Tag Archives: ancient texts

Book: The Art of War (Sun-Tzu)

Poetry about relationships.
(but write your own footnotes)

374 pages, ★★★★

The Art of War is poetry about relationships. It teaches us about romantic relationships, work relationships and family relationships. It is certainly not a book about war.

The original text speaks volumes and the commentaries are not needed, so I’ll keep this review very short. The Art of War serves as a guide, and it guides everyone uniquely. Any generation (in any situation) can easily interpret The Art of War into relevant, timely advice.

The Art of War is written in poetry rather than prose. The Chinese say that ancient texts were written like this for two reasons: first, writing materials were expensive; and second, that the essence of an idea stands the test of time much better if it is stripped of any transient cultural prejudice. Ancient texts are being constantly re-analyzed as can be seen from this book’s sometimes contradictory interpretations at different historical periods. The introduction reminds of the importance of cultural change in the passage,

“he who misunderstands change is like the man who loses his sword in the water, and makes a mark on his boat to denote its position… both are wasting their time!”

This book changes every time you read it. Or, more accurately, your situation and your outlook change. Repeated reading of this book over time doesn’t just teach change; it demonstrates it.

The American military could learn much from this book. “Better to take a state intact than destroy it”; “no nation has ever benefitted from a protracted war”, and “only a foolhardy general conscripts twice” undermine the current Iraq war.

What else did I learn from this book? I learned only to act when there’s something to be gained. Read it yourselves. Everyone will learn unique, personal lessons by reading The Art of War. ★★★★