Cover image for Hold the enlightenment
Title:
Hold the enlightenment
Author:
Cahill, Tim.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Villard, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
xviii, 297 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
Contents:
Unattractive to the opposite sex : an introduction -- Hold the enlightenment -- The search for the Caspian tiger -- Bug scream -- The platypus hunter -- Fire and ice and everything nice -- The caravan of white gold -- The terrible land -- The house of boots -- This teeming ark -- Near Massacre Ranch -- Fubsy hors d'oeuvres -- Gorillas in our schools -- Powder keg -- The entranced duck -- Castle and more castles -- Culinary schadenfreude -- Swimming with great white sharks -- Atlatl Bob's splendid lack of simple sanity -- Stutter -- Fully unprepared -- Evilfish -- The world's most dangerous friend -- Collision course -- The Big Muddy -- Professor Cahill's Travel 101 -- The cowpersons of Tanzania -- My brother, the pot dealer -- Dirty money -- Panic -- Trusty and grace.
ISBN:
9780375507663
Format :
Book

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PS3553.A365 H65 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

InHold the Enlightenment, America's favorite and funniest adventure writer returns with his most entertaining collection of essays yet, as he travels the globe and faces down challenges that are animal, topographical--and human. Hold the Enlightenmenttakes Tim Cahill to sites as far-flung as Saharan salt mines, the Congolese jungle, and Hanford, Washington, home of the largest toxic-waste dump in the Western hemisphere. With his trademark wit and insight, Cahill describes stalking the legendary Caspian tiger in the mountains bordering Iraq, slogging through a pitch-black Australian eucalyptus forest to find the nocturnal platypus, diving with great white sharks in South Africa, staving off enlightenment at a yoga retreat in Jamaica, and much, much more. In these essays, vivid and masterly storytelling combine with outrageously sly humor and jolts of real emotion to show one of the most popular journalists of our time at the absolute peak of his game.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Cahill is an essayist who travels and whose travels turn into adventures. His latest book is not a travelogue that simply strings together visits to exotic locales. Instead, Cahill details his collective adventures, running the gamut from swimming with great white sharks to searching for the mythical Caspian tiger in Kurd country, to learning yoga in Jamaica. Armchair explorers will enjoy tagging along and soaking in the particulars of this series of treks in the U.S. and overseas, all written in a humorous, everyman kind of style. In "Evilfish," he pokes fun at the press' penchant for humanizing wild dolphins by interspersing headlines in his essay that wittily make this point. The essays are often accounts of conflicts in other countries into which he interweaves comments on trips he had made here in the U.S., as in "Near Massacre Ranch." In his own innate way, he combines insights with opinions and provides enlightenment in the process. --Eileen Hardy


Publisher's Weekly Review

Organized in the "chaotic logic of a pinball in urgent play," this collection takes its reader from a yoga retreat in Jamaica to the mountains bordering Iraq as smoothly as it transitions between moments of sheer hilarity and utter poignancy. In essence, what Cahill (Pass the Butterworms) has done is display various snapshots of his own life and travels, allowing the reader to experience it as he does one episode at a time. In "The Terrible Land," Cahill travels to Hanford, Wash., on a stretch of the Columbia River that is pristine and, at the same time, the largest toxic waste dump in the Western Hemisphere. In "Evilfish," Cahill responds to an article in the New York Times in which the much-loved, friendly dolphin is revealed to be a joy-killer. With his trademark clarity and wit, Cahill manages to take the article's depiction of the animal with a permanent smile one step farther, citing studies of dolphin gang-rape and infanticide while poking fun at a society that views dolphins as Flipper. Cahill takes armchair travelers on a search for the elusive Caspian Tiger in the villages of southeastern Turkey and on a midnight trek through an Australian forest as a "Wiley Platypus Hunter." He recounts his first "Bug Scream," the reaction to a half-pound centipede dropping on his chest in the midst of the Congo Basin, and recalls the generosity of the people of his own small town in Montana. This is a collection with something for everyone; each story, in its own way, manages to raise the consciousness of the reader and reveals that the author, whether he wishes to admit it or not, is absolutely on the path to enlightenment. (Sept. 3) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Outside magazine travel columnist Cahill (Pecked to Death by Ducks) explains that "an adventure is never an adventure when it happens. [A]n adventure is simply physical and emotional discomfort recollected in tranquility." In the 30 essays that make up this collection, Cahill recounts visiting salt mines in Mali during a sand storm, quaffing snake-blood cocktails in China, and observing erupting volcanoes near Quito. The locales, which vary from far-flung places to those nearer the author's home in Livingston, MT, have infinite variety and hold the reader's interest. Cahill, whose background includes teaching travel writing, is a skilled narrator and stylist. He writes with humor and insight with occasional jabs at contemporary culture. He has a lot in common with travel enthusiast Robert Young Pelton (The Adventurist: My Life in Dangerous Places). In fact, the essay "The World's Most Dangerous Friend" describes their relationship. Highly recommended for travel collections in public libraries. Ravi Shenoy, Naperville P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Hold the Enlightenment I am not a yoga kinda guy. Yoga people are sensitive, aware, largely sober, slender, double-jointed, humorless vegans who are concerned with their own spiritual welfare and don't hesitate to tell you about it. They are spiritually intense and consequently enormously boring in the manner of folks who, in their own self-absorption, feel you ought be alerted as to the quantity and texture of their last bowel movement. Or so I used to think. But there I was, taking my first yoga class, in an open-sided bar/restaurant while, a few hundred feet below, the Caribbean Sea exploded off the high coral cliffs of Negril, Jamaica. I was doing some position, an asana, that was something like what I'd call a wrestler's bridge: it required balancing on my head and hands up top, and the soles of my feet below. Hotel employees had removed tables and chairs from the restaurant for this class, and, because I was apprehensive, I'd positioned myself in the area where I felt most comfortable, which is to say, next to the bar. In the field of my vision, I could see an upside-down line of several bottles of rum, and, above them, a black-and-white picture of Bob Marley, the patron saint of Jamaican reggae. There is a picture of Bob Marley in every single bar in Jamaica. I know: I've done the research. One of Marley's best songs has a line that goes "Every little thing, is going to be all right." That, I decided, was my mantra. I'm a writer, of sorts. My job, such as it is, requires me to travel to remote countries, where I have, in the past few decades, covered the drug/guerrilla war in Colombia, investigated the murder of an American in the jungles of Peru, dived with great white sharks off the coast of South Africa, and sat negotiating my fate with Tuareg warlords in the southern Sahara. Pretty hairy-chested stuff, but the truth is, I was a little scared about meeting all the yoga folks in Jamaica. There's a lot of testosterone involved in what I do. I assumed that yoga people would perceive me as some sort of throwback: a Neolithic macho, and an abyss of awareness. Well, everybody wants to be liked, and I deeply feared the scorn of the assembled yogis and yoginis. The books I read before coming to Jamaica had calmed me somewhat: yoga, I learned, is not a religion, and you can take from it what you will. Go only for the physical benefits: fine, yoga doesn't have a problem with that. Use it for stress relief and meditation: sure, okay. Or a person might opt for a total yoga lifestyle, which includes diet, meditation, and the search for enlightenment. Take from it what you will: yoga, according to the books, doesn't give a rat's ass. But I assumed that people who would choose to spend their vacations doing four hours of yoga a day would be lifestyle folks, the kind of weenies who might sneer at my own rather soiled lifestyle. I feared my classmates would be holier than thou, or, in any case, holier than I, which is pretty much a slam dunk. In fact, my classmates-a couple of dozen of them-did not appear at all the way I thought yoga people were supposed to look. The men were not little weenie guys, for one thing, and there were several of them there-I only say this out of journalistic integrity-who probably could have taken me at arm wrestling. The women-whose ages spanned a couple of generations-were not hippie burnouts and acid crawlbacks. None wore patchouli oil, and an extraordinary number of them were highly attractive. The rest were just conventionally good-looking. Don't misunderstand: I was with my wife, and I am not single and looking. But if I were, I'd take yoga classes, if only to meet chicks. Our instructors were John Schumacher, founder and director of Unity Woods, a studio with locations throughout the East, and Barbara Benagh of Boston's Yoga Studio. We had started the class by introducing ourselves and talking about our experience with yoga. Several of the students had studied for twenty years or more. My wife and I were the only total beginners, but, when my turn came, I told the assembled yogis, "I haven't done any yoga physically, but I've read three entire books and figure I know everything there is to know about it." There was a brief moment of silence, and I thought, yep, humorless. And then the class burst into laughter. Not a lot of it. It wasn't that good a joke. I looked up at Bob Marley and thought: Every little thing, is going to be all right. The books in question had been sent to me by Todd Jones of Yoga Journal, who had asked me to write a story about my first yoga class. Todd said he was looking for "a view of our little subculture from the outside." That seemed fair enough, and I asked him if he could mail me some introductory texts. He sent yoga books appropriately addressed to dummies and idiots, along with Erich Schiffmann's Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness, which I found well written but a bit on the ethereal side, at least for me. I figured yoga kinda guys might get a lot out of it. What I was able to glean from all this material was that the poses, or asanas, were developed thousands of years ago to give people control over their bodies. Such control is essentially for yogic meditation. The purpose and goal of meditation is the bliss of eventual enlightenment. That stopped me cold. Enlightenment? No sir, whoa Nellie. None of that whoop-de-do for me, thank you very much. The Enlightened Masters I have read are invariably incomprehensible and the Masters themselves are entirely incapable of constructing a single coherent English sentence. I'm not discussing someone like Eric Schiffmann, who is actually very good. What I'm talking about here is Flat Out Enlightenment, which is mostly unintelligible gibberish and reads to me like someone swimming through a thick custard of delirium. And don't think I don't know my Enlightened Masters. I've been to ashrams in India, power spots, and convergence points and "vortices" in California and Colorado and New Mexico. I have spent time chatting to a woman with many, many followers who lives near my home in Montana and who channels Enlightened Masters all day long as if making calls on a cellular phone. The link between them all-the convergence people, the gurus, the Enlightened-is that, in their written materials anyway, they don't make any sense at all. For that reason they all are self-published, which is to say, they themselves pay someone else to publish the work in question. As a professional writer, I prefer the opposite strategy, in which the publisher pays you. Enlightenment, my reading suggested, is an exceedingly poor career path for a writer. Oh, I knew bliss and enlightenment aren't often achieved. It said as much in each of the books I read. One strives toward the light. Okay, I'd buy that, sure, but what if I turned out to be one of those guys who just happens to "get it" straight away? What if I was an anomaly? I'd crank out a few asanas, sit cross-legged, thinking- but-not-thinking, and all of a sudden, flash-bang, I'd see it all: the meaning of life, my own connection to the cosmos, and the blinding curve of energy that is the pulsing soul of universal consciousness itself, and I'd know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that at that moment, I was completely and irrevocably screwed. Enlightened people are dead meat in the publishing industry. I'd lose my jobs, such as they are. My mortgage would go unpaid, my wife would leave me, and I'd wander the earth in ragged clothes, informing the less spiritually fortunate of a consciousness above and beyond. Perhaps those people might give me a few coins with which I could buy a scrap of bread. This is to say that, in my mind, enlightenment and homelessness are synonymous situations. I called Todd Jones back at Yoga Journal and said I'd take the course, but I intended to resist enlightenment. And if, through some cruel trick of fate, I did become enlightened, I was going to go out there to Berkeley, California, and kick his ass. So, there I was, three days into the yoga vacation, with twelve big hours of yoga under my belt. I had feared, on the whole, that yoga might be too light a workout for me: a bunch of sissy stuff about standing on one leg for a couple of breaths. I typically run (or plod) two miles a day, occasionally lift weights, and stretch assiduously. I had called Todd Jones before I left and asked if he couldn't get me into one of the more sweaty disciplines, some kind of power yoga. "If I put you, as an absolute beginner, in an ashtanga class for a week," Todd said mildly, "you really would kick my ass." He was right about that. I was able to do many of the asanas, but it had never occurred to me that once you attained the position, it was necessary to keep working through it. It never got any easier. If you did it right, you were always working at the very edge of what you could do. In a typical four-hour day, I felt I'd gotten a pretty good physical workout, and each would have been a lot more effective if I could have done some of the more advanced work we typically did late in the session. Todd Jones was right about ahstanga. I was standing at the bar after an afternoon class, having a beer and a cigarette, when John Schumacher stopped by for a chat. I was wearing a T-shirt I had bought from John, who runs the Unity Woods Yoga Center. The shirt featured a large triangle whose legs read: "serenity," "awareness," "health." "I suppose," I said, "I'm a bad advertisement for Unity Woods." "Not at all," John said. "We'll just add the words 'not applicable.' " Excerpted from Hold the Enlightenment: More Travel, Less Bliss by Tim Cahill All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.