In Good Company by James Martin, SJ tells a modern day tale reminiscent of Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain. A young man fast on his way up the corporate ladder finds himself asking “is this all there is” and wanders into the Jesuit order. I say wander because the path he takes often makes one wonder how he or anyone else in his situation could awaken to the answer to this basic question from such a “enviable” life position. He faces the question of our age with grace.
Radical Hospitality by Daniel Homan, OSB and Lonni Collins Pratt is a powerful book. It opens up the understanding of monastic hospitality to everyone who is willing and able to open their heart to listening. On the last page we find: “It is a courageous thing to keep getting up every day, and it is a much more courageous thing to rouse your heart and incline it to love. To care for each other, to open the door to the stranger, to open your heart to the stranger, lifts you up into the great dance of life.” Savoring this book gives you insights on how to do this marvelous dance.
The View from the Center of the Universe by Joel Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams is a mind expanding experience. It will take you to the tiniest to the extreme vastness of what we are beginning to know and get you to pondering about your place in all this wonder. Much has been said that we need to have a new creation story. This book will introduce you to the fundamentals of what that story might be and your place in that story.
Failing America’s Faithful by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend would make for good reading. The first helps to focus on our founders in faith. It might be especially helpful as we try to muddle our way through the confusing spin we are surrounded by as we try to make sense out of what is going on in the world.
The Assault on Reason by Al Gore, helps to focus our thinking on our founders as a nation It might be especially helpful as we try to muddle our way through the confusing spin we are surrounded by as we try to make sense out of what is going on in the world.
Recently a friend loaned me The Velveteen Principles which is based on the much loved children’s (really adult) book The Velveteen Rabbit. It was a delight to read such a clear exposition of the process of becoming “real”. You might want to treat yourself or a friend with these books which can also come in a gift package.
If you want to explore the impact of those events that are highly improbable but have tremendous effects on our lives and culture I recommend Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan. The author only mentions one passage in Matthew’s gospel, but anyone studying scripture can identify many examples of a black swan event that forever changed history. The book left me with a stronger affinity for what I have been calling Sneaky Spirit events for many years.
Hans Kung has given us, what in effect is his life testament in The Beginning of all Things: Science and Religion. In it he concludes: “This is my enlightened, well – founded hope: dying is a farewell inward, and entry and homecoming into the ground and origin of the world, our true home, a farewell perhaps not without pain and anxiety, but hopefully in composure and surrender, at any rate without weeping and wailing, and without bitterness and despair, but rather in hopeful expectation, quiet certainty, and (after everything that has to be settled is settled) ashamed gratitude for all the good things and less good things that now finally and definitively lie behind us – thank God.” He gathers up a life time of study and reflection and brings us up to date on the dialogue between science and religion so that we can be both/and people like Jesus of Nazareth.
A student of mine recently gave me a “must read” book. As I like to be able to discuss books that “everyone” is reading I put it on my book stand. Eckart Tolle in “A New Earth“, seems to have touched something that people all over the earth are resonating to in a powerful way. In these days of people calling themselves “spiritual” but not “religious” Tolle has tapped into a well of energy that seems to have a lot of potential. You may want to buy or borrow this book to get in on the discussion.
The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus is the most engaging book. What would Jesus Do? remains a problematic question because it implies that it is Jesus’ role to enter into our world and become the solution to our problems, when we are meant to live as bravely and as fully in our world and time as Jesus lived in his. (78) “The love of God is not just a sentimental obligation but the incorporation of a worldview that we respond to God as God acts toward us.” (Pg. 79) This is work worth pondering.
William P. Young has written a best selling book that invites you to open your mind and heart to a totally innovative way of relating to God and the Trinity in The Shack. A father, whose image of God was distorted by an abusive father, comes to a revelation by way of a tragedy. The miracle of transformation is brought about by his suffering and being brought to freedom through forgiveness. Be prepared to come away from this book with new and exciting questions.
A book that is a timely read by Benjamin Barber, Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole. NY. W. W. Norton & Co. 2007, could point to what “change” might be all about: changes that creates services and things that we really need, not just a different/newer/bigger version of what we already have. Barber highlights how we have become confused by the marketing media to believing more is better when what we really need is quality.
Beatrice Bruteau has once again given us a transformational work in The Grand Option: Personal Transformation and a New Creation. The last words of this challenging work are: “If I am asked, then, “Who do you say I am?” my answer is: “You are the new and ever renewing act of creation. You are all of us, as we are united in You. You are all of us as we live in one another. You are all of us in the whole cosmos as we join in Your exuberant act of creation. You are the Living One who improvises at the frontier of the future; and it has not yet appeared what You shall be.” This Trinitarian insight permeates the entire work and gives us a clue to what the next step in our human evolution is to be. As I read this book I was reminded of the scenes in Washington DC the day of the inauguration
A provocative book “The Great Emergence” by Phyllis Tickle attempts to examine the ways religion has changed and is changing today. She especially examines Christianity in what is known as the Western world. She finds that about every 500 years, a shift happens and the old paradigm bursts and a new way of being Christian in the world emerges out of its chrysalis and the new ‘butterfly’ takes flight. I found this examination useful and set me to wondering and watching to see what will emerge.
Often, what seems like a tragedy turns out to be a gift. Amir D. Aczel, in his The Jesuit & The Skull, gives us the heroic struggle that Teilhard de Chardin endured in his quest to bring together science and faith. The agony of exile turns out to be the laboratory of discovery. The long years of silencing forced Teilhard deeper than he might have gone if his energies had he spent traveling to speak to the multitudes who would have been attracted to his insights. His deep relationships with both men and women radiates in his understanding of love. For a while his thoughts were suppressed. Now his name and wisdom is popping up everywhere. If you are just beginning to explore the man, his life and work, this is a good book to start with
A provocative read is The Future of Faith. by Harvey Cox. He reflects on Christian history and speculates on Christian future. His premise is that we are entering into what he calls the age of the Spirit, having gone through ages of faith and belief. He says: “Today there is no basis for any “warfare between science and religion.” The two have quite different but complementary missions, the first concerning itself with empirical description, the second with meaning and values. Unfortunately, however, although the war is over, sporadic skirmishes between die-hards on both sides continue. Biblical literalists, who totally misunderstand the poetry of the book of Genesis, try to reduce it to a treatise in geology and zoology. Their mirror image is found among the atheists and agnostics who mount spurious pseudoscientific arguments to demonstrate that the universe has no meaning or that God does not exist. Both parties are fundamentalists of a sort, deficient in their capacity for metaphor, analogy, and the place of symbol and myth in human life. Sadly, battle lines that were drawn years ago continue to cause confusion today. Otherwise thoughtful people still mistakenly view the world as divided between “believers” and “nonbelievers.” But that era of human consciousness is almost over. We are witnessing the emergence of a different vocabulary, one that is closer to the original sense of the word “faith” before its debasement. Pgs. 182-3.”
Alva Noe, a neurologist, in his book Out of Our Heads, takes us into new territory in the discussion of where consciousness resides. He challenges the concept that it is in the brain. The subtitle: “Why you are not your brain and other lessons from the biology of consciousness” pretty much explains his thesis.
I wonder when Rabbi Bryon L. Sherwin wrote his book Golems Among Us in 2004, if he even suspected the radical events that would unfold in our economy since then? His examination of the Jewish concept of the golem, (a human creation) one that could serve humanity or wreak havoc is relevant to many of the issues that beset us today. He looks at biotechnology, corporations and more, in his broad ranging reflection that mines the riches of his Jewish traditions. This is a book to ponder.
Walter Thirring in Cosmic Impressions explores the traces of God in the laws of nature. This book assumes a lot of scientific, mathematical literacy of which I have a small amount. But like all books whose authors are respected authorities in their domains, it gives glimpses of the ongoing search for truth from the scientific perspective.
I have ongoing effort to understand the dialogue between religion and science. Paul Carr in Beauty in Science and Spirit goes deeply into the age old insight that revelation and science have their roots in the human quest and attraction to and for beauty. This is a challenging read, but worth the effort.
If you want to get another perspective on the situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban you need to read Three Cups of Tea by Gret Mortenson. He is trying to promote peace one school at a time. The book written in 2006 still promotes much soul searching. Would that our leaders have consulted with him so many years ago before setting out on the course they did.
Inside the School of Charity by Trisha Day, is about her three months living within the Trappistine cloister with the sisters of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey near Dubuque, IA. Trisha, a member of the Associates of Iowa Cistercians, reflects on the ways her experience with the sisters helps to inform her everyday life outside the cloister. Many feel that this is a nigh impossible task, but she does this very well. The values and practices of the Cistercian order are transferable and valuable for any person wanting to live a meaningful life, either on the “inside” or the “outside”. I have known Trisha and share in the membership of the AIC for many years, and promise you a fruitful read in this book.
Another work that examines the issue of nonviolence in a gospel is Fr. Beck’s Nonviolent Story: Narrative Conflict Resolution in the Gospel of Mark. Fr. Beck builds upon the important contributions of Walter Wink and Gil Bailie by examining more closely how narratives legitimate and perpetuate myths of redemptive violence.
If you want to explore Judaism, a good place to start would be Judaism by Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg. The subtitle is: The Classic Introduction to One of the Great Religions of the Modern World. This is the product of a lifetime of study and reflection by one of the most distinguished authorities on Judaism.
A friend of Fr. Nouwen, Jurjen Beumer, in his: Henri Nouwen: A Restless Seeking for God, explors the life and growth of this restless seeker of God whose many books have drawn countless people with him in their own searches. I remember a conference I attended where Henri introduced all of us to Adam, and witnessed his devotion to this beloved handicapped person he lovingly cared for.