Manu Bazzano engages with identity, otherness and ethics in a wide-ranging discussion of hospitality, exploring various social and political implications. Identity is examined primarily through the experience of Buddhist meditation, understood as phenomenological enquiry, as an exploration aimed at clarifying the non-substantiality of the self, the fluid nature of identity, and the contingent nature of existence. Otherness is discussed using insights from philosophy and psychology.
In today's world of globalized capitalism there is the spectre of the stranger, the migrant, the asylum seeker. If the 'I' comes fully into being when relating to the other, the citizen can only become a true citizen when he/she responds adequately to the presence of the non-citizen. A self which does not respond to the other is isolated. And a citizen who fails to respond, or worse demonizes non-citizens, can he still be called a citizen?
The book retraces the origins of collective forms of malaise such as fanatical patriotism and xenophobia, both legacies of monotheism - the cult of an exclusivist deity. It looks critically at the notions of covenant, territory, kinship and nation, and formulates the view of "nation-state" as expansion of the ego (Buber) and as imagined community.
Symbolic and aesthetic dimensions provide a necessary humanistic perspective - the context of demands imposed by others and the phenomenological means to accommodate frames of reference of different religious, philosophical and scientific systems. And herein the author provides a revealing alternative - poetry - which promotes the opening up of new vistas, emancipation and radical change: Hlderlin spoke of "dwelling poetically on the earth".
Throughout, the author engages with philosophy/religion from antiquity till today, and from East to West, thus providing an historic overview of how hospitality goes to the core of psychological well-being.
"A lucid post-metaphysical meditation. Bazzano skilfully weaves together disparate strands of thought from Europe and Asia, which converge in an unconditional embrace of the secular, the immediate and, above all, the other."
-Stephen Batchelor, author, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
"Manu Bazzano takes us on a fascinating journey through philosophy, religion, psychotherapy, and politics which challenges us to recognise - and welcome - the stranger, both in others and in ourselves. This beautifully written and poetic book exemplifies the very relationship that is called for, and confronts us directly with many of the comforting strategies we use to avoid encountering otherness. This is a timely call to a radical ethics which could transform the ways in which we relate: from the interpersonal realms of the romantic relationship or the therapeutic encounter, to the global arenas of war and migration."
-Dr Meg Barker, Open University
"This book is challenging, witty, and erudite. The range of topics and authors is both admirable and enviable as is the writer's facility in weaving together unexpected associations that provoke new mental reverberations. I greatly admire the book."
-Prof. Ernesto Spinelli, author, Practising Existential Psychotherapy
"Manu Bazzano invites you to leave the home of habitual understanding (including the ivory tower of mainstream philosophy) and enjoy the wide, open landscape. En route you will meet Ulysses and Abraham; at times you'll walk with Lvinas and Nietzsche, Agamben, Lefebvre and Merleau-Ponty. At the end of your journey you will notice that you are back at home meeting yourself - both as a stranger and as an intimate friend. You will also notice that you have found yourself - by unfolding the hospitality of your own Buddha-nature."
-Jrgen Kriz, University of Osnabrck
"In this provocative and learned book, Manu Bazzano shows himself to be a bold adventurer of ideas. Bringing together the central insight of Buddhism, the insubstantial nature of the self, and the exploration of 'otherness' which has preoccupied European philosophy over the last century, the author offers an exciting exploration through a rich banquet of ideas drawn from Western philosophy, classical mythology, psychotherapy theory and Zen Buddhism. At once erudite and very readable, his poetic style carries the reader through landscapes of thought which are both colourful and thought provoking. His message is visionary, but yet advocates an approach grounded in the detailed fabric of ordinariness. His writing embodies the paradoxes which he explores, inviting true encounter with the other and the stranger as the route to the personal, the social, the spiritual and the ethical."
-Caroline Brazier, author, Buddhist Psychology
"I found this book a delight and a constructive irritation. Suggesting a path beyond alienation that debunks our social pretensions, it is full of sparkling original and provocative ideas which come at one in a torrent. You will find a multiplicity of new angles and glittering images, illuminating what might otherwise remain abstruse, and cross fertilizing what one might never have brought together. I found many charming turns of phrase that said things I have been trying to say for years and some, equally well phrased, that challenged my foundations. This is a book that seeks to provoke solipsism and to challenge us to go beyond the will, inprisoned by the ego as it is, into the free fall of that space that is the nurturer of our dreams and in which we are, all at once, both host and exile."
-David Brazier, author, Zen Therapy