Read Excerpt (PDF)
Filled with models of wonder about the world, thoughtful questions and ideas, and positive relationships.
I love how Fields’ stories offer profound responses to real-life situations. This is a book to be cherished!
You don’t have to be into philosophy To enjoy these stories
I’m not really into philosophy. I don’t know anything about Zen or any other Eastern religion. And I’m way older than the suggested reading age for this book. But I loved the stories in this slim volume nonetheless. I loved them because, besides being well-written and entertaining, they made me think about things I don’t normally think about. Concepts such as the nature of illusion, of movement, and of spatial relationships. Or how best to deal with pain. Or how to change one’s self-image. Where do thoughts come from? And what is meditation all about anyway? Through the eyes of the spunky nine-year-old narrator of this book, we learn about Uncle E and his peculiar way of looking at the world. And if we pay attention as we read these stories, we can see, if not all, at least some of “the different ways there are to be alive.” This is a big accomplishment for any book, much less a collection of stories ostensibly for kids. Then again, as the narrator of Peculiar Stories tells us, “Uncle E says that kids are smart when they’re little and they get dumber as they grow up.” I’m glad I had the opportunity to “read these stories and remember what I used to know.” Mora Fields has just become my favorite philosopher.
This is one of my favorite books this year. Told in first person by a nine year-old girl, it’s full of ‘peculiar stories’ in which the girl is encouraged to question reality, social conventions, and her own perceptions of the world, by her beatnik-bohemian-mystic Uncle E. The young protagonist is herself quite a free-spirit, with an engaging voice and sense of humor. She has just enough self-consciousness to be credible as a modern-day tween, and the interactions between her and Uncle E are a blast. The eggplant exchange excerpted above in the Editorial Reviews section is one great example. Here’s another sample of her ‘voice’:
“Some days are just a waste of time, if you know what I mean. Days when you wish you could just start over and forget about the unfortunate ***** things that happened (***** is a word I am not supposed to say.) Uncle E says, ‘Yeah, some days are like that,’ and then he almost always says, ‘This too shall pass,’ which is a quote from the Jesus Bible I think, Or maybe it’s something the Buddha said.”
These stories definitely fall in the tradition of Zen koans or non-duality, but I hesitate to say that because I don’t want to limit the appeal of the book. I think anyone with a penchant for philosophy and/or epistemology will enjoy this book. And I also think that these are just plain entertaining stories. But it’s true that these stories are a great way to introduce the practice of looking at our own mind. In one, Uncle E helps the narrator and her friends build a ‘thought-machine’, in which they try to discover where thoughts come from, and what gives them their uniqueness. In other stories, Uncle E gets her questioning perspective, while swinging on a swing or watching a train. Other stories are more about compassion and understanding, such as one in which a woman in the town rehabilitates a dog, or another in which Uncle E tells the narrator to bring her nemesis from school over for hot chocolate, and they become friends.
I should note that my own daughter is only 6, so a bit on the young side for this, but she loved listening to it. Older independent readers will probably enjoy it even more, and I look forward to her reading it over and over as she gets older.
I thoroughly enjoyed these stories written for young people ages 6-10 and up. The stories are character driven and literary. Each story communicates a teaching of nondual spirituality, as imparted by Uncle E to his young niece and other children. The young people in the book may get the teaching, they may not totally get it, but it is never excessively spelled out. Rather, the teaching unfolds with each story. In the end, you can’t help but align with the character Uncle E who is a person with a heart and humor and an ability to reach and teach children, like the one or two great teachers you may have been fortunate enough to know in your life. True, Uncle E is a family outcast because he lives a raw, artful, and natural life. Hence he is looked upon as a little crazy. However, the truth is that he is an adult teaching the kids things that will make them mature adults. You absolutely cannot go wrong buying this book. Get it for yourself AND for a young one and invite Uncle E into your household, even if he is kinda crazy. There’s no better crazy, ya know.
What is our authentic self really like? What does it mean to be present? Is what we perceive real? The lovable and quirky Uncle E challenges his nine-year old niece with these and other perplexing questions as they watch trains, go to the beach, swing in the backyard, and hang out after a rotten day at school. The adventures of a girl and her favorite “bean” will charm readers of all ages while encouraging young minds to find their own answers to life’s big questions.
—East West Bookstore E-newsletter, July 19-25, 2010
Called the “Mark Twain of spiritual literature” by Joel, our own Mora Fields has written a book of teaching tales called Peculiar Stories. Both plain spoken, absorbing, and layered with depth, these stories delve into such topics as where do thoughts come from, how do we deal with things like emotions, fear and peer pressure, how to experience spaciousness, and the meaning of life. Here are a few bits from a story called “Thought Machine”.
[eating eggplant]…Which Uncle E knows, so I was a little upset that he cooked it when he knew I was coming over.
“What don’t you like about it?” He wanted to know.
“Nothing, except it tastes really horrible and terrible,” I said.
“No it doesn’t, it tastes delicious.”
“That’s just your opinion,” I told him, real huffy.
“And I guess it’s just your opinion, too. Just an idea.”
Like a conversation at any dinner table with a youngster (or picky eater), so begins a discussion of how the thoughts we collect form our opinions, which leads our heroine along with Uncle E and some classmates on an adventure to build a thought machine. In a few short pages this story touches on where thoughts come from, how to gain some detachment from them, building confidence, making friends, and ends with a completed science project. Always engaging and never preachy, I highly recommend this book to any age reader.