Saturday, May 21, 2016

Book Review: Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

Originally published in 1980, this revised edition came out in 2000. A movie adaptation with Nick Nolte as "Socrates" was released in 2006. Though it sounds odd for a writer to admit (except for screenwriters), sometimes the movie is better than the book. My fiction writing is more influenced by the movies I have seen than the books I have read. It's like describing the movie that is playing in my head.

This was Millman's second book. It launched his writing career and perhaps is still the most popular of his works. I greatly enjoyed and learned from his book on writing, The Creative Compass, which I reviewed here a few months ago. His writing has greatly improved.

The book is a philosophical work wrapped in a teaching myth. Ostensibly a novel, it tells a somewhat typical tale of a mentor, "Socrates", and his new protégé Dan, a representation of the author. It is semi-autobiographical in that the story is influenced by Millman's college years and speedily covers a few years thereafter as well. The typical aspect is that many words are spent as Socrates tears down Dan so the young student can be rebuilt.

I recall exactly when I began to understand Millman's philosophy. Page 161. So for me, the book only needed to be 47 pages long. Then again, I wasn't reading it in 1980, so perhaps I should give this author the benefit of the doubt. The Karate Kid had not yet been produced.

In The Creative Compass, Millman wrote about how Way of the Peaceful Warrior came to be. He had been writing articles for sports publications while working as a college gymnastics coach and physical education professor. He was trying to combine his articles into a book, and it evolved into the more philosophical version that was published.

This book suggests that humans can do superhuman things. It is inspirational in that way, but it also teaches a way to find happiness in an outwardly simple life, by purifying one's inner life. It is worth reading for athletes and philosophers, and anyone who hasn't yet seen The Karate Kid. You could also just watch the movie. Or skip to page 161. Actually, my recommendation would be this: Watch The Karate Kid, since you definitely need to see that. Then get Way of the Peaceful Warrior and start reading on page 161. That would be the best use of available time.