Braving the Wilderness

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown is a book meant for today’s questions. In the wake of the trauma of Las Vegas it is natural to want answers of why. Maybe the answer to why will never come but I suspect if it ever does it will include a life motivated by fear and shame. Both these sources of energy ultimately explode in one way or another. Ms. Brown reaches in and asks us to have a “strong back, soft front and a wild heart. In a life time of research she has poured out her findings in a very readable book on how to change the dynamic of the polarization we are embedded in throughout the world. It will take a lot of “wild hearts” to make this transformation real, but do we have any other choice if we want to find meaning in our chaos? I think not.

The New Cosmic Story

John F. Haught has written The New Cosmic Story: Inside Our Awakening Universe which is the most important book this bookaholic has read this year. His prophetic work will come to be seen as the opening to the future that we need.  We stand on the threshold of what is becoming known by all who strive toward “rightness”. A rightness that is indestructible which is the universal search for meaning in all the world religions. Our sciences have brought us the awareness of the process, and our subjectivity demands an appropriate outcome in order for us to give ourselves to the unfolding of the not yet. Teilhard de Chardin and others began the process, Dr. Haught has built on their insights and takes us the next step.

Being Mortal

It is a rare book that has me mentally shouting YES almost on every page, but Being Mortal by Atul Gawande has done that for me.  After serving people who are trying to make sense out of the modern medical systems for so many years, it was a source of hope and joy to read this book. Taking into consideration the whole person who is trying to make their way through the bewildering options now available is the new frontier and it is the new “wild west”. Never in human history has so many questions of what it means to be human challenge us now. The physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual questions come at us at a pace that overwhelms the best of us. Reading this book and talking with our significant others is a great first step. Dr. Gawande tells the stories in a way that will help us recognize our own stories. He will be an able guide as we each confront Being Mortal.

Since I read this book the author was inter vied on Public radio and said this:

“There are many kinds of studies; the most powerful one, for me, was the study that Jennifer Temel, a Massachusetts General Hospital physician, did — led, which took care of stage four lung cancer patients. They lived only, on average, 11 months. It’s a terminal condition; no one lived past about three years. And what she did was, half of the group were randomized to get the usual oncology care, and the other half were randomized to get the usual oncology care plus a palliative care clinician, physician, to see them early in the course of their illness. And so it was sort of a radical idea — see them from the very beginning.

And what — the group who saw the palliative care clinicians from the very beginning did end up stopping their chemotherapy. They were 50 percent less likely to be on chemotherapy in their last three months of life. They were 90 percent less likely to be on the chemotherapy in their last two weeks of life. They were less likely to get surgery towards the end. They had one-third lower costs. They started hospice sooner. They spent more time out of the hospital. They were less likely to die in the hospital or die in the ICU. And the kicker was that they not only had overall less suffering, they lived 25 percent longer.”

You can listen to or read the entire interview here

 

The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three

The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three.  Shambhala Pub, In. Boulder, Co  2013 by Cynthia Bourgeault. Have you ever been attracted to a new concept and intuited that it was on the right track even though how it developed seemed obscure at the moment? I found myself there with the thoughts of Teilhard de Chardin over 40 years ago. Many, Cynthia among them, were also drawn by his insights and have lent their talents to joining in the flow that all truly creative efforts engender. If you are willing to take the tour of Cynthia’s factory of inspiration you will be rewarded with seeing the nuts and bolts of her inspiration on the Trinity or as she calls it “The Law of Three”. It is a demanding tour, but well worth the effort if you are interested in how she got THERE.

The Optimistic Leftist

At 80 years of age and surrounded by the woes of the world, I must tell the author Ruy Teixeira I NEEDED THIS BOOK. He carefully outlines the last 100 years and brings together the information I needed to see the sweep of  the global struggles and successes. He painted the big picture and reveals that the arc of history is bending toward a more evolved world. I keep a record of all the books I read and they are listed by the author last name. Today when I added this book to that list it came right after Teilhard de Chardin. I see this as an affirmation of Teilhard’s vision. If you need an antidote to the daily news this book is for you.

The Enigma of Reason

I was attracted to the premise of this book because I wondered why we reason the way we do.  A sentence on the last page sums it up for me. “Group discussion is typically beneficial when participants have different ideas and a common goal.” In our times of polarization where we haven’t agreed upon the common goal of survival of the environment or humanity itself it is no wonder why we struggle.  Hopefully insight into the ways we do and do not reason will help us discover a common goal. It only takes a serious illness to impress upon a person that individualism is an illusion. We will move forward together or not at all. Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber have dug deep and given us the benefit of their exhaustive examination of the enigma of reason.

C. G. June: The Fundamentals of Theory and Practice

The subtitle of this book accurately describes its contents. Elie Humbert traces the evolution of this great man’s work. Published first in 1983 this work makes available the origins and the insights gained in his practice of healing those who came to him. It is not for the feint of heart as it is heavy in use of language not too quickly assimilated, but perseverance pays off in the end.  I think history will give him a significant thanks for how he moved the ball forward in the integrative process we all are called to engage in as we make sense of life and thereby add to the collective consciousness.

The Undiscovered Self

This classic by C.G. Jung is so timely for today. As I reflected on its message I was reminded of Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of union differentiates. This idea teaches that the more we come together, the more we discover our self. In biblical times the individual counted only as a member of a group. Outside the group survival was all but impossible unless you could find another group that would include you. Then centuries later, we rebelled and swung to the opposite pole of individualism.  For a time we reveled in this new found sense of the importance of each life. It seems now that we are faced with another important paradigm shift that it isn’t an either/or dilemma, but a both/and reality. Jung invites us to reflect on the good/evil that is inherent in each of us. When we accept and respond in ways that our faith traditions offer, maybe we can evolve from just being attracted to the eternal truths offered by the worlds faith traditions and actually try to live them. It seems like our present worldwide anxiety offers us this invitation. You can go online and download a pdf version of this valuable little book.

 

Christ in Evolution

Ilia Delio has given us the gift of bringing the thoughts of Teilhard de Chardin into the 21st century. Over 40 years ago I encountered this man’s genius that helped me bridge the chasm between science and religion. Unfortunately back then his ahead of the times thinking was not appreciated but I sensed a truth in his mysticism that kept pulling me forward when others seemed stalled. Now, at last, he is being noticed and appreciated by many. We are catching up to his vision both in science and religion. Delio plunges into the thoughts of others and attempts to move the “ball forward” with their help. It gives me great joy to find companions in this journey. If you want to experience a visual trip into this rich vein of creativity take the time to explore the film strip educational tool offered on this site called Survival. I have used this teaching tool for all these 40+ years. You will be rewarded.

Jesus and the Cosmos

Denis Edwards wrote a book back in 1991 that began the effort to bring together the current information on so many fronts. Religion, spirituality, science, eschatology,and the search for meaning in an age that is rapidly expanding just as is the universe itself. This invites the reader to open their minds to possibilities undreamed of before, and at the same time taking us into areas that threaten our footing in ‘accepted’ ways of being in the world.

Survival

Many many years ago in an effort to make Teilhard de Chardin’s Phenomenon of Man accessible this film strip was created called Survival.  I have used this teaching tool for over 40 years and it makes it easy to introduce the work of this great man to those looking for a God big enough to worship. I invite you to taste and see how marvelous God’s process of creation is.

When Breath Becomes Air

Recently, I read a review of this book and got on the list to borrow it from our library. This book gave its author Paul Kalanithi a way to share his life and death while also letting us in on his search for meaning.  Out of the entire book I think this paragraph spoke most powerfully to me. “Before operating on a patient’s brain, I realized, I must first understand his mind: his identity, his values, what makes his life worth living, and what devastation makes it reasonable to let that life end. The cost of my dedication to succeed was high, and the ineluctable failures brought me nearly unbearable guilt. Those burdens are what make medicine holy and wholly impossible: in taking up another’s cross, one must sometimes get crushed by the weight.” Page 98.  I think this says it all and I hope it invites you to share his story as I have and be as blessed by it as I am.

The Righteous Mind

In an attempt to better understand the struggle that every election involves I chose to read Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”. I admit that this exhaustive treatment of why and how people sort themselves out has helped me in my effort to make sense of what appears most of the time to be nonsense. He helped me see the value of each orientation such as  liberal/conservative and how they each have strengths and weaknesses.  We need each other to become whole, but have fallen into the either/or trap that the gospels warns us  to avoid.  Watching the “news” will become a more instructive exercise since reading this book. A current article that expands on this subject. For an interview with the author click on this link

Teilhard’s Mysticism

If Teilhard were alive today he would appreciate Kathleen Duffy’s Teilhard’s Mysticism as she engages the latest discoveries in science with his powerful quest to bridge the gap between science and faith. More and more people from all disciplines are recognizing their debt to his life long effort to find what holds all things together and gives everything its meaning. Duffy subtitles her work “Seeing the inner face of evolution”, and that she does. For all of us who have treasured the fruits of Teilhard’s life and work, we thank her for this contribution that builds on his.

From Big Bang to Big Mystery

From Big Bang to Big Mystery: One reviewer states: “In a fascinating, accessible and thorough study, renowned priest Brendan Purcell explores the question of human origins. Covering a phenomenal range of material, Purcell moves easily between analysis of the various scientific perspectives on how humans are unique (emerging from a perhaps seven million year hominid sequence) and his suggestion that what is really needed is a look at why humans are unique. This pushes the zoological/paleontological discussion into the realm of philosophy and theology and gives new life to considerations of human emergence suggesting, even, that humans are better understood as an unprecedented cultural and spiritual event.”

The World is Flat

Over 9 years ago Tom Friedman wrote his book The World is Flat. It aroused a lot of attention then and much was written about his thesis. Now all these years later, I have read his work and mused on how these 9 years have confirmed/challenged this thesis. This is a good book for a discussion group. I found myself in dialogue with him as I turned the pages of this important study of how our interconnected world has developed.

Mind in the Balance

If you are interested in the interface between Christianity and Buddhism in the dialogue between science and religion, this may be the book for you. Mind in the Balance examines the history of meditation in both these traditions of belief. B. Alan Wallace explores the subject of mind, intelligence, spirit and reason. His  insights from modern science helps to engage those who feel that they are “spiritual” but not “religious”.

The God of Evolution

 The God of Evolution by Denis Edwards. The dialogue between science and religion is maturing. In this age of rapidly developing information, coming at us at such a pace as to cause vertigo for some, this book is a gift of clarity. Fr. Edwards, a priest of the Archdiocese of Adeliade, Australia, brings science and theology together. His insights on the Trinitarian understanding of God and the scientific understanding of evolution are a gift to all. This is a good book to engage you with the mysteries of the universe and the mystery of God.

Noah’s Flood

 Noah’s Flood by William Ryan and Walter Pitman, NY. Simon & Schuster, 1998.
In a remarkable joint effort, over a span of many years, scientists of numerous disciplines have pooled their information to bring forward what can be known about the ancient flood stories of the many cultures in antiquity. With the advent of undreamed of technology, and cooperation by peoples formerly separated by the cold war, this study of the great flood dated around 7,000 BCE is made possible. The book reads like a mystery story. It examines the data from ocean, sea, desert, mountains, cultures, and more. Here is an example of what can be accomplished when people are drawn together by a common quest that transcends barriers of time, place, culture, ideology or theology.

Electromagnetism and the Sacred

 Electromagnetism and the Sacred by Lawrence W. Fagg. This is wonderful time where physicists are finding their science helping to get a handle on what the mystics have been talking about. Dr. Fagg works at the frontier of Spirit and matter, using the electromagnetic interaction (EMI) as a powerful physical analogy for the ubiquity of God’s indwelling presence. Once you get through the first part of the book and the heavy science, the remainder will take your imagination into new avenues of thought.

The Holy Web

The Holy Web by Cletus Wessels, O.P. Fr. Wessels’ book has been “rumbling around in me for many years”. He says that “I owe much to my many students and colleagues over the years. It is my hope that his work will repay all these people and excite many others”. I am sure that if you treat yourself to this book, you will not be disappointed. The subtitle, “Church and the New Universe Story”, gives you the thrust of this work. With contemporary science challenging us from many sides, most recently the human genome project, we need to have guides such as this book to help us begin to think through the many new questions and opportunities that seem to come daily anymore. More and more we realize that all that is, is in a “web of relationships”. Just how to live creatively in this web is the new story that is unfolding before our eyes.

Cosmology and Creation

Cosmology and Creation by Paul Brockelman Many have said we need a new story to bring together the scientific and spiritual understandings of life so that our young may live whole lives again. This book is one of the many that attempts to lay out the chapters of such a story. This new story needs to help us rediscover the spiritual insights and practices lying at the core of  all the world’s religious traditions. It will help us connect our spiritual and scientific experiences in a way that opens the wonder of awe once again. This new story is not an enemy of the human spirit, but an expression of it.