This is not a Book !...

This is a Cathedral...

by Dr Dan Waniek, MD
Copyright © 2006 danwaniek.org
A Study of History : Introduction to the Geneses of Civilizations by Arnold Joseph Toynbee, 1979
This is not a Book !... This is a Cathedral... Its well cut corner stones are great ideas developed by the last masters of history of our times. And the master of them all is as cautious as an engineer, as talented as any genius and - especially - as creative as some great lawyers and most great architects are about their lifetime's work. Montaigne once wrote something like " My work of art is my life". After reading Toynbee, one feels almost compelled to say just the opposite: Well, it may be only a book - even one originally published in twelve volumes - but this is his work of art. For many other lives have been lived, and never lost, in the shadows of this construction and into the blessed light of its interior. Sources for the whole master plan in Toynbee's masterpiece include perhaps less Thyucydides, Vico and Cantemir and more of such names as Abd al-Rahman Ibn Mohammad Ibn Khaldun, Gibbon, de Gobineau, Smuts, and lord Acton.
Countless, sometime arcane shelves of dusty bibliographical materials are treaded here into a delicate work of Gothic stone. Looking like fine laces, and sometimes like solid monoliths, the strong and yet delicate architecture of the book is both visible in any detail and compelling in toto, to say the least. Criteria for such modestly named " a " study appeared to the author almost all by themselves. It further took only some simple empirical development to turn the " knowledgeable field of studies " into a land of plenty. But what helped most, throughout the process of creation was the mind of the great master, Toynbee, bringing everything into one piece.

And then again, it's really the vision which commended a sense of wholeness and oneness in this blessed accomplishment of human genius. Toynbee had it while travelling by train somewhere in South-Eastern Europe and dutifully translated it into an incredibly simple grand projet that - subsequently - took thirty years to complete. It's perhaps a small tribute to the author - but not an avoidable choice - to read the whole set of volumes and not the many abridgements and the few but strange full editions of this masterpiece. If you do so, the results are incredibly deep and certainly worth the effort. You'll laugh for instance finding famous French historians busy at work - seeing their mind-entrenched " hexagone " wherever it never existed, by virtue of some retrospectoscope-minded methodology.

You'll almost hear a lawyer pleading in court in a feast of intellectual cases, like that of Mahmud of Gazana. You'll grasp the desperately - and terminally - futile emptiness of " the West and the Rest " frame of mind. And you'll see how ideas pass from one mind to another as if by miracle, in the gentle light of spiritual and caring understanding. Like Sfântul Duh, this isn't straightforward, and could be invoked but not produced. As Jean Cocteau wrote, in an ironical epitome of ambient nationalistic fury, about France, " C'est le coq sur le fumier. Enlevez le fumier et le coq se meurt ". Arnold Joseph Toynbee's twelve-volume masterpiece is by far the greatest book of the 20-th century produced by a single mind. The other one, which is unrestricted, is Father Dumitru Stăniloae's translation of the Church Fathers, collected in Filocalia românească. If the professor Toynbee were not the greatest historian since Thucydides, he would no doubt be a prophet. Written with profound wit - sometimes deeper than we may grasp at our first reading, but always tasty - such a text could be easily produced in any court of law. It would win the day ! No juror and few judges would afford to take it superficially... Especially nowadays... For here you will read nothing less than a crystalline mind in the process of thinking clearly and expressing itself simply and completely on the matter of civilization. It's a cardinal paradigm. It's a dream came true.

Toynbee extracted historical knowledge from the countless nationalistic shelves and transported it into the realm of metaknowledge, using empirical as well as historiographical science. Much unlike relativists and other nonsense-"historiographers" ( the name of Boia comes to mind as one of the worst counter-examples), he did not destroy national histories in the process. He only did what he knew best, telling the truth : He paid hommage to "the last infirmity of noble minds". Do not take this book with a grain of salt, with easy-going coffe-table albums or even with your usual intellectual arrogance. Take it into the island where you would retire! It's more than a book you are contemplating here ! It's the epitaph of the Western Civilization, carved in lasting, if delicately and well cut stone.

GOODREAD A Study of HistoryA Study of History by Arnold Joseph Toynbee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews of WELL READ books

ISBN : 0192152076, BOBE-2648-REFS-0001, RANK : # Who cares, really ?, There are, of course, thousands of pages, This is the Oxford University Press edition, using Toynbee's own sketches and maps.

Byzantine Times...

Delicate, Dedicated and Dignified " Deconstruction "

by Dr Dan Waniek, MD
Copyright © 2006 danwaniek.org
Constantine Porphyrogenitus and His World by Arnold Joseph Toynbee, 1973.
Arnold Joseph Toynbee's clear genius focused on a project of his younger years. It all started with Toynbee's insight into an enlightened contemporary reference to Gibbon's own account of De Administrando Imperio and to its author. Toynbee's mother also had a role in this " project " which is, afterall the work of a professor of byzantinology. The author's pertinence, honesty, erudition and writing style are, as usual, unsurpassed. If it were only by this book, and Toynbee would enter the famous historiographic gallery guarded by pillars such as Edward Gibbon and Lord Acton. However, my cultural hero, whose own interests ranged from International Affairs to Archives of the British Admirality and from anthropology and histories of religion to those of cities and sociology, did it greater than ever. Civilizations, wrote Toynbee, don't die. They only commit suicide.
The intricacies of Byzantine life in the time of Porphyrogenitus show all that. It is not surprizing that in a sort of testament of the imperial idea, the Great Lavra of Mount Athos was inaugurated shortly after Constantine's death, as if the realm of spiritual conquest retired towards the inner and true life. In a seminal work, Virgil Gheorghiu epitomizes the Western Civilization almost in the words of Mahatma Gandhi ( What do I think about Western Civilization ? I think this would be a very good idea... ). To me, at least, it is no wonder that Virgil Gheorghiu's prophetical work, The 25th Hour, stronger than Kafka and much stronger than Orwell, started with a quote from Toynbee. But that is for the following review, above...

ISBN : 019215253X, BOBE-5260-REFS-0001, RANK : #2,041,132, 788 pages, unique edition.

A Small Gem

This May Be a Small Book but Beware ! Genii Worked Here...

by Dr Dan Waniek, MD
Copyright © 2006 danwaniek.org
The Human Body : A Basic Guide to the Way You Fit Together (Wooden Books) by Moff Betts, 2004
Dr Moff Betts really did it ! So nicely too! He wrote perfectly well for novices and deep enough for medical specialists alike. He also wrote in a manner which is intelligent beyond description, for he didn't forget what makes us all fit together. Who would believe that in the age of information overflow, such a small pamphlet could still raise more than eyebrows and still be so fulfilling... Here is a medical doctor who mentions everything in the human body, complete with something-definitely-not-flesh-and-bones alone. The book starts unexpectedly with a strange illustration of a human iris. From anatomy to kundalini and from energy to irismeisters it's all here, in less than 70 pages. So here you are reading about an author who knows the fine details of his trade. He professes that special brand of medicine which is neither conventional nor alternative, but " true medicine ". And what on Earth is this " true " medicine ?
It's medicine which is the same over millennia. It's medicine which works for a given patient at a given time, irrespective of what Big Pharma might think, like us to think, or only pay others to think about... I once lost faith in official medicine, you know, the one sponsored by the Big Fives, the one where you don't touch the patient but you work through piles of paper, and the one which cuts, poisons and burns bodies... I've been a different person eversince that blessed vision came to me. This author also seems to share official and " integral " views on medicine when he writes " The clearest piece of living tissue you can see without cutting into someone is an iris ; looking at someone else's avoids the left-right flip in the mirror. Not two are the same, not even in one head. Irismeisters can see your whole body mapped onto the iris... ". I'm an irismeister and I'm writing about a medical doctor - the only one, so far, who cares about medical doctors studying irides. Is this " conflict of interest " the same brand of conflict as the one so famously reported by USA Today ? That one ominously concerned the Food and Drug Administration paying the same people who were also paid by the drug industry to promote their products for their " objective " assessments for, allegedly, " not having enough competent judges " ? Definitely not ! I stand by what I write, shoulder patting or not. Anyway, if you still fit together, it's not because of industrial medicine, but because Somebody still thinks and cares about you in terms of integers...

ISBN : 0802714293, BOBE-5252-REFS-0001, RANK : #118,649, 64 pages, unique edition.

There is No Drawback in...

... Shining With Intelligent Emotions !

by Dr Dan Waniek, MD
Copyright © 2006 danwaniek.org
Horia-Roman Patapievici, Flying against the Arrow ( translated from Romanian by Ms. Mirela Adăscăliţei ), 2003.
Romanian bestseller, translated now into English by Ms. Mirela Adăscăliţei. This is a book about the making of a strong character. If it was possible at all, it's because mind matters. Whoever thinks about this unique story of a human being as a manifesto for elitism either has not lived there, in those times, or doesn't know about writing at all. For the spiritual " side " of intelligence should always be reason enough for surviving physically, wherever and whenever doing so comes at a premium price. We all paid such prices one way or another, at some point in our own " flights ". We knew, for instance, even at that point in time, that Horia would be the last one to " turn off the light " back home. He never did. I think we all owe him some respect for that. Indeed, the following published works of Horia-Roman Patapievici spread much more light than we thought possible in those times, în bătaia săgeţii...
I happen to be the one to whom the book was dedicated. And confess I am more than honored. For me, the arrow's path will always subtend a direction for that fire that noone can ever extinguish.

ISBN : 9639116572, BOBE-5253-REFS-0001, RANK : #1,498,976, 252 pages, Unique edition.


The Most Comprehensive Medical Text Available, Written by a Single Author

by Dr Dan Waniek, MD
Copyright © 2006 danwaniek.org
System of Ophthalmology, by William Stewart, Sir, Ed. Duke-Elder
Monumental ! Victorian Erudites' victory. Unavoidable... Except perhaps for Arnold Toynbee's A Study of History, Frazers' The Golden Bough, and Gibbon's History of the Decline..., there is no other book like this one... Unique features among unique books usually include a single person's authorship, a lifetime's achievement, and that particular blend of ways and means " to live inside the work ". A taste of this blessed and inspired mixture is given in the first book reviewed here in this weblog, below. But sir Duke Elder's System is also the most comprehensive medical treatise of them all ! And is still Homeric in its depth. Now of course in the age of machine-readable text, we forget about actually reading such seemingly endless text ourselves... There is always Wikipedia to compete with Google for the ranking glory of mechanical slaves.
But just consider trying this : enter a silent scriptorium with a recollected, eager mind and freshly note what you might fall upon when reading Duke Elder, using pen and paper and your own trusted mind. You'll be much surprized about the value of such human " action ", and the power of such hardware. If you start with the history of spectacles, beware ! You will forget you are reading a medical treatise...

ISBN : 0853137951, BOBE-0662-REFS-0001, RANK : #beyond counting, thousands of pages, 1976 edition.

Monograph or Masterpiece ?


by Dr Dan Waniek, MD
Copyright © 2006 danwaniek.org
The Pupil : Anatomy, Physiology, and Clinical Applications ( 2-Volume Set ) by Irene E. Loewenfeld, 1999.
Dr Irene E. Loewenfeld dedicated her life to the study of the pupil - the body's most exquisite esthesiometer and the only living tissue to be seen with eyes only. This monograph is a knowledgeable feast in the ophthalmological tradition of Sir Duke Elder - author of the most comprehensive known medical treatise in all fields, except perhaps for Vinken' manual of neurology ( which is not the work of a single person ). Of course, as readers of these reviews can testify, I can only dream about this glorious tradition to be continued... For after we shall take no more time to dedicate our lives to knowledgeable fields of study, we would form anything else but soul and character. Alas, I'm not unaware of the Zeigeist, now by and large dead since Dr Loewenstein's disappearance. Perhaps it will rise again one day.
With an almost baroque preoccupation with detail, this book, a magnificent masterpiece, shows what a monograph should look like, even in the crowded world of ophthalmology.

ISBN : 0750671432, BOBE-1548-REFS-0001, RANK : #1,921,653, 2278 pages, Unique edition.

The Secret of Patient Care

The Secret of Patient Care is Caring for the Patient

by Dr Dan Waniek, MD
Copyright © 2006 danwaniek.org
Dennis L. Kasper, Eugene Braunwald, Anthony Fauci, Stephen Hauser, Dan Longo, J. Larry Jameson ( Eds. ) Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine 16th Edition ( Two-Volume Set ) (Hardcover) 2004.
" Harrison " grew and became better with each new chief editor eversince they joked about " principles of internal medicine and details of neurology ". Now I like this two-volume set which makes the book less of a monster on my desk. Since this is the book I look into ( and even read :) every day since the glorious times of alma mater, maybe I can complain a bit too : Take for instance the for ever diminishing role of clinical knowledge - once the glory, the grammar and the vocabulary of medicine itself. Take " biomedicine " with international units standards waxing and vaning over the years. Take statistics, now compressed in overcrowded illustrations. Take the strange colors of this printing, take the for ever new and fuzzy dispersion of the atlas illustrations on paper which is anything but glossy, and so on.
However, the chief complaint and my main concern with the 16th edition is the advent of a new buzzword, " evidence-based medicine ". This is nonsense, at least for the old doctor I have become over the years. Should you really dismiss the search of an elusive diagnosis only because there isn't enough " evidence " for " judges " and " jurors " to be " convinced " ? I hope not ! Symptoms change with people who talk about for ever new " chief complaints ". Half of the disease tags I learned in Med School twenty years ago are now useless. Anyway, in those times, we were still aware of the hopeless task of sticking such tags on people who - in my time - seemed to be more than a collection of physical signs... Therefore, " internal medicine " - which has always been medicine itself, and as such, maintained a legitimate criterion in clinical knowledge - had a purpose in life. This was not conventional, but practical : patient care was all about caring for the patient... Younger hippocratic brothers, beware : Navigation using biomedicine, and this " Harrison " as a set of maps, is still possible. However - as sir Osler insisted in his times - without clinical knowledge, there is no navigation at all ! By all means, continue to spend your time touching, questioning, observing the patient ! By all means, continue to let blood flow into the real methods proven by millennia of patient care, even if you care more about your screens, protocols, smoke screens and malpractice insurance ! Care about the patient, even when you can hardly maintain the name " patient " any more ! You won't be afraid of charting unknown Oslerian seas...

ISBN : 0071391401, BOBE-5254-REFS-0001, RANK : #52,651, 2680 pages, 16th edition.

A Waste of Time

This "Book" is a Disgrace !

by Dr Dan Waniek, MD
Copyright © 2006 danwaniek.org
Changing Religious Worlds: The Meaning and End of Mircea Eliade (Suny Series, Issues in the Study of Religion) by Bryan S. Rennie, 2000.
You may have other reasons for losing your time than reading or even perusing this failed attempt to run into Mircea Eliade's legacy. For all the pain it took, I had to read it. What strikes this reader, besides the Stalinist endeavor to destroy Mircea Eliade's reputation, is sheer stupidity at work in the efforts of its many authors. This monumentally inept text is not excused by Herostratic complexes or even more inept professed " views " on " what is religious about religion ". Stupidity, even conceptualized, is of course only an excuse for many authors. The even more numerous " analyses " here are sheer failures - even as pamphlets - as rotten bread tastes, if taken with many, far too many, grains of salt. What matters here is only the attack on Mircea Eliade. Even the few intelligent and " positive " studies are inserted, I'm sure, only to make the attack more credible as an " academic " work.
If authentic, the only prowess of this tasteless conconction is making us, readers, lose time. Within the inner workings of the mind of such authors - if we adventure that far - we still crave to find a hint of logic. For it's really all self-inflated nonsense, aggravated by loud borborygms. Their larger subtext, I'm afraid, is only destruction of value per se. If one " author " needs such captatio benevolentiae as " dear reader " ( p. 4 ) I'm already beyond yawning. If the same author tries to lecture us on the Michelson-Morley experiment, ruining paper by cut-and-paste processes and meaningless quotes ( from the relevant Britannica online passages, of course ), I need not follow such " logic " as an argument against our great and for ever unsurpassed Eliade. Last, but not least, if it's rational at all, the book's argumentarium is a shame. With such sort of snoring discourses - more fit for the understanding of religion in the intellectual realm of the dear leader of northern Korea - there is no wonder that wikipedization of the Western culture is now rampant ! ( Wiki, wiki means " quickie ", in case you are, like myself, ignorant of recent progress in " knowledge technology " ). Using such credentials as machine-readable Google rankings, the intellectual level of the " deconstruction " operated by this chef d'oeuvre is only matched by the power of fans and other vacuum machines at work under their word processors. Paraphrasing Mr Rennie's billious quote on " Augustine ", and Mr Rennie's own profuse knowledge which allows him to " correct " Eliade's thinking, " we all know what religion is, until we think about it ". But Mr Rennie also knows what religion is even when he thinks he thinks about it. I also happen to contemplate the future of Eliade's legacy and I can only end, having studied his opera omnia : Once there were rats attempting to outrun elephants, in en effort to cross the memory bridge together with those elephants. I'm sure that while they made all the noise they could, such rodents thought of themselves in terms of " we all cross bridges ".

ISBN : 0791447308, BOBE-5255-REFS-0001, RANK : #insignificant, 306 pages.