By Toby Macklin. Toby is a writer, editor, graphic designer, and Haven faculty member. In 2013 he is co-leading Come Alive, Living Alive Phase I, Dynamic Empathy and Communication Fundamentals.
You may know that as part of The Haven’s celebration of its 30th anniversary year, we are publishing substantially revised and updated new editions of Jock McKeen and Ben Wong’s best known books, A Manual for Life and The Relationship Garden. I have been working with Jock (with Ben in the background) for several months now; at the time of writing we have completed The Relationship Garden and are in the middle of A Manual for Life. Originally we had thought we would release The Relationship Garden before Christmas, but as we have gone on it has become very clear that the two books are intrinsically related to one another and should appear as companion volumes. So we have decided to publish the two of them at the same time early next year. This way we will be able to coordinate and cross reference them very closely and make sure they fit together as well as possible.
I want to say a bit more about this. One of the biggest tasks we set ourselves for these new editions is organizational. Both books are packed with interesting and useful ideas, but we have repeatedly heard from readers that they don’t hang together well and are sometimes hard to follow. As we’ve looked at them this year, we agree. In part, this results from historical circumstance. The books are based on notes that Ben and Jock were making as they were teaching, often responding to particular issues that came up in programs, and include quite a lot of material that was originally published in other places (including the Shen before it became the blog you’re reading now). Consequently, topics were sometimes not clearly ordered, there were repetitions, inconsistencies and so on. As we re-read the books, we realized that this wasn’t only the case inside each book but also across the two of them.
The new editions are much better organized. We have grouped the chapters differently, we have combined material in places, reduced it in places, filled it out in others. We’ve even moved some material from one book to the other, where we think it is more at home! We’re also working on new indexes for the books so that it will be much easier to find exactly what you’re looking for if you’re using them as reference books. As we’ve done all this we realize that the books are very definitely a complementary pair, companion volumes.
We are also paying close attention to the content, style and tone of the writing. Much of the material is substantially rewritten to reflect the authors’ current thinking on important topics. There are sections where we think the concepts were not clearly explained or had emphases that were sometimes unhelpful. For example, Jock and Ben have for a while now been saying that they wanted to do a better job of explaining in writing the concepts of power and strength. They thought that some key ideas had not come across in the books as well as they had when they taught this material in programs. So in these new editions we have worked on these chapters very carefully and think the results are much clearer and more helpful. Similarly, as one more example among many, the chapters in The Relationship Garden on sexuality and parenting have received a thorough makeover so that the value of the original ideas appears more clearly.
I’m looking forward to these extensively revised new editions coming out early next year (they’re going to look good too, with a fresh new design). If you already own older versions, I’d absolutely recommend you get the new ones, and if you’ve not read these essential Haven books before, you’re in for a treat.