Personal Wisdom sounds like the sort of book that you may use to line your recliner or place in your bathroom for a tidbit of self-help sound bites when you have nothing better to read, at best; and at worst, it sounds like a thrift store manuscript which you could use to line a birdcage. And "Making Sense of You, Others and the Meaning of Life" evokes memories of the type of hype you want to try to avoid because it can't possibly live up to its claims. But I can tell you that this book is neither of these things.
Dr. Robert Brown, in Personal Wisdom, does an exemplary job of taking only the most essential of his thoughts and condensing them into this sweet honey that is very gentle as it hits the ear. It is truly remarkable how disarming his writing style is; it is a healthy mixture of vast intelligence and humility. I think that is what is most surprising about this book; each thought came so easily. Brown has a serious gift for taking lofty thoughts and refining them down to bite-sized bits of wisdom without losing any of the meaning that they contain.
This book begins with a beautiful allegory set in a forest. It is about the lofty oak tree and its existence. Its youth is spent silently enjoying the world around it, growing tall, and being praised by the rest of the inhabitants of the forest. Its middle age is spent considering the forest it lives in and envying its neighbors with their various freedoms that the oak has never enjoyed. Its old age is spent regretting some of the choices that could have been made, should have been made, or should not have been made. But at the end of its life, all in all, it was 500 years well spent. But then Brown slams on the brakes and reminds us that we don't have 500 years to loiter around the periphery, we have to jump in!
And that is what Dr. Brown spends the rest of his book detailing, how to jump in. He gently and intelligently takes the reader step-by-step down the "yellow brick road" that ends in a fulfilling life. Each chapter flows very naturally from the previous and makes the read a very comfortable one.
Now, it should be said that this genre is not for everyone. Not many can handle the harsh reality of who they are, especially when they are hearing it from a stranger, let alone spending the time to read it. This genre is not for everyone, but this book is. When it comes to writing, Brown is truly refreshing. He is one of the few authors I have ever read that I began to respect almost instantly and had an honest desire by whom to be corrected and gently directed. There is no need to read this book in one sitting either. Personal Wisdom is written in such a way that its tasty morsels can be consumed in whatever amount that you can commit to at any given time.
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