Capsule Summaries of the Great Books of the Western World

The Great Books of the Western World was a project by Encyclopedia Brittanica to identify the most significant literature in Western culture. You can find the list of authors and titles on Wikipedia, but they don’t have descriptions.

from Pocket




When reading, speak aloud new names, technical terms & foreign language words

Philosophy vs. Ideology vs. Critical theory
Where does Theology figure here?

– I am sick & tired, totally fed up & utterly frustrated by all this bullshit – this life, this world, this GOD, but mostly with myself!
Overcoming the Fall dramatically » repairing things gradually » enduring & weathering the Fall!
– There is a different kind of joy that comes from being able to say No to one’s own desires. From pleasure to confidence – from merely experiencing pleasantness to feeling good about what one has become!
– From frustration to astonishment!
From humiliation to praise!
From despair to wonder!
– Doing nothing » doing everything, but with a detached attitude.
Knowing that you don’t HAVE to do anything (external compulsion to prove oneself) » doing something, because you NEED to (internal drive to express oneself)!
– When & how did I turn 34 years old?!
Is it possible to become wise/mature with age and still maintain the freshness of youth?

– Divine madness!
– Ebullience
– Steps to freshen up my sagging spirit:
1. Try new & complex challenges – stretch yourself! iPad games, PC problem-solving games (, attend events, etc.
2. 15-30 min. of contemplation everyday.
3. Meet new people.
– Elfin Fey
– “Hey… Do you know what ‘xenophobia’ is? Check it out – it’s relevant to the comment you made on ‘chinkis’…”
– Movies: The Burmese Harp (Japanese)
The dead, the divine & the existential
Power of art – music & spirituality
Nation vs. Humanity vs. GOD
Mystical mission vs. Utilitarian activism
The Burmese ruby buried in the ashes-dust of human sin-death ~ the crucified Christ sown into the hearts & minds of all people

– The angelic chorus
– Maybe the Resurrection is more about the conquest of the fear (power/sting) of death than the destruction of (the reality of) death itself!
– Ps.46:9 – Christian mission, the weapons race & world peace
– Jews-circumcised & Gentiles-uncircumcised ~ the religious & the secular.
Petrine & Pauline evangelism in our context.
Circumcision (Judaism) ~ baptism (early Christianity) ~ religious conversion (comtemporary church)
– The appeal to divine revelation as the claim to universal validity.
– Inspiration » conviction » consecration
– Never forget the massacre of the Church following (the powerful demonstrations of) Resurrection, Ascension & Pentecost!
– The ‘authority’ of a free person!
Originality as authenticity
– What would Paul have done if the Jerusalem Apostolic group had rejected & opposed his message & ministry??
It’s not hard to answer!
– Divine calling & institutional approval
Inward imperatives & external authorities
– Sincere reverence & serious attention equated with literal interpretation & dogmatic zeal!
– How can a static/rigid gospel ‘transform’ evolving people in a labile context?
– Apocalypse – maybe the ‘veil’ is akin to the emperor’s new clothes!
This is it.
This is all.
This is good!!!
– The urgent & crucial need for the radical reconstruction of religious language in keeping with the Spirit’s move in this age…
– The blood, sweat & tears of a few » bread & wine for everyone!
– Deliverance ~ rest
– Movies:
“Ninja 2 – Shadow of a Tear” – grief » rage » depression/violence!
“Spirited Away” – we have to do with demons & angels!



– Maybe the 1 hour of silence & solitude (weekly) should be shifted to Sundays!

– The fundamental layer of everyday life is the contemplative attitude/approach/disposition (being present, open & willing). This must be maintained every single day without exception. The entire week must have this ‘Sabbath rhythm’.

– Why are my Sundays so (inwardly) hectic?! Don’t binge & purge, just relax & enjoy, Joe……

– The need to be needed is universal!

Necessity » significance

– Sighing, groaning & stretching – Nature, Man & Spirit!

– Movies:

Deep Blue See

Science, ethics & religion

Naturalism, humanism & individualism

Utilitarianism vs. categorical imperative

Despair & survival

Faith & struggle

Stress (personal) & conflict (social)

– Neither erotomania, nor megalomania nor altruism!

– What is love without the beloved?

What is faith without GOD?

What is hope without eternity?

– Can there ever be a flexible system? It seems to be either rigidity or chaos……

– The deontological seems to be the only sure basis for an effective & consistent utilitarianism!

Yes, Sabbath is made for man & not the other way around. But can man live well without paying any attention to the Sabbath command??

– The philosopher as therapist!

– Camp (adj.)

– Pastiche

– If I am a genius, I am a genius, I can’t help it. If I am not, I am not, & I can’t help that either!


– Vanya Rachel

Humanities: Four strands – Economics, Literature, Sociology (Development Studies), Philosophy.

1. Socrates – know cosmos » know yourself.

2. Start with contemporary issues

3. Introspection – self-examination – question of identity.

Critical Theory.





Intellectual history.




Cultural Studies.


– “The desire to achieve something is actually sin…work and production is a curse…Cain built the first city but Abraham was looking for a city who‘s architect and founder is God….God works and we just enjoy a sabbath way of being :)” – R

“Ha ha ha! Mmm……

I guess we all need something to work, fight & suffer for. Some worthy cause. Not out of GOD’s demand, but our own inner need for direction & purpose, & the realization of individual responsibility in the light of the current context (& the Passion of the Christ, of course!). It is a matter of how Sabbath-rest and labour/mission complement each other to give a holistic health & balance to our lives…”

“I think we can resolve the radical (& even violent) tension between inward contemplation (freedom of soul-self) and outward action (sociality of body-world), to a certain extent so that it doesn’t become destructive, by keeping them as two necessary levels of our life – the essential & the existential.”

“Something similar to your example during the last SFG meeting – our simultaneous existence at the level of awareness of the absolute liberating power of death, & the practical need to obey duly appointed & well functioning aithorities like the police. The former is definitely more important & necessary than the latter, but it (fortunately) does not always the contradict the latter!” – J

– We, as persons, differ from each other only in degree/proportion, not in quality/essence, right?


– “Fake event to work around calandar issue.”

– Maybe you are not paying enough attention to the details of the present moment (which alone is in your hands – the here & now!), & that’s why you’re succumbing to monotony (the illusion that every day is just the same).

– Maybe your pessimistic philosophy is caused by neurochemical imbalance in your brain!

Examine the psychology of the philosopher as a person, & the philosophy behind the psychologist’s theories…


Heat index (weather)

Approaches to any subject/topic – historical/developmental, philosophical/systematic/theoretical, psycho-social (critical/contextual), comparative-evaluative, practical-ethical, communication-linguistic, spiritual-theological, etc.

Darezhan Omirbayev – ideology vs. spirituality



Cultural Studies

Can the input of certain kinds of content alter the very structure of the mind?

Is the Christian neither stoic-activist (duty) nor epicurean-hedonist (desire), or is he both?

Indulgence must be short & fast. Rest must be long & slow. Work must be regular & flowing (neither fast nor slow). The first two are periodic.

Hour of prayer

Sport – somewhere in between the news & the movies. Watch it!

3 levels of learning:
Observing the teacher doing it
Practising the art under supervision
Becoming an independent practitioner

Reality, rationality & value

The truth of my meaning (accuracy of interpretation)
The truth of what the author/text says (objective validity)



– Is there something deeper (than the superficiality I can see) in these people, or is this all there is to them??

How is it possible to be like this?!

– If you are living in the same house as some others, then you better share your life with them!


– Problematize

– MOOCS – Massive Open Online Courses

– Becoming is the bridge between being & doing!

– Book review – one book for the course as a whole; one to relate it with my faith; one for each core subject.

– Self-assignments!

– Should I watch one World Cup match everyday?


– The greatest evils are NOT committed by ‘selfish’ persons, but by those people who have sold their souls for a ‘higher cause’!

– Is it possible that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures will say things to us which are contradictory to what He said in the biblical context?

– Philosophical theologians & theological philosophers

Dogmaticians & metaphysicians

– We are all born fundamentalists!

– “Hi, how are you?”

– Even the so-called need for novelty is a familiar fact!


– Movies:

Pervert’s Guide to Ideology


– Apotheosis


– Picaresque

– Albeit

– Maybe

– Self-denial, self-forgetfulness & self-giving

Sacrifice, worship & love

– Belief-pray-praise



– Manna, the feeding of the five thousand & preaching

Passover, Crucifixion & Eucharist


– “The Prodigal son was a son first, but later he was willing to become a slave voluntarily and willingly to his father. The elder son was a rightful son but he was a forced slave (by himself) to his father when absolute freedom was available. He was like the pharisees. Then when father wants him to join the celebration he refuses. He refuses to be the son. It is the reverse. It is very sad. Dr. Commins, Baptist pastor US.” – A

“GOD does NOT want slaves (voluntary or involuntary)! Does GOD give us freedom just for us to surrender it back to Him??” – J


– Individualism/Humanism



– “Hi… Just some thoughts on our discussion about vocation:

I am glad that you are no longer fatalistic about your future, & have found your field of interest.

But isn’t Calling more than just doing what one likes?? What about the kind of structure/system that you are getting into – the corporate sector exists only for one reason – financial profit! And humans are just ‘resources’ used by the corporation/company to attain this goal. The question is does HR really care for the holistic well-being of the persons themselves, or just about ‘optimizing performance’ for the sake of the bottomline & stock value?

Is there any genuine concern for the wider society, & are any greater local/global issues addressed by the organization that you join, & by your work in particular?

Finally, how is your work related to the values of the Kingdom of GOD & the purposes of Christian mission? Is it for, against or neutral to the agenda of GOD’s operation in our world??”

– Mirror image ~ self concept


– Declare war on boredom, complacency & apathy!

Do only one thing at a time with intense focus. Make a gradual & smooth transition from one thing to another. Set apart a little time periodically to review & plan. Make up your mind (about the overall direction of your life) thoughtfully, & then stick to your guns!

– Monday – Friday: Green

Saturday: Orange

Sunday: Red

– Once in 3 months – outing (retreat or house-visit)

– Ignorance-deception-vanity,

Anxiety-apathy-compromise &



– Distinguish:




– Theology is the linguistic expression of our mimetic & methectic response to what we hear from GOD (the excess in our experience of ourselves & the world).

– Struggle, rest & celebrate


Relax, indulge & frustrate


– Distinguish:







– Boredom + entertainment = depression!

– At the end of the Book of Job, why doesn’t GOD ‘explain’ to Job the reason for/meaning of his tragedy in terms of the heavenly court drama with the Devil?

– Life is not like a football match where your team wins or even loses. It is not just plain happiness or grief.

It is more like a match where the better team loses or a refereeing mistake determines the outcome of the game……

It is just frustrating & puzzling!

– Self-reliance without self-sufficiency.

Self-confidence without self-complacency.

Self-discipline without self-denial.

Self-sacrifice without selflessness.