Month: October 2020

Book review – The Patterning Instinct by Jeremy Lent

Title: The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning

Author: Jeremy Lent

Publisher: Prometheus Books, 2017

The author

Jeremy Lent is a Cambridge University literature graduate, a Dot Com entrepreneur with an interesting and colourful past, and now a sustainability guru calling himself an integrator.

The book

The basic premise of the book is that human history can be studied through the lens of human cognitive development, a new approach to history.  The metaphors and world view held by society are instrumental to its future.

Lent has integrated/synthesised the research and thinking from literally hundreds of sources. In a work of five hundred plus pages there are over a hundred pages of notes, further reading and references. He has drawn upon disciplines as diverse as archaeology, neuroscience, and systems theory – the study of complexity and chaos.

The book opens by contrasting the voyages of Chinese Admiral Zheng with an armada of three hundred vessels and the voyage of Christopher Columbus in three leaky boats. Columbus changed the course of history and Zheng’s armada left almost no imprint on the world.

So why aren’t we all speaking Chinese?  Lent contrasts the deeply seated metaphors underpinning Chinese and European thinking and values: how each society views their position in the world.

Dualistic thinking and monotheistic religions figure heavily in Lent’s discussion. And he also explores the question “why the Industrial Revolution occurred in Europe and not the Islamic world or the Chinese world”, which were both more technically advanced at the time.

The Patterning Instinct is professionally written and easy to read, even if the subject matter is difficult to comprehend.  The book contains challenging and frightening conjectures, for example, that the “will of the people”, even in Western societies, is manipulated by a small elite group of society, and the species humans exploit the most is – humans!

In the final chapter Lent turns to systems theory and the study of complexity to suggest humanity is about to go through a period of significant transition. He couples this with his cognitive history to explain some of the human forces at play, speculating about, but not predicting, potential directions. We have a choice, he suggests.

It would be easy to dismiss Lent as just another new-age guru trying to make a living from humanity’s need to find meaning to our lives, but this work deserves more than a casual “oh, I read an interesting book the other day…” while sipping a chardonnay.

Reviewed by: Frank Thompson, June 2020

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book review group

Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize deadline extended!

The closing date for the Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize, to be judged this year by Terry Jaensch, has been extended by one week.

The competition has an open theme and accepts poetry to 40 lines.

It now closes on 18 October 2020

Entry Fee: $25 first poem

$20 first poem for members of Ballarat Writers

$15 for second or subsequent poems

Prizes: First $1,000; Second $400; Third $100

Finalists and winner will be announced in November 2020.

Please see the competition website for details on how to enter.

Book review — The Crossing by M.M. Riches

Title: The Crossing

Author: M.M. Riches

Publisher: Ginninderra Press, 2020

This intriguing Australian debut novel by M.M. Riches, a Ballarat Writers member, takes the reader back to the 1960s. A young nun travels to Cobbs Crossing, a country town in the Mallee, to work as a trainee teacher at St Cuthbert’s, an orphanage run by the Catholic Church.

Sarah, the protagonist, finds more than she bargained for at St Cuthbert’s. Most of the children are Aboriginal and although supposedly orphaned, she discovers many are not. A newspaper reporter befriends the young nun and together they uncover disturbing facts about the orphanage. Sarah is conflicted between her role and beliefs as a Catholic nun and her commitment to the children and to the truth.

The book shines a light on the devious and misguided ways that resulted in the mistreatment of Indigenous people by white Australians in the not-so-distant past. The author cleverly weaves humour and humanity into the more sinister and shocking aspects of this story. The book is finely researched and carries with it a poignant and important message. The characters are engaging and believable.

M.M Riches captures the essence of what it is to stand up for fairness and equity with a story arc that holds the reader until the very last page. The author is to be congratulated on this well-structured and beautifully written book. 

2009 Australian of the Year Mick Dodson said in his testament to M.M. Riches’ novel, “Characters in this book are real. I have met them in my lifetime. They are part of the story of the Stolen Generations, an integral part of the shared history of our country. Every Australian should read this book”.

Reviewed by: Heather Whitford Roche, September 2020

Ballarat Writers Inc. book review group

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