Who Moved My Cheese? book review

For Nur428, we were assigned Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. Here is a modified version of my Amazon review:

Who Moved My Cheese? is a terrible little book that I am embarrassed to say is assigned reading for my nursing management course. You can read a summary of it in my Scribd documents if you want, although I failed to include there the key sentence about Hem in the book: "his complicated brain with its huge belief system took hold".

There are a constellation of belief systems that revolve around the relationship of valuelessness, lack of personal investment, spontaneity, and happiness. These include systems like Buddhism, Jean-Jacques-Rousseauianism, materialist nihilism... Who Moved My Cheese? falls in this constellation. The message of the book is that the only thing in life is following "the cheese," and you'll be happier if you don't get invested in wherever you're currently getting "the cheese," so you can immediately go to where "the cheese" is without looking back.

Of course, we know of another tradition of change, represented by Lot's wife, the Exodus, the diaspora, etc. But that tradition tells us something very different about change, suggests differentiating important from unimportant, and that there are times it is necessary to resist instead of "embracing change."

Nietzsche tells us that Judaism is a "slave religion," but the truth is that "the cheese" philosophy is the true slave religion. It's no mistake that this story takes place in a maze, and the heroes are mice. The message is that life is just a giant maze, we're all no different from mice, and the sooner you accept that, the happier you'll be. This is a book for people who don't believe in self-determination and are just cogs in a giant business machine.

At the end of the book, one of the high school graduates says that his family-owned chain of mom and pop stores should have been sold off so that he could build a giant supermarket department store to compete with the new "mega-store" in town. He rejects the idea that there might have been something worth saving, not to mention the possibility of saving it through ingenuity. His conclusion is to just see which way the wind is blowing and follow along.

Another of the high school graduates says that her son was a star swimming champion but that after the family moved for her husband's work, he learned to enjoy skiing instead and now lives happily in Colorado. But if you want to know what the "embracing change" and "enjoying new cheese" philosophy has done to families, you should read GenerationMe, by Jean Twenge.

The phrase The Writing On The Wall comes from the story of King Belshazzar in the Book of Daniel, chapter 5. King Belshazzar took sacred cups from the Temple in Jerusalem and used them to drink in honor of the gods of gold and silver. A ghostly hand appeared in front of him and wrote on the wall "מנא מנא תקל ופרסין׃," meaning that Belshazzar's kingdom would come to an end. That night, Belshazzar was killed.

The author, Spencer Johnson, seems to think that The Writing On The Wall means we should all just go along with whatever life brings, but there are really two other meanings to the story. First, would Belshazzar have been killed if his people had decided not to believe the writing on the wall? Second, there some things in life more important than gold, silver, or cheese. To this book I say "תקל Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting."

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