The Secret to Everything: How to Live More and Suffer Less
by Neel Burton
Acheron Press

"Are you empowering yourself to fulfill your highest potential, or depriving yourself of opportunities for growth and creating further problems down the line?"

Psychiatrist, philosopher, and educator Burton shares his perception of life's meaning, garnered from numerous, time-honored sources. Is the higher path one that leads us to rigid thinking or one that dispels cherished concepts? Each of the ten chapters begins with the words "How to"—how to see, dream, be religious, be wise, be fearless, live, love, win, party, and think. Gardening and other routine-breaking activities can stimulate readers to see themselves differently. In sleep, through dreams, people absorb new ideas pointing to creative change. Religious attitudes should be based in gratitude for what one has rather than lamenting what one lacks. People can discover fresh capabilities by banishing fear. Life's purpose is something each individual must assign. Love is selflessness. Winning or choosing to lose both bring strength. Partying can dispel self-assigned, rigid roles. To be effective, one's thinking needs to be freed from ego. The secret, Burton stresses, lies not in facts but flexibility. "Know thyself" is the ancient encapsulation.

Burton's broad, well-considered self-help theme is presented pleasantly but firmly, for, as he has observed, it's best to cope with the many problems with which life abounds in advance by preparing oneself with an open, accepting mind and heart. He deftly uses metaphor and myth in contrast to wholly rational viewpoints while also advising logic to counter fantasies based on ego or false premises. Many of the sources cited, both modern and classical, will be familiar. Others, such as a careful parsing of the myth of Narcissus and Echo or the clever comebacks attributed to famous philosophers, will be refreshing and thought-provoking. Suggesting that many philosophies claim a purpose for our lives while never fully defining that purpose, Burton offers gentle guidance for creating one's personal credo that retains the possibility of a fearless, spontaneous experience of the unexpected.

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