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Familiar Strangers: Uncommon Wisdom in Unlikely Places

Gotham Chopra

11 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0385499671 / ISBN 13: 9780385499675
Published by Harmony, 2002
Condition: Good Hardcover
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Title: Familiar Strangers: Uncommon Wisdom in ...

Publisher: Harmony

Publication Date: 2002

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Good

Edition: First Edition.

About this title

Synopsis:

A flip through the newspaper or a glance at the evening news reveals a world in which old ways are dying and new worlds are beginning, often in the midst of violence and chaos. In the face of these massive changes and disruptions, many people are questioning their roles as individuals: Why am I here? What is my purpose?

In Familiar Strangers, Gotham Chopra travels from China, Sri Lanka, and Kashmir to Chechnya and the Yucatán in search of answers to these age-old spiritual questions. Everywhere he goes, he encounters people who have had to dig within themselves to survive horrible realities and bear heart-wrenching losses. From his New York to Los Angeles flight on September 11, 2001 to a harrowing week spent among young boys toting guns in the contested hills of Kashmir and a sojourn in a small Yucatán village where he witnesses firsthand the collision between the romance of the past and the uncertain promise of the future, Chopra shares the wisdom, idealism, and sense of purpose he found in ordinary people living under extraordinary circumstances.

Rich in drama and insights into cultures far different from our own, the stories Chopra recounts articulate, as well, anxieties and fears we all share. While acknowledging that his travels often take him to the extreme edges of civilized society, Chopra shows that the questions that arise in times of peril or in the face of great dangers are not so different from what many of us ask in the course of our daily lives–whether after a grueling eighty-hour work week, a six-hour exam, or a fiery argument with a lover. The challenge, he argues, is to use these moments of revelation as the first step in moving beyond self-imposed fears and limits and embracing new opportunities for spiritual growth.

Review:

Kudos to Gotham Chopra for offering a spiritual discussion on escalating violence and terrorism around the world as well as scrutinizing the effects of global homogenization. Using the model of Buddha's journey from privileged prince to wandering pauper to a man of authentic power, Chopra (the son of Deepak Chopra) speaks to his own journey as an international journalist for Channel One. Chopra is at his best when he writes as a journalist, presenting vivid scenes, characters, and dialogue from the edges of war, terrorism, urban drug abuse, and natural disasters. From the streets of New York to the war in Chechnya to the hotbed of Pakistan, Chopra delivers an unromantic yet highly spiritual account of the wisdom of the earth's people. All the while he asks the right questions: "Why are we here? How are we all alike? What causes terrorism? How can we create a world with more peace?"

Sometimes Chopra sounds like a naive prince, eagerly ruminating age-old spiritual questions as if for the first time. While covering Hurricane Floyd in Florida he asks, "When you strip away your address, your inheritance, your job, your diploma, your credit cards, frequent flier packages, and your various PIN numbers, without all those things telling you who you are, are you able to find a true identity for yourself?" Yet, at other times he sounds like a humble pauper becoming a fully empowered man. "I seldom go to places to do stories without some element of fear inside me.... But the fear I feel in Pakistan is different. It stems from confusion, not only about who I'm going out to talk to, but who it is I am myself. I feel I am wearing two badges in particular--I am an American, I am Indian--and neither is welcome in this strange place." Although his dispatches aren't tightly connected, this roaming reporter does connect readers to a global network of fascinating and highly spiritual thinkers--not in the lofty monasteries or holy sights, but in the trenches of war, terrorism, disaster, and despair. And for this we thank him. --Gail Hudson

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