A Light to the Centurions

A Light to the Centurions by Fr. Robert Beck is a book that has me excited. As I dug deeper into his exploration of the Gospel of Luke and Acts I kept seeing parallels to Luke’s time and ours. A quick google search for Nuns and Nones will take you to places like: https://www.nunsandnones.org/community             

https://www.ncronline.org/preview/nuns-and-nones-modern-religious-community

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/trends/nuns-and-nones-modern-religious-community-55831    and this is just a sample.

I am sure Fr. Beck has been working on this book for many years as it would take almost a lifetime to bring together all the insights in this work. But especially this being the year of Luke in the lectionary cycle no one preaching, teaching or reflecting on Luke’s works, will go away unrewarded from engaging this book.

A few quotes might give you a taste. “It is a tradition that will invite them into the community of the one God’s salvation as Gentiles, and not as converts to Judaism. It means an expression of faith community that moves beyond the identity markers that safeguard the Jewish community, which it turns was commissioned to safeguard the revelation of the one God.” (153) Are the ‘nones’ a modern day example of the God-fears of Luke’s day?

“The very honor-shame value system that structures the culture of the empire are called into question by the teaching of Jesus.” (153) Are these young adults calling into question of the ‘empire” today?

“Has Luke, in making the gospel available to the empire, had the inverse effect of making the empire the authoritative reader of the gospel? That is a large part of the question generating this book.”(156) Are the nuns making the Word available by living the values and practices that attract the nones? Am I living those values?

Beck quotes Thomas Merton on pg. 163: “Instead of trying to use the adversary as lever for one’s own effort to realize one’s ends however ideal, nonviolence seeks to enter into a dialogue with him in order to attain together with him, the common good of man.” Is this the method we can use as we engage with the ones in our lives who hold other ideas than the ones we hold?

 “Luke moves the narrative from a depiction of repentance to an address to the reader, a call for the reader to repent. And in so doing, he presents a case for the Graeco-Roman Gentile to reconsider his cultural heritage: the values that were simply a given now are put under the lens to require a deliberate choice-to continue living by these values or not.” (172) Are we looking at our choices with eyes looking to the future that those choices create?

Beck concludes on pages 172-3: “Luke’s writing not only serves to offer his reader a “certainty concerning the things about which you were taught (Luke 1:4), but also a challenge- to remain on a journey as its radical implication continue to be discovered.” Reading and reflecting on this book will continue to challenge me and I invite you to join me in these questions.

The Tubman Command

Elizabeth Cobbs in her The Tubman Command kept me reading nonstop for a day. I don’t often read outside nonfiction but my long attraction to Harriet Tubman lured me to explore this work of love. Tubman’s use of her vulnerabilities for the good of others has been like a flame to my moth instincts. Cobb shows signs of using whatever data on Tubman exists and carefully wraps her story around those facts in a way that makes the struggle for freedom intimate. In these days where people are being told to “go back to where you come from” this book is very timely. A quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin says it all: “Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.” Harriet “Moses” Tubman lived this truth. Elizabeth Cobbs invites us to reflect on how each of us is called (and enabled) to do the same.

Grace

Grace: On the Journey to God

Michael Casey once again is a faithful guide for the journey we all are on to God. On the last page Casey writes; “There is a grace and energy; at work carrying us upward that does not stem from our own limited resources.” This energy/grace can be explored chapter by chapter. He reflects on discontinuity, desire, humanity, alternation, temptation, self-knowledge, petition, dedication, contemplation, faith, revelation, leisure, silence, community and communion. Reflecting deeply in the ways God engages us in all these aspects of our lives in order to guide us to our destiny in God.

The Universal Christ

The Universal Christ

This is Richard Rohr’s latest and greatest book. I have found him a mentor for many years and it seems like he is offering us the fruits of his mature tree in this work. Few can reflect on their experiences with the insights and clarity that this dear Franciscan friar does. His subtitle: How a forgotten reality can change everything we see, hope for, and believe. On pages 212-3 you will find: “Authentic Christianity is not so much a belief system as a life-and-death system that shows you how to give away your life, how to give away your love, and eventually how to give away your death. Basically, how to give away-and in doing so, to connect with the world, with all other creatures, and with God.” I think this sums up how and why Richard wrote this book now. He is giving away all he has to us here. The paradox comes when we discover in giving away we create the space to receive. I have received much in this gift. So will you.

Domination and the Arts of Resistance

Domination and the Arts of Resistance

James C Scott in his penetrating examination of domination and it historic precedents in Domination and the Arts of Resistance published in 1990 has captured my attention for these past days. He carefully examines the ways that the abuse of power has been more or less successfully dealt with down through the ages. Even though his work seems to reflect a past era, it appears to me timeless. It also highlights how the overthrow of oppression often ushers in the new oppressor, who under the guise of liberator captures the good will of the newly freed only to erect the new form of oppression. It reminds me of a well-meaning friend who heroically attempts to solve a friend’s problem, only to discover that solving the problem was not really the issue. Staying the center of attention was really the issue of the “friend”. While diligently applying talent, time and treasure to solve the current problem, the person needing the attention was just as diligently creating new problems to be solved, sometime even at the expense of pain for themselves, because the real issue was their need for attention at any cost. Once that was seen, the well-meaning person/citizen withdraws from the futile attempts thereby freeing energy and resources to develop real problem solving responses. I feel that a close reading of this book might be a liberating experience today. In these times of cell phones, internet, texting and who knows what else will be available in the future, we, once freed from our illusions of domination might actually meet the real needs of our time. “Mother nature” will have the ultimate say. “She” isn’t influenced by the old “they who have the gold make the rules’ standard. No amount of gold will provide the necessary conditions for my great grandchildren to live humane lives if clean air and water are unavailable. So I now wear diaper pins to remind myself that every choice I make they will have to live (or not be able to live) with. I plan to have extras in my pocket to give to those who ask why the pin. At 82, it is my form of resistance so aptly outlined in this penetrating work of James C. Scott. Get your library to find it for you. It might provoke a lot of interesting reflections for you too.

Moneyland

Moneyland

Bullough, Oliver. Moneyland. St. Martin’s Press. NY. 2019.

In August of 2011 I rode the AmTrack to Colorado. It is the best way to experience the mountains up close. On that ride there was a person who explained why all the trees were dying. She had a jar with a black mountain pine beetle in it. Later I found this information on the beetle. “For many years, Diana Six, an entomologist at the University of Montana, planned her field season for the same two to three weeks in July. That’s when her quarry — tiny, black, mountain pine beetles — hatched from the tree they had just killed and swarmed to a new one to start their life cycle again. Now, says Six, the field rules have changed. Instead of just two weeks, the beetles fly continually from May until October, attacking trees, burrowing in, and laying their eggs for half the year. And that’s not all. The beetles rarely attacked immature trees; now they do so all the time. What’s more, colder temperatures once kept the beetles away from high altitudes, yet now they swarm and kill trees on mountaintops. And in some high places where the beetles had a two-year life cycle because of cold temperatures, it’s decreased to one year.” Oliver, in his thorough examination of how “moneyland” came into being, mirrors the spread of the beetles.  https://e360.yale.edu/features/whats_killing_the_great_forests_of_the_american_west

This tiny beetle was killing the trees which would later be the kindling for so many of the fires that have raged through the mountains ever since. On page 271 of Moneyland you  will read; “Offshore (and onshore) bandits are looting the world, and this looting is undermining democracy, driving inequality and sucking ever-greater volumes of wealth into Moneyland, where we can’t follow it.” These bandits, will someday find that the world they have sucked the life out of will become inhospitable to even their own lives.  All through reading this book I kept hearing that sucking sound and was surprised to find on the last page my intuition was shared by the author himself.

This fear based living which is a thinly disguised bravado tries to drown out the truth created by the egoic mind   “But if you don’t believe that infinite love is the center of the universe, you live in a scarcity model where there’s never enough—food, money, security, health care, mercy—to go around. You can’t risk letting go because you’re not sure you’ll be refilled. If you’re protecting yourself, if you’re securing your own image and identity, then you’re still holding on. Your ego remains full of itself, which is the opposite of kenosis. This is the nature of almost all human institutions and systems created by the egoic mind. You can take such a pattern as a sign that one lives in God. People filled with the flow will always move away from any need to protect their own power and will be drawn to solidarity with the powerless, the edge, the bottom, the plain, and the simple. They have all the power they need—and it always overflows, and like water seeks the lowest crevices to fill. No wonder Christians begin their spiritual journey by being dipped into water.”https://www.catholicregister.org/faith/item/29488-pope-invites-young-people-to-pledge-to-build-a-new-economy

Ultimately, unless we turn around and accept our individual complicity with this banditry we will certainly create the conditions for the growth of this sucking system becoming like the rapidly growing hordes of beetles.  In an article in Aeon recently I read; “Collapse, then, is a double-edged sword. Sometimes it’s a boon for subjects and a chance to restart decaying institutions. Yet it can also lead to the loss of population, culture and hardwon political structures. What comes from collapse depends, in part, on how people navigate the ensuing tumult, and how easily and safely citizens can return to alternative forms of society. Unfortunately, these features suggest that while collapse has a mixed track record, in the modern world it might have only a dark future.”            https://aeon.co/ideas/civilisational-collapse-has-a-bright-past-but-a-dark-future?

I encourage you to read this book so as to be able to navigate the tumult that is certain to come. When the moneylanders finally suck the juice out of the system they have created, my hope is that those drawn to solidarity with the powerless will help to avoid the dark future that might await our children and grandchildren.

That Good Night

Oh how I wish Dr. Sunita Puri has written That Good Night when I was a resident at the Univ. of IA Hosp. & Clinics back in 1979. It grew out of my need to answer a question. When returning to the hospital after a weekend often patients with life limiting conditions had been discharged and I wondered what would happen to them. That led me to wonder with others and ensued our effort to create a home care hospice in the early 1980’s when hospice was a new idea in this country.  As I immersed myself in her memories, my own memories came flooding back. When I read that the American Board of Medical Specialties didn’t recognize hospice and palliative medicine as s distinct medical sub-specialty until 2006 a lot of my questions began to make sense. Seeing from behind her eyes helped me to see how difficult modern medicine is for people whose whole identity is to fix things. At some level I knew this, but at another level it seemed unreal. On my first night as a resident chaplain I distinctly remember the terror I felt as my pager went off and I headed down the long darkened hall toward what I hoped was the right direction. At the end of the hall I could see the shape of someone and I imagined it to be the Spirit and found myself mentally shouting “I will had you what I can reach.” This moment of truth, for someone short enough to spend a lot of time asking people to reach things for me, freed me to enter into the chaos that awaited me. As long as I truly handed to those in need whatever I could reach, I could fail and still come out OK.  Dr. Puri says this in so many eloquent ways there would be no way to list them all. As medical options become ever more complex, the questions of what should be done become ever more difficult. I hope that all people walking the paths with patients might find this book and bring her wisdom into their lives. It is interesting that her whole lifetime is the very length of time I have been invited to share the struggles of patients and their families. In a way I feel like Simeon in Luke’s gospel saying “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word: for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence on all people, a light for revelation to the (caregivers) Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2: 29-32.

A Disarming Spirit

A Disarming Spirit by Frank Fromherz is a very timely book. It is a study of one person and his ongoing struggle to live his truth and how it can make a difference. If you were to want a biography written about your life, you would hope it would be with the care and attention to detail that Frank gives to Bp. Hunthausen. He walks us through how one person accepts their truth with integrity and courage. Like any of us who starts out in life discovering our path step by step, often finding the way after many trials and errors, “Dutch” accepts each step with prayerful attention. We would hope that we too would be remembered for the quiet and sometimes heroic choices we make in the name of love. Love for the truth, a healthy self-love, resulting in love for others. “Dutch’s” details are unique to him, as are each of ours. Reading this book will give anyone encountering it a model of how to do it too. In these chaotic times it is becoming ever more important to give each other our best, even if we like “Dutch” won’t live to see our hopes materialize. But if someone writes our story someday, let us hope that someone cares enough to tell it as comprehensively at Frank, so we can add our truth to the world story.

Oh My Gods

Philip Freeman has given us “a modern retelling of Greek and Roman myths” in Oh My Gods. I have had a lifelong fascination with Greek and Roman history so this book was a natural for me to read. But I must admit I had in on my shelves for a long time before taking the time to pursue it. It was only after listening to the 48 lectures on Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World by Glenn S. Holland (https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/religion-in-the-ancient-mediterranean-world.html) coupled with a record cold calling off even the Post Office deliveries that I made it through the book. The ancients were a blood thirsty promiscuous teller of tales. I tried in vain the get beneath the surface of these various tales to find a theme, or a sense of purpose that these many stories were attempting to share, but most portrayed the gods and humans displaying the extreme range of emotions. Most were ugly ones, with only a passing glance to the heroic or honorable ones. If you chose to read this you will harvest some interesting tidbits on how places are named, gods and humans interbreed, and get a sense of how our for-bearers tried to make sense of their experiences.

What Truth Sounds Like

Through the gift of C SPAN I was introduced to Michael Eric Dyson’s “What Truth Sounds Like. I confronted my unconscious racism as I read his examination of the reality of white privilege. Part of that privilege was the freedom to fall in love with a young black man and eventually be able to call him son. His biological parents welcomed us into their family with loving grace and considered our other sons theirs as well. This was possible because they were not afflicted with the inherited disease of racism. Eventually another son was privileged to adopt a foster child who is black who they fell in love with. I came to see that my white privilege gave our family the freedom to love in ways that not only didn’t ‘cost’ us anything, but enriched us beyond measure. Given all that it appears to me from our experience that only love is the answer. More details seem only to obstruct our meeting each other in our uniqueness’s. Convincing others with facts only seems to harden resistance. We watch others confront their unconscious resistance when they have to accept our choices to love. They too find themselves loving our children and grandchildren because they love us. Dyson finds this truth every now and then as he plumbs the depth of people who have decided to love someone who challenges the ugly reality of white privilege. Racism is a “genetic” disease of people who inherited a fatal flaw. The sooner we find a cure for it the better we will all be. In a sobering article on the origin of hate titled The Pathology of Prejudice I learned a lot of how this genetic disease is passed on. It is worth reading. My only suggestion for Dyson is a word change in the title. I would suggest What Truth FEELS Like. This is my take away from spending time with his valuable examination of what is holding us back.

Jesus Before Christianity

Albert Nolan revised his 1976 version of Jesus Before Christianity in 1992. I read it originally in 1998 but was lured back into its pages now 20 years later for a review. This is a timeless book. For years I have felt our times where pre-Christian. Like many in Jesus’ day we are attracted to his words and example, and as soon as everyone is on board we will jump on too. But for now the ‘world’ isn’t like that yet and we are afraid to go the whole way. Nolan says on page 171 “Jesus can help us to understand the voice of Truth but, in the last analysis, it is we who must decide and act.” He goes on to say in page 151 that “Jesus did not make authority his truth, he made truth his authority.” Later on page 102 we find: People’s compassion for one another releases God power in the world, the only power than can bring about the miracle of the “kingdom”. And then on page 39 he gets to the core: “Faith is a good and true conviction. It is the conviction that something can and will happen because it is good and because it is true that goodness can and will triumph over evil.”
In these troubled time when humanity has tried all the alternatives to compassion to see if that would be enough to solve our problems, we might be getting ready to try Jesus’ way. I hope so. Now I ask everyone “where do you see the hope?” I invite you to find a copy of this timeless examination of the times before Christianity to appreciate what was going on then. I think you will find the parallels to this time uncanny and see why I think we are still pre-Christian.

The Universe Story Calendar

The Universe Story Calendar by Thomas R. Spiritbringer is a mind bending read that can expand your consciousness even as the universe itself is expanding.  In the attempt to tell the story AS OF TODAY this book with its companion calendar reaches to include all times, places, and peoples. Unlike previous stories whose focus on the recurring events, such as the seasons, phases of the moon and planets, this book and calendar highlights that there is never a recurring anything. All is ever new. Nothing stays the same. This is especially significant in the human who is the most recent event in the cosmic story. We reach to tell the story to our young that excites their imaginations while emphasizing how significant each of them are to the story. This is a reference book. One that you will want to have at hand as you try to explain to yourself and others how we came to what we know AS OF TODAY. All previous attempts to talk about time are explained and the reasons they were changed listed. We are now invited to once again change with what we know AS OF TODAY. In this graceful and humble acknowledgement that this is all we know we will reverence the creative process and our ability to know our place in that process.

A Higher Loyalty

A Higher Loyalty by James Comey was an interesting read. What did I learn? Not much about the details of the struggle as they have been extensively chronicled by the many news outlets. But I did learn how much those like Comey give to all of us just being in the various law enforcement agencies sworn to protect our freedom. I also experienced to a degree that surprised me the awareness of how much we put on the shoulders of others what we should be carrying  ourselves.  As long as they are doing “their jobs” I can go about my life not concerned about the Constitution or the freedoms it provides. But Comey shares with all of us that this comes at great cost to many. They cannot do it alone.  We, and I, need to do our part as well. Time will tell if we are up to our jobs, and if we are worthy of the commitments so many make on our behalf. The book ends on the hope that like a forest fire that clears the way for new growth previously hampered by the overgrowth of the old trees. I look to the youth of today to grow into that role. Now it is our turn to sort out what is true and give our energies to that same truth so that the young will trust that it is worth their lives.

Broken Lives

Konrad H. Jarausch has given us the fruit of his labors in his attempt to share how ordinary Germans experienced the 20th century in his book Broken Lives. It was described as “The gripping stories of ordinary Germans who lived through World War II, the Holocaust, and Cold War partition―but also recovery, reunification, and rehabilitation.” I went in search to see if he could help me deal with my sense that we are standing on the edge of a cliff these days in the choices we are either making or not making. My question is, how a culture could be drawn into a systemic series of death dealing choices? He used the diaries, documents and much more to weave a story of ordinary and extraordinary people reacting to the hardships and humiliations of WW1. He then composes an engrossing story of how men, women and children made sense of their experiences by quoting from those recovered texts.

On page 280“ I found this quote that seems to speak to my search and question: “Still in high school, Ursula Mahlendorf “shared with my classmates a fundamental distrust of all adults” who were responsible for the German catastrophe. ln heated exchanges with her favorite teacher, “I accused his whole generation I articulated my age groups feeling of having been shortchanged by our elders and of being berated for what they had failed to teach us.” Similarly, theology student Erich Helmer voiced his cohort’s “search for answers to the questions: What can still be believed? What is solid after the ground of reality has and is continuing to cave in everywhere?” I sense our youth in their marches, voter registration drives and much more are demanding to be heard now. We too now have to choose wisely so not to repeat the 20th century mistakes that brought so much suffering.

I invite you to read this book. It could help you to reflect on things in a deeper way. It must have taken the author many years to discover all these documents let alone construct the story in such a way to share the humanity of those whose worlds he shares with us. But somehow he seems to perceive that we need these insights NOW.

Less Than Fully Catholic

Less than Fully Catholic is written by a friend of mine Trisha Day. She warned me that I might be offended by some of what she wrote, but I can assure you I not only was not offended by more importantly challenged. We share the ‘cradle Catholic’ experience which entailed swallowing many gizzard stones.

In my Dominican training we were introduced to what is called “gizzard” preaching. Preaching that reveals that what we have to share is put through the process that the gizzard does to food a creature ingests that needs grinding up in order to be assimilated. Then it is passed on to the rest of the digestive system to nourish the entire system. Trisha had done this for us.

She has taken those things she ingested as a child of faith and processed them in the gizzard of her life experiences. Like many today she finds that those things that sustained her grandparents were not nurturing her. Those same things became her gizzard stones. Her vast reservoir of reading and reflecting on the meaning of life have been run through her gizzard and she produces a ‘gizzard homily’ that will nourish all honest seekers.

We live in times that challenge most of what we think we know. Be it how everything came to be to what everything is destined to become. No generation before us has had to deal with the paradigm shifts we in one generation confront. Unless we like Trisha deal honestly with these questions we could drop the ball that literally “keeps the game going”.

So potential reader, if you define Catholic as an Adjective which the dictionary includes:

all-around (also all-round), all-purpose, general, general-purpose, unlimited, unqualified, unrestricted, unspecialized you might join me  and put Trisha at the heart of what it truly means to be catholic for our troubled times. She has given us a truly nourishing meal. Enjoy.

What Matters in the End

What Matters in the End

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.

https://onbeing.org/programs/atul-gawande-what-matters-in-the-end-oct2017/?

Race and the Cosmos

Race and Cosmos by Barbara A. Holmes

You can find her in  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoLyeSPN_sk and http://www.openhorizons.org/barbara-holmes-a-mentor-for-our-times.html

In reviewing this powerful book I let the author speak for herself. On page172 she says:

It is nothing short of a miracle to be situated in a cosmos that keeps its secrets but reveals just enough to keep us intrigued. Each day that dawns is a celebration of the fact that we have been invited to consider how our lives are spent; how we embrace and recoil from the creative genesis of darkness, which is also light; and how we relate to others. One thing is certain: Our conflicts seem insignificant from the perspective of an expanding universe. As we struggle for justice, the universe invites us toward expanded options. We can incorporate the wonder of science in our liturgy and in our politics. We can strengthen and challenge theological precepts with information about the intricacies of a cosmos that defies our inclinations toward control. Finally, we can regard our differences as an intrinsic manifestation of a complex order.

The quantum world is all expectancy and potential, and it includes us whether we know it or not. In such a dynamic life space, we dare not weary of well doing. Although we continue to harm one another with our measurements of worth and assessments of shortcomings, we are peering into a glass darkly. For what we know and what we see are only shadows that cannot reflect the fullness of the cosmos or our place in it.  “

I had to double check the copyright 2002 date a couple of times as it seemed as if she was writing for today’s challenges. This only goes to prove that her powerful insights are timeless.

Survival

For over 40 years I have taught Teilhard’s breakthrough insights by using the film strip called Survival. Since the filmstrip was getting brittle and bulbs for the old projector hard to find I looked around for help to digitize it. That help came via Fr. Jim Brokman and Mount Mercy Univ. After researching for any impediments to doing that and finding none they did this for me. They found that I had one of two existing copies of this original filmstrip as people were advised to destroy them back in the early days when Teilhard was considered dangerous. This film strip makes Teilhard’s vision available to any alert 16 year old.  I have used in in workshops and retreat down through the years. Most recently I was invited to share it with the Institute of Noetic Sciences created by Edgar Mitchell after coming back from the moon.

Survival film strip remastered

1-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nAhp1JQ6bM

2-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcXb1ipVrAE

3-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcLWy8rX7LQ

4-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InLr64oa-a4          

Point Vierge

Point Vierge (“at the center of our being a a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God…is a gift of love.”)  Alana Levandoski and James Finley collaborate in an effort to bring to being their experience of Thomas Merton. Trying to capture someone’s ‘essence’ is a labor of love and an attempt to convey this love to others. You will be captured by Alana’s voice in this album and drawn into the mystery of this Trappist monk by his friend James. Both of these artists have lent their skills to this elusive task. If you have not read any of Merton’s works you have a treat in store. Once you do this you will be able to judge if Point Vierge has succeeded. Watch this short clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvPxsK-v1Ao to hear Alana in her own words and taste the album. If you want to experience James watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kc2XVSpkoeA Enjoy.

No End to the Search

I consumed Mark Plaiss’ book No End to the Search in two days. Since I am a lay associate of New Melleray and Our Lady of the Mississpi Abbey’s I was eager to see how his experience of monasticism and mine compared. Mark writes as if he has a Go Pro on and he is just narrating what he is seeing and experiencing. If you want to explore this unique calling you will be rewarded in this book. The monks and nuns of these two monasteries have welcomed me into their worlds as best as anyone can welcome someone into their homes. Down through almost 40 years I have soaked up their wisdom and basked in their love. My goal continues to be to take the best of this experience into my life and let that season my relationships. Years ago Abbot General Dom Bernardo encouraged all Abbots and Abbesses to enter more deeply into dialogue with people like Mark and me. Out of this request grew a formal recognition by the Cistercian order to people attached to monasteries the world over. If you want to taste why we do this Mark will serve up a delightful menu, along with reflections on how this penetrates his daily life (and mine), so carve out some quiet time and sink into the quiet with No End to the Search.

Walkaway

Cory Doctorow’s novel Walkaway is for this hardly ever reader of novels a stretch. If it weren’t for the in-depth interview on Book TV I would never have been tempted to read it. The first chapter felt like reading something in a foreign language in a yet to be imagined space/time for this 81 year old great grandmother.

For over a year now I have been wearing one of our sons diaper pins or other safety pins on my clothes to remind myself that I cannot just drift off from the mess our generation has helped to create comforted by the thought that I will be ‘gone’ when the worst happens. I remind myself of all those who have to live with my choices in the years to come and then own my choices in a way that is painful at times. It is my way of walking toward the future that I will never see.

The growing recognition that the ways we currently use to find meaning are not working like we want them to. Articles on the demise of the nation state work with these same questions. Doctorow weaves in all the issues confronting us personally and corporately into a si-fi novel. He attempts to explore all the ways that those choosing to ‘walkaway’ use to create a reality that is worth living for. The age old quest for eternal life runs in the background in all their efforts. He creatively engages the human (meat stage) and post human stages. This was made possible by computer backups of people with the post human stage of emotions vs non emotions, which awaited the day these backups could be uploaded to a meat version again.

I will be ruminating a long time on this book. It was a slog for someone not used to novels yet alone si-fi ones, but it encourages me to see that others are looking for viable ways to move into the future.

The Church

Every now and then it is good to read a book like The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism. Richard McBrien is a reliable source for a comprehensive overview of catholic (with both a big C and little c) perspective. Even though published in 2008 it is a timely resource. In times of turmoil and rapid changes in so many areas of life the world over, I needed to reground myself in the big picture so as to see the ongoing process of growth that is being made in the hope of bringing into being the kingdom of God Jesus came to reveal. If you need to refresh your hope in the future this book might be for you.

The Exodus

The Exodus: How it happened and why it matters by Richard Elliott Friedman gives the reader an in-depth exploration of the pivotal moment in creation history as told by the bible. Friedman locates this experience as the one that sets humanity on the course of loving the alien or the other. This unique moment in history now clamors for attention when all over the world the struggle to recognize the humanity of the “other” is in desperate straits.  Never before has the human race faced this choice in the way we do now. We ignore it at our peril.

The Book of Joy

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World is an effort by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu mediated by Douglas Abrams. We are admitted into the inner worlds of these two experts on how to live with joy amidst a lifetime of suffering. The Dali Lama teaches that “The ultimate source of happiness is within us”. The Archbishop shares that “We grow in kindness when our kindness is tested.” They have walked the walk and now share this wisdom with all of us.

Learn to Receive

Learn to Receive by Soul Dancer (my baby brother) is aptly named a workbook on how to think it, feel it and live it. Soul has developed a method that can be used privately or more optimally by groups of people who want to dig deep into the ways we can balance our lives. It would be especially useful for anyone in a helping profession who tend to be better in giving than receiving and suffer burnout because of it. This work is the fruit of many years of guiding people in personal growth. Get your overalls and gloves on and get ready to work.