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.

Sandra’s Hands

Paul’s Berg’s story could be anyone’s story who has given their all to a cause they believed in. He takes us through the tragic war in Vietnam through the community of Wounded Knee and beyond. As someone who has lived through a similar saga with the criminal justice system, I found myself thinking of all the risks entailed in following my truth. The awakening to the insight that all systems have inherent in them the same danger of being co-opted by the “system”. How do I keep from being used to keep things as a good form of job insurance? Was there a minimal focus on actually making changes for the people supposedly being served? These are questions for those of us who like Paul can bring to the discussion now.

No is Not Enough

Klein, Naomi. No is not Enough. Harper Books. Chicago, IL. 2017.  Resisting Trump’s shock  politics and winning the world we need.

As I read this book I was flashing back to those days at the U of IA Hospital and Clinics and our Monday morning interdisciplinary rounds. Each week all the disciplines involved in diagnosing and treating our patients came together to gather all the facts we knew and discern what we still needed to know to figure out what our patient needed and wanted. After all the tests results came in we started our care planning. One would offer this option and another said that if we chose that course of treatment they would need to do this. Another would offer if that was chosen then maybe this should happen first. Still others suggested another option that no one had thought of. Alone, if each progressed without this information, we could end up with something no one wanted let alone the patient and their family.

Each week we regathered to evaluate our progress and revise our plans. As the chaplain I often stood between the vast system and the patient and family, bringing questions and insights that kept those two realities on the same page. This way we could harness the best of all the options we had available.

Naomi Klein has done the chaplain’s role for our present moment’s challenges. She has listened, witnessed, and brought all her skills together to help us diagnose our collective dis-ease. She has written a guide for how each of us can bring our skills to bear on healing what needs caring for and send us off with a renewed hope that we can Leap forward to a more humane-human future.

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.

 

Lila

Robinson, Marilynne, Lila. Picador Pub. NY. 2014. I rarely read novels but a dear friend handed me this one and because I treasure her wisdom I brought it home to read. It was so different than anything I had encountered it kept me wondering  from page to page, just like the woman/child Lila. At first I was reminded of another friend who took home a dog from the shelter that had been abused and his efforts to convince the dog it was safe and loved. He never quite accomplished that goal. The early painful experiences would not let the dog relax into his love. But as I finished the book and thought more deeply about it another image came to me. The story put in words what we all go through in life as we cycle through experiences that consciously or unconsciously affect our choices. In having Lila’s story told in this unique fashion we almost experience her in a lucid dreaming state.  Not having read anything else by Robinson I was not influenced by the information that might have changed the way I responded to this creative work.  I might now have to pick up some of her earlier books.

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.

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

Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself

Dr. Joe Dispenza has explored the implication on how we can use the new knowledge of brain studies to “lose your mind and create a new one” in this work published in 2012 called Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. He takes us further into the practical ways that we can move from a more instinctual way of being in the world to a more conscious one. He shows how knowledge without experience is merely philosophy; experience without knowledge is ignorance. He helps us to see how we can unmemorize our self-limiting emotions and move to wisdom. The book ends with practical methods of using meditation to achieve these goals.

Evolve Your Brain

Joe Dispenza, D. C has written a challenging book that explores the new discoveries in brain studies. Where we once thought that a damaged or addicted brain was permanently affected, his and others who are studying the brain with the newest technologies are finding that isn’t always so. This opens up all kinds of possibilities for growth and change that have exciting potential.  The subtitle is: The Science of Changing Your Mind. This work will change a lot of things for a lot of people. Here is a quote from pages 1-2. Triggered by your most recent thought, did you know that suddenly, your pancreas and your adrenal glands are already busy secreting a few new hormone?. Like a sudden lightning storm, different areas of your brain just surged with increased electrical current, releasing a mob of neurochemicals that are too numerous to name. Your spleen and your thymus gland sent out a mass e-mail to your immune system to make a few modifications. Several different gastric juices started flowing. Your liver began processing enzymes that were not present moments before. Your heart rate fluctuated, our lungs altered their stroke volume, and blood flow to the capillaries in your hands and feet changes. All from just thinking one thought. You are that powerful.  Explore the rest of the book for a whole lot more.

Here and Now: Living in the Spirit

In these quiet winter days I reread a book of meditations by Henri Nouwen titled Here and Now. Any time spent with this gifted spiritual guide is sure to delight. I remember a chaplain convention where he was our plenary speaker. He had his friend Adam seated on stage with him. This will always affect the way that I encounter his writings. He put skin on his witness just as he says Jesus did that for God for us. It is a small but mighty book to read and reread.

Fresh Bread

In her book, Fresh Bread, Sr. Joyce Rupp takes you through the year with scriptures recommended for daily reflection. Each month has a theme that can awaken a quiet time of meditation and is designed for those whose lives are busy but need a method to integrate their experiences with their faith.  Written in 1985, but timeless in content, I recommend this to those wanting to bring a focus to their days.

Immortal Diamond

If you only have time for one book this year please consider Richard Rohr’s newest book Immortal Diamond. This is a work that is so approachable you will find yourself saying “yes, yes” on almost every page. As the back cover says “This book is the ripe ftuit of a life couragously and honestly lived. Such profound wisdom conveyed with such elegant simplicity!” It will also make a wonder filled gift for some special in your life.

Genius Born of Anguish

I vividly remember a convention that featured Henri Nouwen as our main speaker. He had his friend Adam with him sitting on stage. Reading Genius Born of Anguish helped to fill out my awareness of this gifted man. I, along with multitudes of others, have been drawn to his willingness to plum the depths of his own growth in faith and share it with us in his many books, conferences, retreats etc. down through the years. If you too have found a soul friend in Henri, you will love this book.

My Life with the Saints

In his book My Life with the Saints Fr. James Martin, S.J. takes us on a journey of discovery.  He concludes his book by saying: “I hope this book is also a beginning for you, and that it has offered encouragement in your own journey with the saints. The saints in this book ar those for whom I feel the most affection, those who have afforded me courage,and those who I believe have prayed for me during some tough times. I hope that some of them will become your companions, too. Then one day, united in heaven, we will be able to thank God for these men and women who have been our models, our intercessors, and our friends.” In encourage you to read the last chapter first so that you will be encouraged to be the you God has created you to be, just as these role models certainly were.