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Book Review: The Recovery of Ecstasy: Notebooks from Siberia by Sandy Krolick, Ph.D.

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The Recovery of Ecstasy is phenomenally empowering: empowering if you engage with it through introspective reflection on your own life; empowering when it succeeds in awakening your own meta-cognitions as you read. It is empowering if you remain receptive to the multi-layered journey of self-discovery offered here by Sandy Krolick. In part, the book attempts to answer the question, “What is the meaning of life?”

As a result of Sandy’s personal pilgrimage, the book looks at this question from three distinct perspectives — historically, philosophically and introspectively — through a series of anecdotal Tetrads (chapters) that are both entertaining and contemplative. In the preface, the author asks the reader to join him on a journey of self-discovery when he writes, "My intention is that the reader examine his or her own direction in life and ask comparable questions of his or her own personal journey – how to live, and to what end!”

The Recovery of Ecstasy is, in key respects, a contrast between the cultures and philosophies of the people of Siberia and America. For example, there is a marked difference in what constitutes the experience of time among Siberians. Where they are more focused on the present and not obsessively planning the future, Americans plan everything from vacations to play dates, from after-school recreation to dinner parties and other appointments with calendars, personal planners and any of the latest trendy tools to ‘keep us’ organized. Krolick makes the point that Americans are not really free because they are constantly over-scheduled, ‘on-the-clock’, and tied to their plans; this in itself prevents an experience of true freedom. How often is an impromptu disruption to your routine a cause for total panic and a rush to reshuffle the schedule?

There is also a vast difference in the daily comforts we have become accustomed to as Americans, a direct result of our ‘novelty-driven’ motivation to develop new technologies and conveniences. Are all these new gadgets good for America? Once a new invention is developed and marketed, our need to acquire the latest and newest technology becomes paramount, more important than the debt we also acquire in order to have it. The ‘iPod’ of today will be replaced shortly with another gadget, and our need to acquire that new toy will be just as great. According to Krolick, this is inherent in our history, going back to beginnings of western civilization – to the beginnings of agriculture, the building of cities and our history of civilizing the colonies and other indigenous populations.

The people of Siberia live to this day in more of a “village oriented society.” They live in some of the harshest environmental conditions on earth, and often must ‘make do’ when unreliable services and utilities can spontaneously disrupt daily life there. Yes, this happens to Americans, but we freak-out and whine when any interruption of service, or unusual weather, intrudes upon our schedules. Siberians, on the other hand, take this all in stride, continue to gather with family and friends and enjoy life in the present. The village unity of the old world no longer thrives in America. We have become transformed into an urban society of forced independence, with many acquaintances but few real friends, and families spread far and wide.

Sandy Krolick’s journey helped him realize his own key to living a life of ecstasy. Whatever you discover on your own journey from reading The Recovery of Ecstasy, I guarantee you will not regret the ride. Sandy Krolick has insight and a genuine love of life that is evident on every page; and he has the gift to communicate it passionately. This is a positive journey that examines the treadmill we are on, and will force you to question how much faster you want to go. Or, to take a phrase from the book, maybe it is time to consider “a new path in the midst of the confusion and helter-skelter of modern civilized life.” Instead of planning your retirement or your next vacation, perhaps find some time to read The Recovery of Ecstasy so that you won’t miss living life!

Highly recommended.

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