by Gary ‘Z’ McGee, Staff Writer | Waking Times
“You want weapons? Go to a library. Books are the best weapons in the world.” –Doctor Who
Books have a way of capturing us that movies and documentaries simply cannot compare to. The worst thing you can do is limit yourself to reading only a few books. The best thing you can do is find out what you’re interested in and get out there and read up on the subject. You’ll find that your interests will grow along with your knowledge, to the point that you’ll discover the deliciously heavy weight of knowing that you know nothing. If you’re looking for books that will challenge you mind body and soul, and cause you to see the world in new ways, look no further than the following seven books (just kidding, look further).
“With this book I have given mankind the greatest present that has ever been made to it so far. This book, with a voice bridging centuries, is not only the highest book there is, the book that is truly characterized by the air of the heights—the whole fact of man lies beneath it at a tremendous distance—it is also the deepest, born out of the innermost wealth of truth, an inexhaustible well to which no pail descends without coming up again filled with gold and goodness.” –Friedrich Nietzsche
Thus Spoke Zarathustra has something terribly well-crafted about it, and indeed – sit venia verbo – it is Nietzsche’s magnum opus. The books single task and raison d’etre consists in turning the human soul inside out. And it succeeds, but only if the reader is open enough to receive it. It has everything from the death of God to the overcoming of man through the prophecy of the Übermensch to the “eternal recurrence of the same.” It possesses a unique experimental style, sang in “dithyrambs” narrated by Zarathustra. It is neither prose nor poetry but it is both somehow, breaking all literary rules but coming out smelling like a rose someone laid on God’s own grave. Nietzsche’s elegant and far-reaching conclusion is that while autonomy and self-overcoming are not easily attained, their absence proves catastrophic to both the individual and culture, as the embittered conformists seek new victims on whom to psychologically pillage with their ideals and avenge their psychic wounds born out of the fear of being an insecure being in an unforgiving universe.
“Danger: real probability of the awakening of terror and dread, from which there will be no turning back.” –Ernest Becker
Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction in 1974, The Denial of Death builds on the works of Søren Kierkegaard, Sigmund Freud, and Otto Rank. Throughout the book Becker’s voice is a chokehold of higher reason. He grabs us by the throat and brings us back down to earth, where he reveals how we are nothing more than insecure, fallible creatures “who need continued affirmation of our powers.” But it is through this continued affirmation where we discover our “symbolic self,” which we use to transcend the limits of our insignificance. This leads to our embarking on an “immortality project,” in which we become part of something we feel will last forever, beyond death. It is at this point that we transcend the dilemma of mortality through heroism. Becker speaks like his own tongue was a hero of a thousand faces itself, lashing like existential whips at the heart of the human condition. He forces our head over the edge of the abyss, challenging us to be heroically creative and responsible with bringing meaning, purpose, and significance to the grand scheme of our lives.