What on Earth Are We Doing Here?

As many of you already know, this is my final free book review. It is also the only non-fiction title I have reviewed. My personal bias factors heavily in the following assessment. Keep that in mind.

What on Earth Are We Doing Here? Exploring the Case for Human Suffering. Elaine A. Piha. 2011. Balboa Press.

As the title suggests, What on Earth Are We Doing Here? Exploring the Case for Human Suffering is a book that explores age-old questions about human purpose and the role of suffering in our lives. Written by a certified life coach and holistic healing counselor, it started off on very shaky ground before I even turned to page one. Terms like “life coach” and “holistic healing counselor” make me roll my eyes, truth be told.

In the first chapter Piha writes, “The moment you realize that no one is going to rescue  you is the moment you become empowered to rescue yourself.” Trite as it may be, I do agree with this sentiment. However, that’s about all I agree with in the book’s 100 pages.

Right away, the author speaks of near-death experiences and past life regressions as if they are concepts that need no substantiation. She evokes the names of Sylvia Browne, Edgar Cayce and Dr. Raymond Moody as if they are universally accepted as honest-to-god experts. (I assure you that is not the case.)

As a work of non-fiction that purports to have the actual answers to questions like, Why do we suffer? and What is our purpose? I can’t help but be slightly irritated by the lack of reference to authoritative works and substantive information.

For example, the author claims, “Interestingly, there were references to reincarnation in both the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible but they were taken out for heresy, despite being accepted by early church leaders.” It might be true; I’m not an expert. But if you’re going to write shit like that, you need to back it up. Give me your source. Let me investigate.

Readers can’t investigate what the author represents as fact at all with What on Earth Are We Doing Here? Exploring the Case for Human Suffering, because the author doesn’t use footnotes—she doesn’t even give a respectable bibliography. The closest she comes is a section titled “Just a Few of the Books that Have Illuminated My Path” which lists such works as Life After Death: The Burden of Proof by Deepak Chopra and The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle. Frankly, those names just elicit more eye rolling.

I could easily spend the next several days harping on all that I disagree with in Piha’s book, but I don’t really think that’s necessary. I do respect her position that individuals should explore these questions on their own. It’s good to read, think, and question. And despite my misgivings about What on Earth Are We Doing Here, I do know that there are people out there that will find this book a source of comfort and inspiration.

To each his own, I guess.

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