Friday, 15 February 2008
Review: The Inner Life by Thomas a Kempis
This is the second book I (randomly) picked to read out of the Penguin Great Ideas Series. It's number 4 in the list and part of series one (the red series).
Thomas a Kempis and I were never going to see completely eye to eye. He was a deeply religious Renaissance Catholic monk and I am... not. Ultimately I found Kempis' exhortations to renounce all worldly life for quiet religious devotion irrelevant and repetitive. (Particularly the repetitve). This is perhaps uncharitable; apparently 'The Inner Life' is actually an excerpt of Kempis' more well-known text 'The Imitation of Christ" (see reviews at Amazon for more info). Perhaps the whole book would be more satisfying - it was never meant to be a literary masterpiece, but a text to offer religious instruction to monks. However, I'm not religious, not looking to devote my life to Christ, and therefore not going to read the extended version.
In its favour, some of Kempis' views (that we should not worry about gossip, arguments, and what other people say about you or what they do) do have an appealing zen-like quality and are probably an ideal that is worth aiming for. Like Marco Polo before it, this has been disappointing as it is not a complete book in itself. I'm hoping that my next (random) choice will be a full text and a great idea.