by Jeff Stein
Viewed from most perspectives, the Vietnam war conjures up images of escalating combat of many forms, violence and pervasive social unrest at home and turmoil in our nation not previously experienced for those coming of age in the '60s. Daily glimpses on the evening news conveyed searing images captured by reporters in the field; soldiers shot, villages burned, aircraft unleashing endless streams of bombs and Agent Orange on the faceless enemy and civilians alike. No prior reading in my experience connected me to the possibility that there existed another view of that devastating era. Auspicious Journey- The Gift of Peace in a Time of War, for the first time, uses the novel as vehicle to illuminate a soldier's story of connection, growth and learning, unique among the tales told of war in general, or Vietnam in specific.
Auspicious Journey compels us as reader to pause, reflect and ponder the travails and dangers of war, while at the same time envisioning the compassion and humanity possible for those drawn into this perilous situation. We are carried along for one year, with one solder's unfolding immersion in the combat theater, experiencing the pathos and poignancy that he is immersed in. As the story plays out, we marvel at the gifted, inspired way that the tale of those at the center of the crucible of war are depicted. Auspicious Journey is one of the rare and profound opportunities to experience a place and time of war thru the authentic eyes of someone who was there, feeling their conflicting experiences of disorientation, peril and trust, woven together with a simple buy powerful potency.
In this elegantly straightforward and compelling account, the author shares his realization that the life-threatening and perilous assignment, undertaken as duty, to his surprise, presents opportunities un-imagined, to learn and grow in the spiritual ways of the people he has encountered. storytelling, at its best, blends personal insights and larger truths, bringing the reader along, as if there, to join in the unfolding saga. Auspicious Journey is one such gift to be savored.
Unlike most books about war that are routinely told by describing battles and combat, with wins and losses, Auspicious Journey take us into the human events co-existing at the heart of daily life, at the margins of the war all around them. In this compelling novel, we ride along with Dan, the narrator, experiencing the travails that are at the core of why one side is welcomed, and another resisted in the tug and pull over how the local non-combatant should choose to align. You, as reader are invited into the alternative war reality, sought out and embraced by our young, anxious, isolated and hopeful soldier, feeling the impact of the fighting that surrounds him, and the possibility of choosing connectedness, not animosity, as the way of being. Auspicious Journey is a story of relationship with both the ordinary members of a country hamlet where is assigned, and their extraordinary and wise leaders, in all its unanticipated and deeply felt bonds.
Perhaps the most key insight is the universal truth that caring on a personal level, not hate and inhumanity, is possible, even amid war. The villagers, both ordinary farmers and spiritual leaders alike, encountered as people, and not enemies, opens the door to this awareness. At its essence, this universal sense of hope and possibility transcends the location and time and delivers a message of broad optimism and insight that will well serve us all.