Book: Burn Down Jonestown: Replace the Devil’s Debilitating Lies with Your Own Empowering Stories
Author: Burgmeister B. Duckworthy
Critic: Glenville Ashby, PhD
Although raised religiously, Duckworthy concedes that belief in God is not a prescription for success and happiness. “…you can still believe in yourself, fill your mind with empowering stories, adopt the growth mindset, practice grit, and strive to cultivate your talents to serve humanity,” he assures us.
He later offers, “You can change your reality with God – not by blindly believing the stories others tell you, but by writing your own.”
Using diverse narratives in his captivating Burn Down Jonestown, Duckworthy delivers a philosophy tinged with eastern principles. The world according to the author is driven by opposites. With echoes of yin and yang, he believes that the authentic self is realizable when we learn to embrace the opposing forces of grit and compassion.
His father, he concedes, embodied naked grit. A former marine, he was unforgivingly tough, incapable of emotionally nourishing his son. Duckworthy pulled away, unaware that there was much he could have learned from his father’s rugged temperament. His mother, conversely, was empathetic and compassionate. Duckworthy never judiciously navigated his ambivalent upbringing and what a high price he paid for his myopia.
He argues that oftentimes we avoid challenges, basking in a comfort zone of our creation. But we err in our adoption. We must welcome adversity and learn from the experience, for its dividends are immeasurable. It steels us against life’s unpredictabilities. But this is but one side of the equation. We can’t be all stone-faced. We can’t hide behind impenetrable, impervious walls. We must temper our grit with empathy, with compassion, Duckworthy says..
He writes of his dad, “As resilient as [he] was, he had brainwashed himself into believing that the only way to survive a cruel world was to toughen his mind and his heart. Grit kept my dad going when a lot of people would have folded, but his lack of generosity sapped his life of all its magic. It’s no wonder I stopped listening to him, even when he was right.”
It was a decision that Duckworth regrets.
Blending anecdotes with a compelling lyrical style, Duckworthy proves his salt as an able raconteur. And among the battery of stories are those of Sam Ward and Henry Jack Abbot. While the name Sam Ward may not immediately ring a bell, Duckworthy is particularly impressed. Ward we learn was a gracious host of prestigious parties. Tragedy struck with the passing of his wife during childbirth, and their baby a few days later. He remarried, a morganatic nuptial and that was rejected by his family.
Duckworthy writes, “neither intense family drama nor a series of financial setbacks could crush Sam. He continued to entertain Washington’s elite through good times and bad…His gritty spirit guided him on exciting adventures across the globe…”
The author also lauds the feats of tennis ace Arthur Ashe..
“He waged his battles with a calm demeanor that belied his inner intensity,” he states. “He earned acclaim as such a gentle warrior that when he announced his HIV diagnosis, he received warm letters of support from global icons such as Elizabeth Taylor and Nelson Mandela.”
Interestingly, Duckworthy makes mention of Mike Tyson’s meteoric rise and fall, and his tepid comeback. Readers, though, will find his depiction of Malcolm X as incomplete and potentially misleading. The black activist they would argue had long disavowed racial separation after his much publicized trip to Mecca. Regrettably, Duckworthy does not include that redeeming chapter in the activist’s life.
For the author, the psyche rests on shifting sand. The fast pace, drowning timbre of modern society has afforded little time for deliberate introspection. We anchor ourselves in an ever-changing zeitgeist, unaware of the timeless values on which authentic success is built.
Burn down Jonestown is refreshingly relevant, never resembling the hackneyed memoirs of born-again trumpeters rescued by the miraculous power of faith. The author does not labour on his past missteps, keenly aware that “every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” He needs only a few lines to share his heartfelt ignominy, despair and compunction. Yes, he grew up Mormon and diligently followed its teachings. His missionary work in Tijuana proved worthy despite initial reservations, but his romance with his faith lost its luster along the way.
But he refocused, learning from many a writer, including Carol Dweck whose, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, talks of fixed and growth mindsets. The latter doesn’t fear failure.
In the fixed mindset, “failure signals irredeemable stupidity and incompetence – every bit as frightening as the mark of the beast.”
Duckworthy ably reconciles conflicting emotions that wage war on the psyche. We see rational emotional, and cognitive approaches to storytelling. In fact, storytelling is the author’s Philosopher’s Stone. He is in tandem with Martin Puchner who states in The Written Word that stories have shaped people’s beliefs, incited wars, inspired movements and altered the course of history and entire civilizations.
For his part, Duckworthy writes, “It is undeniable that stories can embolden human beings with superhuman strength,” and later affirms that “the purpose of this book is to help you harness the power of stories to transform your life.”
Burn Down Jonestown offers definitive tools to experience emotional wholeness. With careful study of its principles we are better able to rid ourselves of the debris that stymie our creative expression. Always we will be deviled by circumstances. Idealism is an illusion. We know that much. But mindful of Duckworthy’s many axioms and anecdotes, we need not cower nor succumb to life’s many twists and turns.
Burn down Jonestown: Replace the Devil’s Debilitating Lies with Your Own Empowering Stories by Burgmeister B. Duckworthy
Available: http://www.blurb. com/b/8766762-burn-down- jonestown
Ratings: Highly recommended
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