Posted in book review, Miscellany

On Philip Pullman’s Republic of Heaven

A great writer of our time is Phillip Pullman in his moment of pleasure.

Great writers are great because they know how to tell entertaining and enduring stories without religious and didactic overtones. Moreover, they are unafraid of speaking their minds without a qualm of conventional belief or sectarian principles. Yesterday, I read an essay called “The Republic of Heaven” from Demon Voices by Philip Pullman, a renowned British best-selling writer whose intelligently tongue in cheek styled narrative raises the dander of the Catholic Church for his acerbic view of the orthodox teaching. With my reading of Candide by Voltaire still fresh in mind, I find Pullman and his philosophy of free thought familiar with that of Voltaire and realize that true intellectuals think among people and live in social companions of public spirits for the good of humanity. Thus, here is my discursive impression of Pullman’s “The Republic of Heaven.”

Pullman urges us to step aside from habit, a banal molded frame of life, to see the world outside the box, which will lead to an immense world of delight, the Republic of Heaven, for we are worthier than we think we know because we are such stuff made of wonder. Pullman’s heroine is Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, who has resisted against the magistrate of grim and gray puritanical ethos that decries an expression of feelings and emotions under religious disciplines. She remonstrates against the cold-hearted Mrs. Reed thus: “You think I have no feelings and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness, but I cannot live so.” Her demand for love stems from her need for it, which is an essential food for the soul that serves a purpose and pique for life. This sense of love so wanting in Jane cannot be quelled by false optimism that such distress is the best for the best of all possible world. On the contrary, it is an outcry of the soul desirous of warm and soft human touch that thrills the heart and invigorates the mind. Human beings cannot live by Reason alone, forced to utilize when the right of five senses is forfeited and bound by misconceived religious concepts and false moral measures.

The founder of Logotherapy, the third Viennese school of psychotherapy, Viktor E. Frankl, witnessed a learned Jewish woman in his concentration camp killing herself despite daily recitation of wise sayings of the Torah supposedly being a consolation. Frankl affirms that we humans cannot live without the joy of life, that is, an appreciation of pleasure to the senses because otherwise, we will degenerate to a provisional being living day to day like prisoners of dreary dungeons in the darkness of hopelessness. Pullman agrees with Franklin the creative and experiential values of pleasure that keep a journey to live a purposeful and meaningful life.

The creation and experience of art spark the joy of moments that can be synonymous with a meaning of happiness in life. Some find consolation in religion, but it does not give them whys to live for, nor kindness to show hows. Pullman’s concept of the Republic of Heaven comes to a head prominently when we are stranded in the chaos of existential vacuum, the kind of which the loyal and conscientious butler Stevens felt when he lost his faith in his idealized employer in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. However, if Stevens pursued his love for Miss Kenton and appreciated the pleasure of love he consciously denied, he would not have felt the sudden void in his life. The sense of delight in the physical world is the essence of the Republic of Heaven that he and we are conditioned to ignore. The point of Pullman’s philosophy is that we are too serious about the pleasure our physical world provides. And it’s not a chemical-induced euphoria for escape from the world but a new attitude toward our perspectives of it. Elenore Roosevelt also knew how to become a citizen of the Republic, thus: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I should try that.

Posted in Miscellany, Novellas

Loveliness blooms in Logotheraphy


A thing of beauty is a joy to them. Its loveliness increases. It never passes into nothingness. Oscar Wilde, who extolled physical beauty as a form of virtue manifested in a physical form, once flamboyantly remarked: “Crying is for plain women. Pretty women go shopping.”  Although Seraphina Rabitte and Mathilda Beare demur at such uncharitable notion of meritocracy of women’s appearance, they love visiting beauty stores in a way that little children love going to candy stores (or toy stores to be more realistic these days). For the ladies like to keep themselves prim and proper in the belief that presentable appearance (not a physical symmetry per se) indicates how one takes cares of herself by realizing her creative, attitudinal and experiential values in everyday life.


The belief is grounded in Logotheraphy, one of the three Viennese School of Psychotherapy founded by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, a neurologist, thinker, psychiatrist, but above all, a remarkable human being who endured personal experiences of Promethean hardships and suffering in Nazi concentration camps and conquered them in triumph of will to meaning. Fashionable and knowledgeable Matilda and Seraphina are students of Logotheraphy, the theory that human nature is motivated by search for a life purpose that is unique to each individual. Unlike other schools of psychotherapy and many other subdivisions thereof, Logotheraphy encompasses a wide scope of the humanities and of course, neuroscience, making it a brilliant multidisciplinary school of thought. In fact, it is a paradigm of the consilience of the knowledge of the humanities and that of science. So, in the context of regarding Logotheraphy, the fashionable ladies’ attitudes toward appearance betokens their ways of preventing noogenic (existential) frustration by engaging themselves in activities to dispel a hint of depression or inertia from their minds, even if it means only going to shopping.

img_0601So, you see it isn’t a symptom of conspicuous consumption as a result of our hyper industrialized social environment that Matilda and Seraphina like pampering themselves with cosmetics. Besides, who can blame them for having none other than a woman’s reason? Didn’t Queen Elizabeth also proclaim herself to have a lion’s heart in a woman’s hide? Also, did the Queen not show fierce attention to fairness herself by putting the most fashionable make-up and dresses and hairstyles of her time? Well, these modern ladies are no less different them from their loyal member of sisterhood in the race of Humankind. In fact, Matilda and Seraphina have aristocratic bearings in appearance and manners due to their fine upbringing and sweetness of the mind by nature, so whenever they go, they give admirable impressions on people whom they encounter. They are the paragon of a virtuous woman as John Milton extolled in Paradise Lost: “Those graceful act, those thousand decencies that flow from all her actions and words.”

Author’s Note: Many thanks to the attendants at the Cosmetic Company Store in Camarillo Premium Outlets who kindly permitted me to take pictures in their store. 

Posted in book review

Live to Tell: ‘Hold the Sun in Your Hands: The Erika Jacoby Story’

Hold the Sun in Your Hands: The Erika Jacoby Story from Cheri Gaulke on Vimeo.

Great Philosopher Spinoza advised the mankind of how to endure suffering in days of yore: “Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.” The essence of this suprameaning of emotional suffering, which Spinoza also poetically termed Amore Feti (Love of Fate), is to endure what you can’t change but to accept it as it is, for there is a meaning to it in the dark night of the soul.  In the terrible ordeal of the tormented soul, one has two choices to make: to yield to the force of deception calling for total abandonment of hope or to force oneself to turn to the voice of hope to sustain strength of the heart. The sovereignty of humanness is manifested by this holy office of selecting the spiritual choice in the darkest hour of the soul in the deepest valley of the abyss. “Hold the Sun in Your Hands: The story of Erika Jacoby”, a short documentary produced by Harvard Westlake-School, is one such tale of a survivor from the atrocity of moral and physical turpitude as a young child at Auschwitz during World War II.

A curious alchemy of illustrative animation and neorealist documentary delivers a momentum of pathos without elaborately scripted lines or special effects in the most powerfully elliptical way, which adds to the authority of truth that the story itself owns. Ms. Jacoby’s straightforward narration without a prolix litany of her woeful past is felt through the heart of the viewer, and it communicates to the mind of the viewer her smothered traumatic experience at Auschwitz, where she had to witness the death of her beloved and the enormity of evil reincarnate in the Nazis’ mass killing of the Jews and the violence against humanity through the eyes of a young girl.  Accordingly, the film is seen in the perspective of a young child whose innocence betrays ingenuousness of the story and thus delivers the profoundness of such experience that sublimates it into the highest form of Art in the context of regarding Da Vinci’s aphorism of “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

This short documentary has chimed the hearts of thousands, including those judges at the Cannes Film Festival, which is one of the most highly regarded film festival (note that it’s not an “award” ceremony where only gowns and jewelry and tuxedos and fake smiles are visible.) in the world. It will be shown at the American Pavilion at Cannes this month as part of a series on young, emerging film makers, one of whom includes Ian Kim, who is son of Mr. Harry Kim, a corporate lawyer at a law firm I am privileged to work. The creators of this documentary will appear on stage at Cannes, ergo it will be a festivity of creation, a festivity of humanity. Above all, the fruit of this film is a triumph of human will that rose above the carnage of war and the degradation of dignity and a manifestation of meaning of life, will to meaning, freedom of will as also corroborated by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, founder of Logotheraphy and also a survivor of five concentration camps during World War II. Ms. Jacoby shows us what it means to have hope as long as she lives. Dum Spiro, Spero. This documentary will strike the highest notes of your heartstrings.


Posted in book review

Time to Make the Donuts by William Rosenberg

Time to Make the DonutsTime to Make the Donuts by William Rosenberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Before Starbucks claimed a monopoly on franchised coffee-houses around the world, Dunkin Donuts had been arguably one of the most popular American food service franchises in the States as well as other countries. With its signatory Munchkins and famous slogan of “American runs on Dunkin” presented by Super Mario-look alike Fred the Baker (although he retired from the public in the late 90s), the famous coffeehouse brand has made its mark on the American urban culture thanks to its straight-talking, no-nonsense founder William Rosenberg who drew up his case history of being a successful entrepreneur against personal all odds in this simple but admirable memoir written during his last days of life while succumbed to a cancer.

Rosenberg’s business philosophy of what works and what does not in business to share with the public forms the basis of this book whose inception was first conceived by encouragement of Mario Puzo, the author of The Godfather in the 60s. Straightforward and enterprising he was, Rosenberg’s sharing of his own experiences with the reader for altruistic motive without a sense of entrepreneurial machismo is traceable in every chapter. What he lacked in formal educational background because he had dropped out of school at age fourteen in the height of the Great Depression in 1930, was compensated by the simple but timeless tenets of achievements: diligence, persistence, determination, risk-taking, diligence, innovation, vision, and passion. Surely, all of the aforesaid seems bromidic, but oftentimes, it is these simple elements of life that we oversee as trifle and insignificant without pondering over Leonardo Da Vinci’s truthful adage: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

In fact, there are parallels that the reader can make between Rosenberg’s elements of success and the three values for meaningful life in Logotherapy, the third Viennese school of psychotherapy established by the great Viktor E. Frankl whose experience in Auschwitz was a testament to its veracity and validity of Logotherapy, which is to help us find a meaning of life by freedom of will and will to meaning. Throughout the book, Rosenberg emphasizes that it is what we do with the challenges that determine our failure of success because learning from errors is the sine qua non of success. Whatever the circumstances may be, a person can find a way to succeed, and it is attitude that makes it possible. Having a good-hearted but violent-tempered father did not stop him from going out of his way and establishing world famous Dunkin Donuts. This forthright attitude links to attitudinal value of Logotherapy signifying our triumph over biological, social, and cultural inhibitions during difficult times with a discovery of meaning of suffering by the way in which we respond to. That is, how we respond to challenges will make a heaven out of hell, a hell out of heaven.

Also, a sense of humor is a must-have for taking us a long way to succeed in life. “Work hard, play hard,” was Rosenberg’s mantra. Yet to put it lightly is to miss the gist of the meaning; humor is a prerogative of human that can help us take on a different view of life in a light-hearted way, so that we can be soundly assured that unpleasant things we may be going through are not everlasting and that they are occurring because there is a meaning to them. This, in fact, also relates to humor as a vehicle to turn our backs against emotional distress in life that may hamper our continuation of searching for a meaning of life. Whether or not Rosenberg might have been aware of Logotherapy in his lifetime, the reader will find at every turn analogy between Rosenberg’s business philosophy and Dr. Frankl’s Logotherapy.

Philosophy aside, there is plenty of interesting information on how the brand name came up with, the origin of Munchkins, and revolutionary way of operating the stores . To illustrate, the catchy name of “Dunkin’ Donuts” came from “You dunk a donut,” Munchkins, previously called Dunkin Donuts Donut Holes sold for 19 cents per set, got the name of a character from “The Wizard of Oz” with the right to utilize the name exclusively in the food service business. After all, the famous Munchkins have become a household name throughout the States and achieved a unique status in the food firmament.

This is an interesting read that the reader will find both practically helpful in applying Rosenberg’s elements of success to his own set of principles for betterment in life and entertaining to discover the history of the franchise in pastime. The reader will also find that the narrative will reflect the author’s artlessness, cleverness, and forwardness in this engaging book that matches its topic worth the writing.

Posted in book review

For Love of Fate: Book review on Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Man's Search for MeaningMan’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Many books are to be tasted or swallowed, whereas certain books are to be chewed and digested for the nourishment of our minds and souls, such as Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, the founder of Logotheraphy, the third Viennese School of Psychoanalysis, along with Freudian psychoanalysis and Adler’s individual psychology, that deserves of its recognition of being one of the books of our time for its content as well as its origin. This book is not of survival literature of the Holocaust but of a memoir of a courageous human soul that did not succumb to despondency. It is less about what he suffered and lost as a prisoner at four concentration camps during World War II than it is about the sources of his intention to live through it, attesting to the words of Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Man’s Search for Meaning is a fruit of Frankl’s resilient soul ever resisting the existential horrors of situations that life could afford; whenever the miserable conditions of the camp suppressed the spirit, Frankl diverted such negative energy to reconstructing the manuscript which he had lost in the disinfection chamber of Auschwitz and scribbling the key words in shorthand on tiny scraps of paper. In fact, it was a way of intensifying his inner life full of intellectual resources and spiritual freedom to which he could retreat from his terrible surroundings by forcing his thoughts to turn to another subject, which made him enable to rise above the situation, above the sufferings of the moment.

In addition to the willful act of deluding anxiety and negative feelings, Frankl ensures us that a sense of humor is another of the soul’s weapon in the fight for self-preservation and can afford an aloofness and an ability to transcend any situation, for developing a sense of humor and seeing things in humorous light is a kind of trick learned while mastering “the art of living.” That is, by laughing about any sordid or callous situation, we ease our mental distress and are able to take on a different stance on the situation in a less negative way that is essentially not overwhelmingly stressful or unbearable. After all, humans are the only biological organism that can laugh, and thus this sense of humor is our prerogative as human.

It is also interesting to learn that the prisoners who did their utmost best to look good even in the sordid surrounding survived the dreadful experience because they looked “fit” for survival. This act of grooming links to will to meaning – that is, a will to live- that has physiological bases of psychic energy which rejuvenates the body and the spirit to see a why to live. On the other hand, there was a young inmate in the camp whose sudden loss of hope and courage to live affected his already typhus-stricken body so adversely that such mental condition lowered the man’s temperature and resistance against typhus, which ultimately caused his premature death. This episode shows us that what we believe becomes our truth and thus can alter our reality with another one, a virtual reality as a product of psychosomatic effect, which also links to the three sources for meaning of life as follows:

Creative Value – Doing something meaningful, such as Frankl’s scribbling the manuscript
Experiential Value – Appreciating beauty of the Arts or love, such as his thinking of his wife in another camp whenever he was on the verge of falling into an emotional distress; and
Attitudinal Value – Triumphing over biological, social, and cultural inhibitions during difficult times, such as Frankl’s endless efforts to divert his thought to another object of lofty value. It is this value that gives to our sufferings meaning by the way in which we respond to.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl testifies to Nietzsche’s dictum as aforesaid that suffering can grow out of existential frustration in the sense that there is a point to sufferings, that there is a hidden meaning in the guise of suffering, as there is only one right answer to the problem posed by the situation at hand. The essence of existence, which is search for meaning of life, underlies our awareness of a possibility against the background of reality – that is, what we can do about our given situations, not depending on the happenstances. Our emotions, which are interpreted as suffering, cease to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it by applying the three sources for meaning of life. Viewed in this light, this book is a veritable guide to how to overcome the struggles of our lives and achieve demands imposed upon our daily tasks however insurmountable they seem, which gains utmost credibility against the backgrounds of his own anguish in Auschwitz.