness the Dalai Lama addresses children directly, sharing lessons of peace and compassion, told through stories of his own childhood.
One of today's most inspiring world leaders was once an ordinary child named Lhamo Thondup. In a small village in Tibet, his mother was his first great teacher of compassion. In everyday moments from his childhood, young readers begin to see that important lessons are all around us, and that they, too, can grow to truly understand them.
With simple, powerful text, the Dalai Lama shares the universalist teachings of treating one another with compassion, which Bao Luu illustrates beautifully in vibrant color. In an increasingly confusing world, The Seed of Compassion offers guidance and encouragement on how we all might bring more kindness to it.
About the Author
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. He is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and of Tibetan Buddhism. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and the US Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. Born in 1935 to a poor farming family, he was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama. He has been a passionate advocate for a secular universal approach to cultivating fundamental human values. The Dalai Lama travels extensively, promoting kindness and compassion, interfaith understanding, respect for the environment, and, above all, world peace.
Bao Luu was born in Vietnam and currently lives in the United States. As an artist, he focuses on color and texture in his unique illustrations. He is honored to be illustrating The Seed of Compassion. Learn more at https://www.behance.net/baoluu.