‘A smile is the most basic kind of peace work.’ — Thich Nhat Hanh
In these times of fanaticism and terror, intolerance and disruption, Paul Davis’s A Way of Life: Zen Monastics at Work and Play takes the reader to a far-away world of joy and peace. Paul Davis is a documentary photographer who came in contact with the Zen preacher Thich Nhat Hanh soon after a personal tragedy. In his own words he found in the Zen teaching no ‘canned answers’ but ‘a life path that made sense to me’. The present book is a photographic record of Davis’s journey into that world of reflection.
A Way of Life is a book of luminous photographs that touch a deep chord in the heart. The splendid images, in black-and-white and colour, exude peace and joy. You’ll be hard put to find a picture without smiling faces. In other photos with no human presence, nature is smiling. Words of wisdom of the Zen teacher are sprinkled all over the book.
The beautiful photographs, taken in Vietnam, France and the USA, paint the monks and nuns in a variety of activities that make up their mindful living: meditation, gardening, sweeping, cooking, sports, music. The monks are often silently ecstatic, sometimes there is just a hint of a smile on their lips. But almost always their faces are illuminated by a sense of inner joy and peace. These photographs will have a soothing effect on the minds of the viewers. The world they portray is serene and unruffled. This reviewer hopes that they would also prompt a modern soul to reflect on whether it is worthwhile to have a life of ‘sick hurry and divided aims’.
This is a coffee table book, a book of photographs with the introductory words by Davis the only piece of continuous text. Paul Davis’s A Way of Life is a nice book to keep on your bedside table and leaf through in good times and bad. It will also be an ideal addition to the tables and bookshelves in places usually visited by anguished and troubled minds. Highly recommended.
The reviewer is obligated to let the readers know that he received a free electronic copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.