Levine makes a statement about a third of the way through the book that we have to distinguish between the "action," and the "person." Indeed we have to see "pain" as not personal, but as impersonal so that we don't associate pain with our own little ego struggle, which is filled with fickle judgements, moral values, and fears -- all of which do not qualify as "universal." If pain is "our" pain, then we can't open to the wider Pain and hence cannot feel empathy for the world - which is the ultimate "goal." Our struggle is the world's struggle and our pain can parodoxically open us to the world. James Hillman, in Soul's Code and other writings comes to this through philosophical roots (phomenological) and wrote bestsellars - so there is something striking a chord here.
This is essential mid-life stuff, and I recommend it hardily. Think about someone in your life you have trouble forgiving. Then ask if you want to go to your grave not forgiving? I don't, but I can't guarantee I won't - or that it will make a difference. But somehow at the stage in my life ( I am 56) I recognize this struggle to forgive as not a moral issue ("should" message), but a basic "life" issue. It isn't about thinking thoughts, but feeling deeply. Levine lays bare the essential stuff that is being indirectly and obscurely and misguidedly being talked about today in the frame of "personal relationships." This is not the place to uncover these issues because, again, personal relationships are small and impoverished if they don't move to the the big relationship between you and the world. Sounds like mumbo-jumbo? The book isn't. This really is essential reading, particularly for those in mid-life who stand at the mid-point between looking back and looking forward. How do we do this? Levine's book demonstrates how.
What a delight to read and to savor the messages in this writing. The author clearly reveals his own journey through the somewhat messy process of becoming more fully human and holy. These revelations are minor compared to the wisdom that is distilled in wonderful reflective statements about the entire process of growth. Reading this book is a most useful and prayerful exercise