Sunday, February 15, 2009

A World Waiting to be Born

A World Waiting to be Born: Civility Rediscovered
© 1993 M. Scott Peck
366 pages

"Society is sick", declares author M. Scott Peck by way of introduction to his book A World Waiting to be Born. Peck is a psychiatrist and author who attempts to take the methods of his craft and apply them to society at large, reminding me of Erich Fromm's work. Divided into three parts, Peck's work redefines "civility" and explores its practice in both the home and business. The first third of the book is conceptual, as Peck hammers out the aspects of what is wrong and what needs to be fixed. The remaining two parts of the book see his lessons applied in the home and business. The first part of the book was the most interesting ,at least for me, because Peck addresses a multitude of issues. He attempts to build a thought-system of civility, which he defines as behavior conducive to building and maintaining healthy organizations. His use of organization is so broad that "marriage" counts, as do small work crews. The family and businesses are seen by Peck as the basis for the rest of society, and this is why he concentrates on them. The thought-system he builds involves god-centered ethics, mind-emptying mediation, unconditional love, and "true" consciousness of the real self and of one's role within groups. His aim is to improve "psychospiritual health", which is a combination of the obvious factors.

It's an interesting read for me, without reservation. I did disagree with parts of what he said -- for instance, that humanist ethics don't hold up in hard times. Some of what he wrote, while interesting, is hard to classify. For instance, in the family section he wrote about myths that the family structure brings with it, and he provides anecdotes about families and couples he counseled, using them to examine "civil" behavior. As I do not read much psychiatry, I cannot comment on the validity of his analyses except to say that they didn't sound too objectionable to me. His interpretations of elements I am familiar with seem wrong to me. Take, for instance, his comment on the opening chapters of Genesis, where he writes that for a book of legend, its first chapter portrays a stunningly accurate account of how the universe came into being, with the sun forming first and then life evolving. The problem with this is -- besides being a metaphor that's gone too far -- is that the Sun didn't come first in the bible. It came after the plants and so on.

It's a strange book -- thought-provoking, sometimes objectionable, and sometimes confused. In general, I enjoyed reading the book. I only lost interest in the chapters on organizational behavior in business.

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