Top critical review
Hollow platitudes mixed with white bread philosophy
Reviewed in the United States on January 23, 2019
The author opens with a sweeping vision:
“One day, our children will learn about love at school…One day, every society on our planet will honor and celebrate the importance of love…Leaders who demonstrate love-based values, like service and compassion…Economists will teach the world that money does not work without love. They will offer us love-based economic policies that eradicate poverty and hunger and help us to experience real abundance and freedom.”
But what does Holden mean when he uses this term “love”? Is he referring to sex? Or sensual love more broadly? Familial love? The love between friends? The love of God for a creature? In chapter 1, Holden offers his own non definition:
“To know love, you must first accept that love cannot be defined. No amount of words can define love, because love is not just a name.”
So if THE key term cannot (or will not) be defined, what is this book even about? In the end, this book is little more than empty platitudes, food without nutritional value like white bread. The author encourages the reader to recognize that “your eternal loveliness has no end” and to overcome the “learned self”…presumably by learning the ideas that he teaches.
What Holden is presenting seems to be a mishmash of eastern ideas, sprinkled with statements that appear to reference the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition. He takes the nicest-sounding phrases from these theologically opposed traditions, but lacks any of the truly challenging (but meaningful and practical) practical enjoinders that virtually any real, serious religion demands.
In the end, Holden seems to simply be suggesting that we feel more emotionally positive and be kinder. But there isn’t any practical, philosophical or theological meat to his ideas; reading this is like eating cotton candy…it looks nice and tastes good, but leaves you empty and malnourished. This flavor of philosophy demands little of the reader, but also offers little of substance.
For those truly interested in the spiritual journey, in learning what love really is (and isn’t), and how it is reconciled with the practical realities of life and our tendency toward being selfish jerks, try almost anything by C.S. Lewis, but dozen or so pages of chapter 3 of The Problem of Pain has more wisdom on these matters than the 234 pages of Holden’s empty book.