Monday, October 10, 2016

Book Review: Stop Living in This Land

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Stop Living in This Land

Author: Woo Myung

Date: 2012

Publisher: Cham

ISBN: 978-0-9849124-0-7

Length: 377 pages plus 2-page directory

Illustrations: line drawings and calligraphy by the author

Quote: “[W]hen man becomes complete, he will transcend religion, and all schools of thought…it will thus become possible for the world to become a place where all are one.”

This is a long, somewhat repetitious book, intended to affect the committed reader like a practice of meditation and chanting. Woo Myung is Korean, more Buddhist than anything else, although this exposition of his philosophy pays tribute to Jesus and recognizes “Allah” as a name for God. His philosophy can thus be summarized as a sort of New Age syncretism, the essence of which is that the material world around us is an illusion and a “spiritual” world, represented by “the empty sky,” is really real.

As regular readers may guess, I don’t agree with him. Christians do believe that “the gift of God is eternal life,” and that what we can perceive of eternity, if anything, is eternal “spiritual” values that pass through this world—perhaps the way lines pass through points is a serviceable analogy. Christians are not taught (although some probably do believe) that it follows that we should, or can, stop using our minds and try to “spiritualize” away our sense and judgment. Our eternity is not opposed to time; it is the whole of which time is part. Our “resurrected bodies/selves” are to our physical bodies/selves as a tree is to its seed. Our “eternal home” is to our Earth as “things made as new.” Christianity is certainly a spiritual path, but not an ethereal one.

To disagree with books or writers is not, or should not be, to judge them valueless. For Buddhists, the philosophy of Woo Myung has value. Whether it has as much value as your philosophy or mine, only God can judge.

For scholars and historians, Woo Myung’s “Maum Meditation” has its place in religious history, and here it is explained in a simple, understandable way with a directory of meditation centers at the back of the book.

Aesthetically, too, Stop Living in This Land has some value. Woo Myung’s childlike or cartoonlike drawings show a certain apparently undeveloped talent, a sense of artistic beauty that seems more fully realized in his calligraphies. A Chinese calligraphy adorns the dust jacket; other Chinese and Korean calligraphies, along with the simple drawings, decorate the white space in the book in a subtle way. (In a bad light you might overlook the pale brown ink in which these decorations appear above or below the black type.) 

So...I can't call it a Christian book (hence this review is not appearing on a Sunday) but it is a Fair Trade Book. To buy it here, send $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to either address at the bottom of the screen, and from this we'll send $1 to Woo Myung or a charity of his choice.