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The scholarship of this book is based upon the personal experience of author Benjamin Lee Wren, who taught 'World Civilization' for six years at the high school level and 35 years at the university level. The book stresses that 'World Civilization' should be taught at all levels of academia because, due to the innovations of the last hundred years, the world has evolved into a 'global village.' The author firmly believes that one cannot have a true grasp of history without an active knowledge of geography and how it is affected by terrain, climate and neighboring countries. Key elements discussed are: the importance of writing techniques and examples of major systems; the foremost philosophies, religions, and turning points in history down to 1650; major contributions to world civilization; recommended source materials for both instructors and students; and various methods and techniques for creating and fostering enthusiasm within the classroom.
Zen Among the Magnolias explores the integration of some of the practices of Zen and of Christianity. Benjamin Lee Wren discusses the possibilities as people from different backgrounds seek a deeper meaning for their lives, without destroying their heritage, through experiences such as zazen, tai chi, ikebana, folk dancing, and the celebration of the liturgy. He focuses on living in the present rather than in the past or the future. Wren explains a merging of asceticism and aesthetics which leads to a philosophy and theology that appreciates less as more, asymmetry, simplicity, tranquillity, and the beauty of aging. He shows how through parallels between the Four Noble Truths and Eight Fold Path of the Buddha and the Eight Beatitudes of Jesus, people become more sensitive to the problems of social justice. The result of an understanding of Zen through the nonverbal and nonimage form of pure contemplation called zazen, Wren demonstrates, is an experience of depth and breadth into the root of one's own being. This practice does not discount a Christian background; instead, it leads to a deeper understanding of all aspects of life.
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