George Bryant; DayStar Books, 2020, (p203) ISBN 978-0-9951356-1-1
George Bryant describes himself as “a teacher, preacher, public speaker, politician, and social worker”.
Most of his professional career was spent as a teacher and principal in New Zealand secondary schools. Those of a certain age might remember him as president of the Social Credit Political League at a time when that party was in its heyday.
He has been ordained as a Methodist minister and still serves as assistant minister in a Presbyterian congregation in Tauranga.
In his latest book, Life Is…An ordinary Kiwi reflects (his website says it is his 23rd ), he reflects on life: our existence on Earth. It isn’t an autobiography—he published one of those in 2006—but, as he puts it, “I’m an ordinary Kiwi, reflecting on life as I’ve lived it”.
He tackles a wide range of issues, each inevitably briefly: work and war, money and sex, inequality and climate change, suffering and disability, faith and death, through to concerns about political correctness and threats to privacy.
It is an accessibly written book and aimed, I suspect, mostly at readers who might not read many other books or have looked into any of these issues in much depth previously. It is easy to see quite a few older fathers or fathers-in-law getting a copy of the book for Christmas.
If his bottom-line message is to treasure every moment of life, he also expresses the hope that his perspectives will encourage readers to think in a bit more integrated a way about the “links among the miscellaneous pieces of life”.
Perhaps Life Is will have served its purpose most if the questions and thoughts Bryant poses encourage some readers to go further, and dig deeper, whether in their own private reading or perhaps in something like a home group setting.
Bryant offers a personal perspective on many of these issues. He serves as a Christian minister, but his faith is worn very lightly in this book, Scripture almost altogether absent. I presume that must have been a deliberate choice, to broaden the potential market for the book, but it may be a drawback for some Christian readers.
In a book that covers so much ground in only 200 (fairly short) pages, any reader is likely to find arguments that simply aren’t that convincing or claims that don’t really seem that well supported. But as he says in his final few pages “it would be a boring, dull sort of life if we all agreed on everything”.
Often enough the challenge of disagreement helps us to reflect more deeply, sharpen our own views, and perhaps even shift our ground. George Bryant’s latest book will be appreciated by many, and for some it will serve as just that sort of starting point.
Reviewer: Michael Reddell