Living is no Laughing Matter

A book review by Herbert W. Piekow

Living is no Laughing Matter


The complete title of Dr. Michael Hogan’s 27th book is, Living is no Laughing Matter: A Primer on Existential Optimism. Certainly in the best of times living takes courage, commitment, and a bit of whimsy to live a full life. No one can avoid stress, but we can all learn to live with whatever curves life presents. Dr. Hogan’s most widely read book, The Irish Soldiers of Mexico, which Hogan points out in this latest book almost never got published. But thirty years later The Irish Soldiers has gone through multiple printings, inspired an MGM movie and several documentaries, as well as helped build political, social, and economic ties between Mexico and Ireland.

His current book, while not historical, may influence the way a reader approaches challenges in life. Hogan points out that everything in life is connected and that, just like when an airline steward instructs passengers, “In case of emergency you are to place your mask on your own face before helping others . . .,” this is the same in life. You cannot help others unless you first help yourself. Living is no Laughing Matter is divided into short chapters which makes absorption of philosophical points easy to understand and assimilate and discuss. The title is borrowed from the poem “On Living” by Turkish Nobel Peace Prize winner Nâzim Hikmet, who spent years in prison for his political views. Hogan, like Hikmet, knows the depth of despair and great loss. In this short book Hogan shares his personal anguish at the death of his 27-year-old son while Hogan was in his second year of teaching at the American School in Guadalajara. Distraught, Hogan turned in his resignation. The administrator, who understood Hogan’s loss of faith and his despair, said, “ . . . you are a very good teacher . . . but you could be a great teacher if you could begin to see your son in the eyes of every child you teach.” These challenging words motivated Dr. Hogan and the results are shown in the accomplishments of so many students who, over the past 32 years, have graduated from the American School and gone on to some of the world’s best universities.

Hogan is not just a great and motivational teacher and writer, he is a humble philosopher who shares his understanding of life through his latest book by frequently quoting the likes of Franz Kafka. “Everything you love will likely be lost . . . But in the end, love will return in a different way.” In these 132 pages Hogan writes about the necessity of living life with hope, with optimism and an active imagination. “In choosing to be fully ourselves, we outwit the universe.”

Hogan relays the stories of several survivors of Nazi camps where millions of people perished and yet, often by fate as well as attitude, others survived. Part of his personal philosophy is, “There is tremendous freedom of being in charge of one´s life.”

His small 132-page book is divided into 20 separate themes that can serve as contemplative bedside readings or as independent philosophical challenges to better understand ourselves and possibly others. One of my favorite lines is, “It is a shame that daydreaming is discouraged in schools . . . adults as well as children need this.”

Living is no Laughing Matter: A Primer on Existential Optimism by Dr. Michael Hogan is available through Amazon, both in Kindle and paperback formats. Or contact Dr. Hogan directly through One may read the book quickly, or take your time and digest the 20 separate topics. Whatever you decide, you will probably end up purchasing other copies for children, grandchildren and friends because of the pertinent philosophical thoughts that either affirm your own unexpressed views of life, or how to change your approach concerning life. Like what happened when Dr. Hogan began to see his son in the eyes of the students he taught.


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