Soul Songs: My review


Soul Songs: Reflections of Joy in Everyday Life

 

Author: Heidi Levan

 

 

Each season is distinct and different and carries its own message. Summer brings us bright sunlight, morning mist, warm rain and magnificent greenery and flowers that grace our gardens, florists for bouquets and the wonderful outdoor weddings that everyone enjoys. Fall, my favorite season brings us the colorful songs of the multi-colored flowers that fall from the trees with style and grace and often fly in the air making the world look like a colorful rainbow. The crisp cool air on a sunny day, the long walks you can take before that first snowfall, and the holidays that mark this season make you feel blessed and joyous to be able to appreciate the magnificence of fall and just being alive. Winter has its own roar and its own howl as the snow falls, the rain pours and the ice pellets sting our faces when the hailstorms arrive and yet there is such beauty in that too. A winter white world looks angelic and so peaceful before the snow begins to melt and the world looks a little dirtier. The air is cold, the sun is really not that hot but the sounds of winter energize us when we walk outside in the cold crisp air and fight the urge to go back to bed. Finally, Spring the season that I call the medium or mediator between summer and winter. Spring allows us to once again see the trees begin to bloom, children playing outside, the sleds and sleighs from winter not ready to put away permanently. Spring is the decision maker to decide whether we have nice warm sunny days or the world and the people in it need to appreciate her presence more as she throws in one more snowstorm.

 

Soul Songs is a special book dedicated to the colleagues of the author but also to the seasons and what special gifts they present to us. But, even more the author presents lessons learned at the end of each story that can be used as the basis for discussion groups in schools, study groups, Church groups and for parents to teach children as well as educators Character Education.

 

Let’s begin our journey with summer as the author presents the sun with her sunglasses on to keep out the glare but not the warmth. In each section of the book the author relates stories in her life, which relate to a lesson she wants to impart to readers. Since there are about 30 stories in each section I will focus on just a few and the reader will enjoy reading the rest. The first story that I would like to spotlight is My Father’s Hands. Do you realize just what a gesture with your hands or a handshake can do to make someone feel special? She remembers her father’s hands because in her mind they represented strength and security as my father’s did too. Whenever I went anywhere as a child I always felt safe holding his hand. He was big and strong and to me fearless yet kind and loving. As the author says on page 8: Today, stop for just a moment, and look at your hands. And then touch the hands of someone you love and be grateful for the miracles of common things.” Perfectly said.

 

Refresh Button is the next story that everyone can identify with as the author reminds us that we as people are “the masters of our own tension.” Working can be stressful and finding ways to cope not easy as most people work hard sometimes too hard that your energies are wiped out. So, just like your computers or facebook pages have a refresh button we all need to find a day or even an hour or two to hit our own refresh button and appreciate the simple things that life offers.

 

My favorite thing in the summer when we went away was to pick blueberries with my grandmother. So, it stands to reason that the next story I would love to spotlight would be Blackberry Pie. Imagine having your own blackberry tree in your own backyard. Sometimes as the author states we forget to “live the seasons outside,” and enjoy the world. As the author describes the fun she has baking a blackberry pie. Even sharing her secrets with the reader and how she manages to still create a lopsided pie. Not everything is about perfection. Not everyone can create or make a crust that is perfect so what if she bought the crust but the pie was great and her husband was thrilled.

 

The final two stories that I want to spotlight in this section are Cucumber Sandwiches and Roses to Remember. My mom loved cucumber sandwiches so this story is really special. As the author describes how she loves to eat these sandwiches while sitting outside on the deck she describes her world as “a corner of paradise.” She loves this sandwich but her husband well not really. Next, she discusses how everyone in her family has their own special chair that is there chair at dinner. Sounds right to me. My Dad had his favorite, my mom hers and my sister and I were happy to sit on the floor, at the small table or anywhere that we felt comfortable.

 

This story focuses on that special spot or space that is yours in your own home. Her spot is the left end of the couch. It is hers and hers alone. What’s yours? Mine is the big brown recliner in the living room. My husband loves the couch against the wall. I love what she says as the end of the story: With all the changes around us it is important “ to allow ourselves opportunities to not change.” The most special flower to me is the Rose. I love just one long stem red, white or peach rose. She recalls how her father gave her the first red rose the day she was born. When her father passed away she said she used to buy one every year just to remind herself of how special that first one was and still can be. Do you keep things from the past in a junk drawer or a scrapbook filled with memories? What crazy things did you keep? Read what she has kept over the years and look what she did with all of her thoughts: she is sharing them with all of us.

 

Life goes by so fast that we need to take time to remember the good times. As we move to autumn and our next special stories. Why not begin with Hot, Sweet Coffee.  Autumn is so beautiful and the leaves are amazing and so full of color and brilliance. Even though the sun comes up later the multitude of colors like create a spectrum of red, yellow, pin and the amazing sun that sparkles and lights up the sky and even makes the clouds disappear is what autumn is to me. Walking you take a puff of the cool crisp air and you can see your breath how great is that! Taking life fore granted this simple act of something so vital as breathing can help us to appreciate life. What happens when something bad occurs and you cannot tie your shoe, or your electric goes out as it did for so many last week? What happens when you lose the simple things even for just one day? Gratitude: interesting word with so much meaning. Think about it the next time you complain about something that is really not that vital. Think about all that you have and the simple things in life like water, hot sweet coffee on a cold morning, keys, mail and so much more. As the author says and really quite well: May you find the time in your busy day ahead to remember to say thank you from your heart for the simple pleasures and gifts you receive today. There are so many more stories in this section but I will only showcase two more. Rain Walk and Gratitude Log. Each story has a special thought or lesson we can learn and you will not only smile after reading each one but you will understand just why this book is titled Soul Songs as the stories are told from the heart and soul of this author.

 

Rain Walk: What do you think about when the rain is pouring down and seems like it’s never going to stop? The poor leaves get drenched, some fall off their stems and the world is now a “watery carpet” filled with nature. This story also centers on ego and evil. Discussing these two words in detail you might find the explanations quite compelling. Ego and pride are fragile and she is right when she states that they can be shattered to me as easily as a dropping a glass and shattering it into pieces. The rain is soothing at times and it can wash away the anger and the pain. Finally the story in this section that I really loved the best is Gratitude Log. Think about Christmas and the meaning of the Yule Log. Burning this log is supposed to bring you good fortune for the New Year. So, the author decided to create something so powerful and amazing a Gratitude Log: “with each pinecone they say something they are grateful for.” This log is not about what we want or expect for the future but being thankful for the present. The rest of the stories in this section you need to read for yourself. The final two seasons are winter and spring. Winter brings the roar and howl of the Wind, the Snow and the Sleet so let’s showcase Snowmen. Evergreen trees spread their beauty all the time. As the author describes how she cleaned her house, Christmas music, and a snowman. Some say so what or big deal. But, her snowmen are indoors and placed in a special place for one month. That is really amazing as she tells why receiving these snowmen over the years is special and represents a relationship or chapter in her life.

 

New Beginnings and Snowflakes sum up this section but there are so many more stories as you hear the author’s voice in each one as she shares her special experiences with the reader. As January begins the New Year I guess very few people consider that a New Beginning. Resolutions and promises to lose weight, work out and eat properly are often kept but for some not very long. People with a strong discipline about diet and exercise would be someone like me. Weight loss is hard and keeping it off as I have for five years even harder. But you can do it if you try. I love when she relates how “Dieting is much like seeking a deeper spiritual lifestyle.” How many diet books do you have? How many times have you started a diet and not kept it? I love when she says: I am serene and carrots are my friends. But, on other days she is grateful for the soul that created Chocolate Cake. Personally: I am grateful for the soul that created my favorite food: Oatmeal.

 

Finally Snowflakes is a great story that focuses on how they drift or come down from the heavens and no two are the same. Snow is beautiful when it first falls. The author continues with how we need to deal with our limitations, find the moments in life to be amazed and take one minute and pause and maybe look at something you never noticed before even if it is not so beautiful. Read the last paragraph on page 178 and appreciate life too.

 

The final season is spring. I am just going to tell you which stories I loved the best and you have to read them to find out why. Friendships, Anticipation, Kindness Matters and Whisper are some of the great stories in this section. The seasons each brings its own joys, worries, spirit and each one sings its own Soul Songs. One special book for everyone to learn just to appreciate life.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

 

 

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The Many Faces of Loneliness


Loneliness in Philosophy, Psychology, and Literature B.L. Mijuskovic: Author

 

 

Consider a person locked inside a 6 by 6 jail cell with nowhere to go, no one to talk with and just himself to contemplate his future and every thought. Imagine what would happen if someone came over to the metal bars and attempted to have a conversation with this isolated man. What about someone locked away in a mental institution calling out and screaming hoping for someone to answer but having no idea what he/she would like as a response.  The only thing this person has is the restraints that confine him from self inflicting any injuries and the thoughts running through his head yet not understanding the response that he wants. Isolated by others not by his choice. What about the child at the playground surrounded by other children yet feeling isolated and alone? Stated in the introduction of his book, Ben Mijuskovic states “ Man is social, “political,” that is to say, a communal animal. Without the desire for companionship he becomes progressively less human.” What about the prisoner or the patient all alone? If given the chance or opportunity would they prefer to be alone or with someone else? He continues to write that while man is or senses that he is alone it is not abundantly clear. The author has developed many theories that he has extensively researched in literature, philosophers quoted and psychological reasons states. The mind is fascinating to me and the various levels of thinking and our thought processes although individual to each person the author states that everyone has a certain consciousness, a “Philosophy of mind, which alone can account on various levels, existential, psychological, epistemological, phenomenological, existential, psychological and passional to name a few. He continues by linking the relationship between loneliness in literature and the theory of consciousness.

 

This book draws heavily on the interdisciplinary approach focusing on philosophy, literature and psychology. In chapter one the author wishes to convey the following: an image of man intrinsically alone and irredeemably lost. He continues to state that man is always struggling to escape the solipsistic (The theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified.) prison of his frightening solitude. Second, he will discuss a theory of consciousness that will allow the reader a better insight and understanding of why man is lonely.

 

Author Ben Mijuskovic asks the reader to look long and hard at the definition of loneliness and understand that man and everyone has at sometime suffered from feelings of loneliness which most try to escape but never completely. There are many people that emotionally isolate themselves in a social setting with other people. They might even withdraw into a corner and keep their feelings to themselves. Some will not accept emotional support from anyone. Some feel sad, sullen and shut down completely and refuse to communicate. It is almost like self-imposed isolation or self inflicted loneliness. These people find it hard to connect with others.

 

The author states that a man who is lonely feels “no delight.” He also states within Chapter One that it can be argued that the concept of loneliness is served, and I found this really quite compelling, like the idea of exile. Citing Ovid’s Tristia or Letter from Exile and stating that it can be interpreted as the expression of longing for what most of us want: Family, friends and a country, which was caused by his exile from Rome. He also states and quite succinctly that even if you overcome loneliness for a while you cannot escape or “vanquish” it for long. There are so many pieces of literature cited within this chapter that if I cite them all I would never be able to tell you about the rest. But, when the author states that a salesman whose actions purports that he knows and likes everyone, in the end will come to a startling or harsh realization that he can count on no one. There is much more elaborated on page 7 of Chapter One.

Linking the theme of loneliness within the three disciplines throughout each chapter and weaving in many stories, even going back to the Middle Ages, Roman and Greek Mythology and allowing the reader to know that loneliness is not just a thing of the present. The most compelling reference in literature is his reference to Robinson Crusoe and The History of Robinson and Friday.

 

Chapter 2 focuses on the awareness of loneliness. In simple terms what causes a person, any one of us to have this sense of isolation and make it possible? Referring to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason we learn that Kant’s main purpose or aim is to determine the scope and limits of pure reason. Simply explained he wants to know exactly what reason alone can determine minus the other senses or any other faculties. He expands on this by explaining in detail the two specific distinctions: Priori and posteriori knowledge and between analytic and synthetic judgments and follows with a more detailed explanation.

 

He continues with his definition of the three models of consciousness, which are: the behaviorist, the intentional and the reflexive paradigms of cognitive apprehension. The author continues with the definitions of all three and links it to many great works in literature.  Rather than cite every example I will instead relate which statements that I found compelling and which I agree with. For example on page 28 he states that each of us is alone, is a tragedy. When we try to reach another person, since no one wants to be alone, we often find ourselves in a situation where each person wants to dominate the other and he explains it more in detail on pages 28-30. Chapter Three is titled Loneliness and Time Consciousness followed by Types of Loneliness. He elaborates by referring to an article written by Gotesky which defines the four possible definitions of loneliness: Physical loneliness, loneliness in contrast to loneliness according to Gotesky is a state of mind, third in his analysis defines the state of feeling isolated and finally the fourth aspect of isolation is solitude which he considers a positive. He continues by discussing the main disagreements within his classificatory scheme and his defense of solitude. First he states that loneliness is not avoidable and secondly against Gotseky; who insists that this sense of aloneness was practically nonexistent before the Renaissance. He sites Nicholas Beriiaev, other well-known psychologists and returns to Gotesky with his discussion of friendship in his paper.

 

Chapter five talks about Loneliness and Narcissism and 6 Loneliness and Phenomenology. Chapter 7 focuses on Loneliness and the Possibility of a Private Language where the author discusses in detail the basic motivational and emotional drive in man to try and escape his aloneness, sense of isolation and seeking companionship with other consciousnesses or trying to achieve “ a temporary memory block in which some fact from the recent or remote past is forgotten but later recalled,” referred to in this book as benign forgetfulness. Throughout this chapter he refers to psychologists of loneliness such as Erich Fromm, Clark Moustakas, R.D. Laing and James Howard. As a result of his research and findings in this chapter the author concludes “ man feels himself to be alone, that he is conscious of his isolation before he learns to express this fact in language.” I must add that at the end of each chapter he includes the explanation for each of the footnotes in detail. The final chapter before adding all of the appendices to the book is Loneliness and the Divided Self. Appendix A written by the author alone is titled: Loneliness An Interdisciplinary Approach which includes a discussion of The Psychology and Sociology of Loneliness which I found most interesting. In this appendix the author discusses in children their first phobias related to these situations: darkness and solitude. Children often fear being alone when there is the absence of some person close to them that loved them. Sometimes children will call out when they are in the dark and the response is one that is hurtful, abrupt and unfeeling letting the child know the adult does not want to deal with them or handle their fears. Death is another concept he deals with in this appendix since children are afraid of death and often have trouble as adults do, with a permanent loss. But, he makes an interesting statement: we do not fear death but we fear loneliness. He continues with this throughout this very informative Appendix. The remainder of the Appendices you need to read for yourself. Appendix: Loneliness and Personal Identity and Appendix C titled The Sociology and Psychology of Loneliness and Appendix D where he continues with Kant: Kant’s Reflections on the Unity of Consciousness, Time Consciousness, and the Unconscious. One final statement which refers to Appendix C in this appendix he sums it up quite well when he states that all human beings are lonely, and the desire to avoid isolation constitutes the ultimate motivational drive in human passion, thought and conduct cited from paragraph one page 190.

 

There are many different definitions and experiences that define loneliness within this book. Imagine yourself on an island all alone with no one there but yourself, your thoughts and your mind. What are the determining factors involved in man’s constant confrontation with loneliness? You need to find the answers to this question and explore your own feelings about loneliness, read the book, the research and determine what you agree or disagree with but one thing for sure after reading this book you will definitely have a better understanding of the deeper meaning of this word.

 

This book is great for psychology, philosophy and literature students, professors and anyone who wants to truly understand the meaning of Loneliness and connect them to the three disciplines: Literature, Psychology and Philosophy. Just to let the reader know I really think everyone should read this book and as you can tell from my detailed review I learned a lot and really did like the book.

 

Fran Lewis: reviewer