Parkinson’s cogent, often inspiring essays emphasize both the pragmatic advice of Laozi, especially in terms of the individual’s “practicalities of attitude, behavior, and self-realization,” and also societal and cosmic concerns, digging into contemporary matters like the decline of organized religion (“Laozi tells us that true wisdom arises from internal reflection and reconciliation of the inner self”) and the power of corporations, governments, and other organizations. Parkinson holds to Daoist principles of moderation and the path of the greater good—a path organizations easily stray from, as they’re “mindless and amoral vehicles” for the ideas of their strongest constituent members.
Parkinson argues that the Dao applies to contemporary life, though he acknowledges gulfs of language and culture separating us from the author he affectionately calls throughout “the old boy.” He writes clear, crisp, engaging prose that boils the teachings down to essences. But accessibility doesn’t mean simplicity, as Parkinson contemplates a host of thinkers and evidence while exploring riddles like “the paradoxical freedom that comes when one is able to recognize and accept one’s own limitations.”
Takeaway: Clear, cogent exploration of the Dao de Jing’s meaning in our lives today.
Comparable Titles: Zhongxian Wu’s Vital Breath of the Dao, Sam Crane’s Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Dao.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A
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