New English Review Press is pleased to announce the publication of our twenty eighth book, The Terror of Existence: From Ecclesiastes to Theatre of the Absurd by Theodore Dalrymple and Kenneth Francis.
The cultural death of God has created a conundrum for intellectuals. How could a life stripped of ultimate meaning be anything but absurd? How was man to live? How could he find direction in a world of no direction? What would he tell his children that could make their lives worthwhile? What is the ground of morality?
Existentialism is the literary cri de coeur resulting from the realization that without God, everything good, true and beautiful in human life is destined to be destroyed in a pitiless material cosmos. Theodore Dalrymple and Kenneth Francis examine the main existentialist works, from Ecclesiastes to the Theatre of the Absurd, each man coming from a different perspective. Francis is a believer, Dalrymple is not, but both empathize with the struggle to find meaning in a seemingly meaningless universe.
Part literary criticism, part philosophical exploration, this book holds many surprising gems of insight from two of the most interesting minds of our time.
If in the absence of absolute standards life is meaningless, why bother with that meaninglessness? Are Judaism, Buddhaism, Christianity, Advaita Vedanta offering no life-enhancing meanings to be relied on for a purposeful life? Why not pursue the meanings and paths described by Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Shankaracharya? Must we muck around in mental masochism as helpless self-victimizers, rather than exploring our potential fully as those teachers taught from personal experience of achievement?
Yes, "real" religion has little or nothing to do with belief. The Buddha's teachings spread into (among others) Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism (which includes the extremely advaitist - non-dual - Zen). Shankara too, but his approach was part of the already established Vedanta. Lots of scope there for those who are afflicted with too much thinking. But upon breaking away from the prison of the intellect, one can never tell what remains at its roots.