Book Review

Posted on Amazon.com

5 out of 5 stars Heart In Hand
Reviewer: D. Allen Houser  1_stripes from Silver Spring, Maryland USA      December 1, 1999
If you liked THE POWER OF MYTH, the PBS TV series/book of Joseph Campbell interviews by Bill Moyers, you will be captivated by HEART IN HAND. Joseph Campbell tells us how religions and myths from many cultures are, essentially, one variegated story of humankind's spiritual journey. Dr. Miller, in a most readable prose style, takes current knowledge from many scientific fields--medicine, astronomy, biology, quantum physics--and relates it to philopsophy, humor, religion, and the arts, particularly music.

When he describes his book as 'reflections on the nature of life,' don't jump out of your easy chair. This book is the opposite of pompous. In our so called Information Age, it is hard as hell to get a grip on what we are really doing on the planet at the end of this tumultuous century. This book helps. Dr. Miller offers the layman, like myself, a science lesson and then shows how the intricate facts of the physical world relate to the domain of the soul. For one who is uncertain about what evolution means, he gives a telling explanation in terms of genes--ours and those of our ancestors. He draws from his extensive personal interests--microbiology, sex, opera, jazz, Arthur Schopenhauer, conducting a symphony orchestra, Jack Kerouac, Richard Wagner, Thelonious Monk, compassion in the practice of medicine, Woody Allen, God, and death--and translates them into integral meditations about what it is to be alive. As he goes along, he connects things, a lot of things. Joseph Campbell describes our mythological exit from the Garden of Eden as moving from unity with God/Eternity into a world of opposites/duality, man/woman, and mortality. Microbiology informs us that single-cell bacteria clone asexually and keep reproducing ad-infinitum, as long as they have a favorable environment. Death, in evolutionary terms, is not part of the 'program' until these little bits of life evolve far enough to reproduce sexually. This eventually occurs in more advanced single-cell organisms called eukaryotes that exchange and commingle their genetic DNA to produce genetically new offspring. These ancient ancestors also reside East of Eden, genetically programmed to 'senescence and eventual death.'

This is a highly personal and diverse choice of subject matter. If it were not, he would have written a rather eccentric textbook. Because he cares deeply, and has cared for a long time, about what is beneath the surface of things, this is an exceptional and valuable book by an unusually curious man. Dr. Miller is a wonder in his ability to concisely reveal so much useful information in a little over two hundred pages. He is completely honest in telling us what science knows and does not know. From his practice of medicine he offers convincing evidence of how our emotions and moral choices profoundly influence our physical health. He neither preaches nor does he attempt to dispel the mystery of existence. To the contrary, the 'big picture' he gives us is, as the kids say... awesome. He quotes jazz pianist Bill Evans regarding the meaning of art. Bill said it's to enrich life. This book will enrich your life. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.