Readers are well aware of the power of books, and the influence they have over our perspectives, relationships and emotions. Sometimes though, we stumble upon a book that completely warps our sense of the world, and shakes the very foundation we've grounded all of our principles on. You'll be happy to know that New Self, New World by Philip Shepherd is one of those books.
The nearly 500 page tome is a profoundly poetic portrait of our culture's tendency to disregard the body as anything meaningful, and reside solely in our heads, where the 'known self' lies. The 'known self' is essentially an idea of who we know ourselves to be, or a duplicate we use to identify ourselves. In order to be truly present, we have to step outside of our ability to know things, because the present is essentially unknown.
The book is divided up into several parts, but really, every sentence is its own tale. Shepherd delves into how mythical stories can represent our disconnectedness with the body when, for instance, the hero in a myth leaves a society with rules and regulations to explore something outside of the realm of order to defeat a tyrant. The tyrant is described as similar to the head, something that is isolated from nature and the world, who refuses to connect. The hero on the other hand, is described as someone who seeks out the tyrant, in much the way we seek openness with the world and connectedness with the unknowable felt self. In the end, the hero defeats the tyrant, and returns to society in order to share his heroic journey, and to impart what he has learned onto the rigidity of society.
In case that section sort of blew your mind a bit, what it all boils down to is how we cannot exist without relationship. If you think about it, people in isolation go insane. That's not a fluke.
Shepherd also occasionally intersperses different activities throughout the book, which help the reader become somewhat more connected with the body, and out of the internal monologue of the head. There is also a very interesting portion of the book dedicated to history, and how we became so completely obsessed with dominance and ignorance of the body the moment we dominated the horse, that it “created a symbol that characterized the hetabrain atop the dumb beast of the body, and gave expression to a new kind of human that is with us still.”
I can safely say I emerged from this book an awakened soul. That sounds deep, but having blogged about this book numerously throughout my experience with it, I now see the world in a completely different light. I 'saw the light' so to speak, and I now see the aliveness in everything. New Self, New World has taught me that the world is just as aware of me as I am of it, and that I am never alone. It's a book to be consumed slowly and thoughtfully, and just as I was hoping for a smaller version of it to maybe carry around in my purse...it turns out Shepherd is actually in the process of writing one now. He's started an Indiegogo campaign to help him finish it. I personally can't wait.
Check it out if you will, and be open to being changed.