Reader Comments

I got your book through Elliott Bay Book Company yesterday and read a lot of it last night.  It is a great gift to us all.  It should be translated into other languages.  A real shocker.  Because it is personal, starkly real, scholarly, cross-cultural and transdisciplinary.  It's such a gift to humanity because its focus is on life, not the scientific but the sensual and creative, waking potential power within each living thing to express itself through sexual energy and the power of love.  Grant Jones (Landscape Architect, www.JonesandJones.com; February. 20, 2002)

You have reached a nerve critical to many and many will receive benefits from reading your thoughts and insights.  Elaine Monsen, PhD. (Professor of Nutrition, Department of Health Services and Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA)

[The author] has woven his way through the material maze, with reason, science and knowledge as his friends and guides... In the religious realm, he has surveyed the spectrum of organized structures, understood their psycho-sociological benefits and limitations, and then...caught vivid glimpses of the kinds of direct non-dogmatic revelatory experiences the mystics talk about...and [he] does not reject or undervalue the mystics and their works.  Lee Underwood (jazz piano player)

Your chapters on compassion and religion could be taught in any seminary.  You deal with these themes in a rational and helpful way.  Dale E. Turner (theologian, retired Minister, University Congregational Church, Seattle, WA)

Your book is splendid--very impressive in thought and depth, and very unpretentious as well.  Robin McCabe (Professor and Chair, School of Music, University of Washington)

The variety of disciplines encompassed is most impressive, exceeded only by the enormity of your reading/research...  If I were a librarian, I wouldn't know where to place it.  It is unique.  Also quite unique is your trinity of Schopenhauer, Woody Allen and Wagner.  You make their juxtaposition seem perfectly natural.    Milton Katims (Emeritus Conductor, Seattle Symphony Orchestra)

You gotta like someone that sandwiches Schopenhauer and Woody Allen together in the same sentence:  That's jazz.  Me, I like Cotton Mather and Spike Jones.  Gary Litchfield

A broad-ranging intellectual synthesis...  It takes a great deal of courage for a thinker and writer to tackle all the most profound realities in one work and Dr. Miller appears to be well prepared for the challenge, having made himself a truly multidisciplinary individual.  Ronald E. Latimer

The breadth of your scholarship appeals to many disciplines and audiences.  Pat Soden (publisher)

This book should be on every theologian's bookshelf.  Richard Broz (attorney at law)

I simply have to tell you how wonderful and beautiful and profound your book is.  I started reading it and could not put it down until I finished.  It is stunning...  I actually don't have the words to express how much it meant to me to read this book.  It was absolutely beautiful.  Angela Desimone 

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. --Allen Houser (Review posted on Amazon.com)


If one has trepidations about mortality, then Dr. Donald Miller may assuage his and her misgivings. His book, Heart In Hand, however, is not just about death and dying, it is about life and living. Indeed, Dr. Miller traces the beginning of life to the one-celled amoeba and carries it forward to man in its highest form, most notably, as defined by Arthur Schopenhauer, Richard Wagner, and Woody Allen. He also makes several references to himself, his family, his friends, and his patients.

He no doubt has spent sleepless nights in Seattle as a heart surgeon, and in the process, has much time to think about six facets of life, each one represented by a chapter in his book. While it may be unusual for one to cross the divide between Schopenhauer and Allen, one sees where the two are not far apart, except by 147 years between birth, and the book is filled with quotations of both, which are treats, and saves one from the tedium of heavy reading, especially Schopenhauer; all of this in just 213 pages of text, with additional endnotes, reading and film selections.

Dr. Miller's explanation of evolution has condensed the so-called theory into very interesting and coherent facts, and could be a primer for teachers. There are also many other facts that could be described as interesting trivia. And his explanation of sex, and indeed, compassion, touches the sensibilities. His chapters, "Searching for God," and the "Metaphysics of Music" are engrossing. But the chapter "Confronting Death" should get to core of everyone's being. Of course, death is inevitable, and when one is born, every day he and she creeps one day closer. But knowing it doesn't help. And for many, it is a perplexing and often debilitating experience. Dr. Miller enlightens us with one quotation from Schopenhauer, "Where was I before my birth?" "For it is irrefutably certain that non-existence after death cannot be different from non-existence before birth..." If one is hesitant to confront any of the volumes that have been written to assuage our fear of death, this chapter is enough. It takes us there without cringing, and with a simple but plausible explanation.

It is Schopenhauer and Woody Allen who are the main players in this book. Unless one has read the older philosopher, probably in his most important work, "The World as Will and Representation," and "Essays and Aphorisms," a compilation selected and translated by R. J.. Hollingdale, much has been missed about his views about compassion, living and dying. Likewise, unless one has analyzed the films of Woody Allen, and assumes that he is more than a comedian, then Dr. Miller shows where he is a deep thinker, and very preoccupied with death, which is made light through his comedy, but has a very serious and obvious cognizance. Dr. Miller is generous in his observations about Schopenhauer, Allen, and finally Richard Wagner, who was immensely influenced by the philosopher and his above mentioned book, and his chapter, "The Metaphysics of Music" is one that will inspire all music lovers, especially Wagnerians. The good doctor again reminds us about the soothing effects of music on our health.

So here we have a small volume packed with much to think about. It is a quick read, engrossing, and one which the reader will no doubt absorb in one sitting, and feel good about it.  Harold Sokolsky (Review posted on Amazon.com)