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Book Review: Simply Genius!: And Other Tales from My Life by Ervin Laszlo Ph.D.

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When reading biographies or autobiographies of brilliant men you can expect to be exposed to their particular field of expertise. Perhaps you are familiar with or at least somewhat knowledgeable in that field. Perhaps you are just curious. But with Ervin Laszlo’s work, Simply Genius!: And Other Tales from My Life, you are challenged on three fronts. Your curiosity has to span three separate and diverse areas of knowledge.

Laszlo, you see, excelled in three fields; first he was a child prodigy and star of the concert stage on the piano. Then, almost casually and for reasons it is easy for a “normal” person to understand, he decided to search out and master another field: science. Then, once again, some 25 years later, Laszlo underwent another paradigm shift and mastered, and founded, yet another field of expertise dealing with what he calls “quantum consciousness.”

Laszlo gave his first concert at age nine and for the next 18 years toured the world as the headliner for dozens of orchestras. Then, at the age of 27, Laszlo became a driving force in the fields of philosophical science, systems theory, and integral theory – or as it’s been called, the theory of everything. Then finally later in life he seemed to combine all of his genius into the foundation of a sort of spiritual science, the Akashic Field and the above mentioned field of thought called quantum consciousness.

Laszlo was born in Hungary in 1932 and spent his formative years living under the German occupation where his family was hunted by the Nazis because they had Jewish ancestors. His father owned a shoe manufacturing plant and his mother was a piano player of no great distinction or training. By the age of nine, young Ervin had demonstrated a remarkable ability on the piano, and was able to not only memorize extremely long and difficult classical piano pieces – he admittedly is worse than mediocre at reading music — but to master the physical technique to play them.

He tells a story early in the book of having insisted on playing Beethoven’s Appassionata, a piece considered to require great maturity not only to read and understand, but to convey the emotion involved in the work. His mother took him to the renowned professor Arnold Székely, who upon hearing Laszlo play it threw his hands in the air and said, “simply genius!”

For the next 18 years, Laszlo ruled the concert stage, starring with dozens of symphony orchestras the world over. Then, at the age of 27, almost as casually as a “normal” man might decide to quit trying to be a rock star because it was time to devote himself to his wife and family and settle down to a “real” job, with his fourth child on the way he changed gears and entered the field of science and philosophy.

By his early forties, Lazslo was not only working in this field, he was celebrated as one of the geniuses and leading thinkers of the discipline and had written dozens of books and numerous articles. He also was a leading professor at many universities in the U.S., Europe, and the far east. Soon thereafter, he gained world renown as a global visionary, heading research programs at the United Nations and founding an international think tank – The Club Of Budapest.

It’s easy to crack open this book and expect to be reading another A Beautiful Mind, the 1998 Pulitzer winning book and 2001 film starring Russell Crowe encompassing the life of John Nash, the Nobel Laureate in Economics and paranoid schizophrenic. But Simply Genius! is an autobiography and written by Lazlo himself (with a lot of help from Deepak Chopra) and doesn’t pretend to be an entertaining volume about brilliance that conquers a debilitating condition.

Laszlo’s story is more a reluctant biography told in a voice of a grandfatherly conversation – if your grandfather was one of the foremost important thinkers of the twentieth century! Simply Genius! is filled with wonderful insights into an extraordinary life and mind that reveals that a man of genius is also just a man. There is the story of how at his first concert at age nine, leading one of Europe’s most renown orchestras in a performance that receives a standing ovation, the nine-year old boy that was its star was more concerned with receiving a ‘special’ package of candy than in wowing the world.

Then there is the tale of an 18-year old man who knew nothing of love, sex, or the usual friendships formed by young people – in short, he had no social life beyond the stage and practice rooms — and then finding all of those things and struggling with them as any young person would. The book is not in the least ‘high brow’ or aloof, but Laszlo is clearly not telling a story at the local bar. The subject matter, whether great pieces of music or philosophy and science, takes a bit of thought and intellect to understand. It is an enjoyable work, very well written, and almost like a great meal, made to be enjoyed in courses as you sit comfortably and absorb what you have just partaken of before moving on.

Ervin Laszlo is the author or editor of more than 80 books and has published over 400 papers, and is editor of World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution. He also has nine volumes of classical music to his credit as well as having developed the theory of “quantum consciousness.” Additionally, he founded the Club of Budapest to, in his words, “center attention on the evolution of human values and consciousness as the crucial factors in changing course — from a race towards degradation, polarization and disaster to a rethinking of values and priorities so as to navigate today’s transformation in the direction of humanism, ethics and global sustainability.”

Laszlo is also holder of the highest degree of the Sorbonne (the State Doctorate), is the recipient of four honorary PhDs and numerous awards and distinctions, including the 2001 Goi Peace Award (the Japanese Peace Prize) and the 2005 Assisi Mandir of Peace Prize. He has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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I was born in Pomona, California at a very young age. I had a pretty normal childhood…or I was a pretty normal child hood if mom is telling the story. I was a paperboy and washed cars. I was a soda fountain jock-jerk and a manic mechanic but my first real job was as a labor organizer in a maternity ward. Then, because of the misjudgment of a judge I spent nearly 10 years in the service of our country mostly on KP duty. Our country sure turns out a lot of dirty dishes. I am a past master at pots and pans. They eventually recognized my real talent and let me wander around some very unfriendly places carrying a big radio that didn’t work. Along the way I took up the bass guitar, jotting down stories, electronic engineering and earned a degree in advanced criminal activities. I spent most of my adult life, if you can call it that, working in the I.T. industry, which I was particularly suited for since we worked in rooms with no windows. On and off I taught in colleges, universities and reform schools as a student teacher… I like smog, traffic, kinky people, car trouble, noisy neighbors, and crowded seedy bars where I have been known to quote Raymond Chandler as pickup lines. I have always been a voracious reader, everything from the classics, to popular fiction, history to science but I have a special place in my heart for crime fiction, especially hard-boiled detective fiction and noir. I write a book and music review blog for all genres at The Dirty Lowdown. And another dedicated to Crime Fiction and all things Noir called Crimeways. It’s named after the magazine that appeared in the Kenneth Fearing classic, The Big Clock. There I write scholarly reviews of the classic hard boiled, noir and crime fiction books from the 20's through today. Mostly I drool over the salacious pictures on the covers. I also write for Tecnorati/BlogCritics where i am part of a sinister cabal of superior writers.