This book was reviewed for the Manhattan Book Review
Using lessons garnered from such diverse sources as Jewish mysticism, Buddhism, psychology, mythic studies, and spiritual alchemy, Frankel offers a new way of looking at the unknown, and embracing the chaos of uncertainty. As we age, we lose the wonder of the child, for whom everything is new. As pressures of time and the responsibility that come with age strip the wonder from us, we grow more fearful of the unknown. In other cases, people who are introverts tend to be more wary of change from a young age, and this only solidifies with age.
In The Wisdom of Not Knowing Frankel teaches us to regain that sense of wonder we once had as a child. Woven into mythic analysis and psychological commentary are exercises to help open us to the unknown once again. With gentle, piercing clarity, Frankel reminds us that xenophobia will only stunt our growth, and stifle us with a slow suffocation most are not even aware of. One of my favourite characters from the Harry Potter movies is Luna Lovegood’s father. His personality thoroughly embodies his name- Xenophilius, love of the unknown. Frankel teaches us how to transmute fear to delight, to transmute xenophobia to xenophilia.
I am an extreme introvert. I despise change, and need an advance warning for changes, especially large ones, to give time for acceptance. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and have started making use of the techniques. One, near the beginning, reminded me I had been gifted with a small metal labyrinth that you trace a stylus through. I’ve dug it back out for the labyrinth exercise. Other exercises sparked my inspiration again. I’ve been languishing in an apathetic haze for, well, since the horrors of the election. That I’ve felt the stirrings of my creativity waking once again thrills me to no end. The exercises have helped in other ways too.
I don’t drive, and don’t see well. I’ve been very resistant to taking the bus places for fear of getting lost. It’s engendered a near phobic fear that triggers panic and has severely curtailed my freedom. During my reading, I worked up the nerve to do something I’ve dreaded trying because of the unknown factor. I took a trip that required a bus change each way. That Frankel’s work helped me achieve this speaks volumes to me of its value.
I enjoyed the quotes at the beginning of each chapter, and the snippets of poems and passages within the chapters, especially the occasional Rumi. This book gave me a new appreciation for Jewish mysticism/ Kabbalah, and prompted an interest in delving further. I also ended up snagging Frankel’s other book, Sacred Therapy.
????? A valuable tool for any looking to befriend the unknown and find a valuable ally for living whole, and free of fear around life’s uncertainties.