by Grady Harp
Writing a review of the writings of Erel Shalit is daunting. How can anyone quickly distill the expansive and loving knowledge of this brilliant thinker and writer? The pleasure of reading Shalit's books (eg, ENEMY, CRIPPLE, BEGGAR: SHADOWS IN THE HERO'S PATH) is the absorbing of his manner of drawing us into his thoughts and speculations of Jungian individuation. He is a Jungian psychoanalyst in Israel but lectures throughout the world and the increasing acknowledgement of his many books indicates his level of importance in the community of psychology.
In THE CYCLE OF LIFE Shalit encourages the reader to reflect on all aspects of their time here on the earth, absorbing each of the stages of development of growing, but not dismissing the fountain of growth at the end of life. He early on gently shakes his finger at our contemporary thoughts of wanting to hide age: 'When cosmetics and plastic surgery mold a stiff and unyielding mask of youth, or rather of fictitious youthful appearance, old age cannot wear its true face of wisdom. By flattening out the valleys of our wrinkles, we erase the imprints of our character. Fixation in a narcissistic condition of an outworn mask silences the inner voice of meaning in our life.'
He divides his book into the stages of life and, of course, emphasizes the Jungian exploration of the second half of life (he reminds us that Jung is considered the father of the modern study of adult development). One of the selfless manners in which Shalit writes is his sharing of quotations by other writers - including Shakespeare's excerpt from 'As You Like It' - the 'All the world's a stage/ And all the men and women merely players etc'. He honors the words of colleagues alive and passed on, making sure that we the reader receive an expansive exposure to the interpretations of others.
But where Shalit blooms is in his compassion and this comes forward in the most needed spaces. He closes his book with the following: 'As much as we in old age reflect back upon what has been satisfactory in our lives, we need, as well, to bear our failures and foregone opportunities. Even if we have managed to walk our own individual path, having been fortunate to follow the road less traveled and found our way home to a sense of meaning in our personal quest, we need to carry the unanswered questions and unknown possibilities of the road not taken.' This is the soothing message he offers at the end of his insistence that we examine our lives as a whole. He is brilliant, he is warm, and we are the better for reading him.
Grady Harp, August 11
Grady Harp's book reviews appear in a host of syndicated publications, including USA TODAY, and he is an Amazon.com Top Ten reviewer.
The Cycle of Life and Enemy, Cripple, Beggar can be purchased directly from the publisher at the Fisher King Press Online Bookstore.