Bruce Manaka
Flights of a Runaway Monk
Book Review by Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony

Wow! What an intense book. Way not fiction. Here’s a guy who spent 19 years in a monastery seeking a truth that was inside him even before entering. It’s a very personal, carefully introspective look at a process that, while specific to him, is also universal to all of us -- the process of coping with, accepting, and ultimately cherishing change. Each and every one of us faces the emotional challenges of letting go of something familiar to dare into the greater unknown armed only with a faith that something more meaningful awaits. Perhaps it’s as simple as leaving home at adulthood, maybe it’s leaving a safe secure job, maybe it’s leaving a relationship -- we all have before us choices that we may or may not have the guts to make. In “Flights” Bruce journals his personal journey in such a way that we will all gain insights into ours. He writes it all, his worries, his fears, while at the same time, listening very carefully to that voice, that inner something that beckons. He writes with sincerity, honesty and an acute detail that will no doubt echo those of the reader’s challenges with change.

When I read, I always carry a pen to mark stars and circles over passages that are too beautiful to forget. Let me tell you, I highlighted so many sentences and paragraphs on the first 40 pages of this book, that the unmarked text became the minority. This is good stuff. I also ordered 8 more copies to give to friends.

While a juicy, desperately important message still weaves through the entire second half of the book, I found the writing in that half needlessly repetitive. Of course this is Bruce’s journey and so during this time it makes sense that he keeps struggling with the idea of making a living in the practical world while at the same time trusting his art to keep food on the table. But, from the reader’s point of view, whereas the first half is rife, literally teaming with exciting and varied insights, the second half recycles its one potent insight. My highlight pen became quite inactive in this second half.

There is one other important detail I really should reveal. And that is, I know Bruce Manaka. I saw some of his beautiful graphic arts work on display at a local bookstore and by chance bumped into him there. At that time I was putting together sketches for a Children’s book to be printed in 8 languages and I didn’t have the time to color the project myself. I was blown away by Bruce’s color work and wanted him to join me on the project. Three years later, “Please Don’t Step on the Ants” was born, and absolutely vibrates with Bruce’s magnificent color work. So, though I truly feel I’ve been honest and fair in the review of his book, I cannot deny that knowing and working with Bruce may have biased me. You judge for yourself if I’m being overly enthusiastic because of this friendship. Still, the truth is, I know many authors and I seldom purchase 8 of their books to give to friends.

Here are but a few of the many many gems I highlighted from Bruce’s book:

“I went through college and proceeded not to use my degree for the rest of my life except to get my foot into doors of jobs I didn’t really like or want.”

“…it was a half-horsepower type of existence.”

“The outward role of being the good monk would often supersede an honest and open dialog with my own heart.”

“In avoiding a close embrace of feelings - developed an encrustation of hardness around their hearts and minds, and an inability to connect deeply and compassionately with others.”

“Now, hard work is what we humans are able to do year after year and our sense of worth oftentimes gets tied up in it. For me it also became a filter that muted the voice of feelings, the voice that wanted me to ‘come out and play,’ to create and manifest something of my own. I convinced myself that I was doing ‘God’s work’ in the overall sense of helping the church organization. And I got plenty of satisfaction from it. I learned well to ignore the inner voice of feelings.”

“We realized how -- through our own fears and blind assumptions about how a monk was supposed to behave -- we painted ourselves into impossible corners.” “Where there is doubt and confusion, it is because you fight the voice of your own heart.”

“Why would you choose not to follow your heart? Can any external voice give more assurance than can be provided by your inner guide?”

“Whatever you fear or misunderstand, place it in the fire of your heart … and watch it transform into energies that can speak to you.”

“It is about the play of energies that show up to help us in ways that inspire as well as confound us.”

-- And the quotable quotes in this book go on and on. Check out the book at Amazon or

Read more Book Reviews by Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony.

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Copyright © 1998-2023 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

Last Modified: Wednesday, 29-Feb-2012 13:23:46 PST