Category Archives: books

Make Mine Local — with Lots of “Likes”

According to an article in Salon, the American Booksellers Association reported an increase in the number of independent bookstores in the U.S. in the last five years. This is certainly surprising news considering the seemingly increasing popularity of e-books and the convenience and low prices of Amazon.

The article claims that two things are driving the increase in indie bookstores:

  • a desire for authentic local experiences
  • social media marketing

The “local movement” of the last few years has done wonders for our communities. People care about consuming local food and using local services. When local businesses thrive, so do communities. In my own ‘hood, neighbours banded together to form a community association — DECA — that has brought new life to the area by offering incentives to local businesses and by creating and promoting local events like farmers’ markets.

Even big builders have seen the error of creating unwalkable suburban neighbourhoods where driving to large chain stores is the only option for residents.  People want to live near hubs offering something local and unique, and builders now attempt to emulate just that.

As for social media, the Salon article rightly points out that small businesses thrive when their customers create word-of-mouth buzz. Sophisticated consumers don’t trust advertising, but they do trust their friends — real or online — who let them know where the good restaurants are, what pubs have the best craft brews, and which new books they can’t put down.

Smartphones, of course, allow us to find the best stores and restaurants in any ‘hood in which we find ourselves. No longer is there a need to play it safe by sticking to the big chains. A unique small business with great online ratings can be found in seconds.

Authenticity and word of mouth: sounds awfully old-fashioned, doesn’t it?

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Finding Your True Self

I’ve posted before about Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward, which explores the two halves of life, represented by the false self and the true self. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “Is this all there is to life?” then you’ve probably succeeded in creating your false self — which isn’t bad per se, it just doesn’t go far enough — and are ready to seek your true self.

For me, reading Falling Upward was like having a conversation with a wise, beloved friend. The pithy book is over much too soon, however, so I went looking for more.

In Immortal Diamond, Rohr carries on the conversation. The content makes clear that Falling Upward left readers wanting more — more tangibles in the form of explanations and practical guidelines (which are actually not necessary once you’ve discovered your true self). Immortal Diamond describes key concepts, such as the false and true selves, in greater depth than Falling Upward does, and the end matter includes six appendixes (or appendices, if you prefer — the Canadian Oxford lists both as acceptable) replete with diagrams and a list of personal practices to implement.

But these concessions to readers taking preliminary and tentative steps away from their false selves don’t diminish the book one bit. The fact that Rohr felt the need to write a second book on the subject fills one with only comfort and hope that such demand exists.

Any writer who synthesizes the world’s knowledge — as Rohr does — is a must-read. Rohr is a Franciscan priest, but trust me: you need not be religious to benefit from his work. That’s the thing about truth, it’s too big for any one tradition — religious or secular — to contain.

“Healthy religion,” Rohr writes in Immortal Diamond, “should be the most inclusive system of all, making use of every discipline, avenue, and access point for Big Truth.” It is this inclusiveness that, unlike in mere personal therapy, allows the spiritual teacher to identify false problems and wrong frameworks, in effect zeroing in on the big — and it is big — picture.

Ultimately, both Falling Upward and Immortal Diamond are about claiming the good news of the Gospels: you can have life and have it abundantly. That’s right: you can. And no, it has nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth dying on a cross for your sins — at least not in the way you might think, not in the way that many Christian churches would lead you to believe. In fact, there’s nothing to believe here at all. Rather, there’s something for you to experience, and my hunch is that you already know that.

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