- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins Religious - US; Reprint edition (1 June 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780061154270
- ISBN-13: 978-0061154270
- ASIN: 006115427X
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 181 g
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Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, an Autobiography Paperback – 1 Jun 2010
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"Remarkably brief and humbly written for a man of Smith's fame and accomplishment, Tales deals simply with his life and his encounters with the great and the good (Eleanor Roosevelt, D.T. Suzuki, and Frithjof Schuon, to name a few). Highly recommended."--Library Journal
"Tales of Wonder brims with fascinating insights and tidbits."--Boston Globe
Smith is America's best-loved religion tutor.----Jack Miles
My admiration for Huston Smith's work is boundless. With each new book I have been astonished, edified, and greatly heartened by his brilliant mind and heart. He is the wisest, sanest religious scholar of them all, and so wonderfully readable.----Anne Lamott
Huston Smith is the world's ambassador to religions everywhere.----Thomas Moore
"It is the pulse of Smith's humanity that breathes life into Tales of Wonder."--CNN.com
"Smith parts the curtain on his past and says, "Look!" with the enthusiasm of a child--something he has not yet lost at age 90. The result is a joyous romp with a favorite uncle among holy places and mystics--the most interesting of them the author of the book."--Publishers Weekly
In his lush new memoir, the religious scholar Smith dances among the whirling dervishes in Iran, camps with the Aborigines in Australia, shares a chuckle with a gaggle of Masai warriors on the darkening Serengeti plains. Each anecdote reveals Smith's sense of marvel at the strange bounty of the world--Washington Post Book World
Smith has long been our clearest and most radiant explorer of all the world's great religions. Thank heavens for such wisdom, delivered with light and fire!----Pico Iyer
From the Back Cover
Huston Smith, the man who brought the world's religions to the West, was born almost a century ago to missionary parents in China during the perilous rise of the Communist Party. Smith's lifelong spiritual journey brought him face-to-face with many of the people who shaped the twentieth century. His extraordinary travels around the globe have taken him to the world's holiest places, where he has practiced religion with many of the great spiritual leaders of our time.
Smith's life is a story of uncanny synchronicity. He was there for pivotal moments in human history such as the founding of the United Nations and the student uprising at Tiananmen Square. As he traveled the world he encountered thinkers who shaped the twentieth century. He interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt on the radio; invited Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at an all-white university before the March on Washington; shared ideas with Thomas Merton on his last plane ride before Merton's death in Bangkok; and was rescued while lost in the Serengeti by Masai warriors who took him to the compound of world-renowned anthropologists Louis and Mary Leaky.
In search of intellectual and spiritual treasures, Smith traveled to India to meet with Mother Teresa and befriended the Dalai Lama; he studied Zen at the most challenging monastery in Japan; and he hitchhiked through the desert to meet Aldous Huxley, dropped acid with Timothy Leary, and took peyote with a Native American shaman. He climbed Mount Athos, traipsed through the Holy Land, and was the first to study multiphonic chanting by monks in Tibet, which he recorded with Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead. Most important, he shared the world's religions with the Westwriting two bestselling books and serving as the focus of a five-part PBS television series by Bill Moyers.
Huston Smith is a national treasure. His life is an extraordinary adventure, and in his amazing Tales of Wonder, he invites you to come along to explore your own vistas of heart, mind, and soul.
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Unfortunately it failed to live up to my expectation. Smith is obviously a very humble guy, and it seems pretty obvious he's consciously trying to avoid 'blowing his own trumpet'. Unfortunately, if you want to write an interesting autobiography, blowing your own trumpet comes with the territory.
Smith's forays into each of the major religions are given only the most cursory treatment, while domestic and family matters receive far more attention. I would have preferred it the other way round. I bought the book because I wanted to know what he experienced practising zazen in Kyoto for hours and days and weeks and months, and how that compared with his experience as a Sufi or a Hindu, in practical terms.
Smith was introduced to Alan Watts by their mutual friend Aldous Huxley. The occasion elicited what was for me the most interesting sentence in Tales of Wonder, where Huxley described Watts to Smith as a cross between a philosopher and a racetrack operator. Which is quite stunningly (and cuttingly) revealing of both Watts and Huxley.
Alan Watts of course wrote an autobiography called In My Own Way, in which he extravagantly, and without a trace of false modesty, 'blows his own trumpet' from the first page to the last. The contrast between Watts' work and that by Smith couldn't be more stark. It's like comparing a ten-course banquet with egg on toast. There is never a dull moment in In My Own Way, and a few too many in Smith's.
I think a big part of the problem is that Smith was already over 90 and in an assisted living facility when the book was written. Perhaps if he had undertaken to write it 30 years earlier, it might have contained more of the detail I had been expecting when I bought Tales of Wonder.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to discover the world through a person's life that has not only been well-lived, but lived with passion, inspiration and abandon.
On the Trail of Buddhism
Language of the Self - Frithjof Schuon
Transcendent Unity of Religions
One nation Under God - Reuben Snake
Black Elk Speaks
The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith (this was a TV show)
Return to the Spirit - Martin Lings
Sorry I don't have the authors for all of these. Those interested in understanding what inspired Huston Smith may find this list of value. Thank you.
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