This book follows the same format as The Hours. Michael Cunningham tells three different stories, but weaves in similar features and themes. In this b...moreThis book follows the same format as The Hours. Michael Cunningham tells three different stories, but weaves in similar features and themes. In this book the poetry of Walt Whitman is quoted and referenced by characters that span several centuries. I was not as moved by this novel as I was by The Hours, but I am always impressed by the author's exquisite word choices and story-telling skill. I will be reading more by Michael Cunningham.(less)
My dad found this at a tag sale years ago and gave it to me. He knew I loved vintage postcards and was always on the lookout for ephemrera for me. I j...moreMy dad found this at a tag sale years ago and gave it to me. He knew I loved vintage postcards and was always on the lookout for ephemrera for me. I just love rare finds like this and the old pics of famous places like Roton Point and SoNo.(less)
Bart Yates gives us superb writing in The Brothers Bishop. Two gay brothers survive abusive childhoods in a small Connecticut town and then deal with...moreBart Yates gives us superb writing in The Brothers Bishop. Two gay brothers survive abusive childhoods in a small Connecticut town and then deal with the fallout as adults. All major themes are covered here: incest, suicide, grief, lust, love, and coming out. Still, there are wry observations and funny one-liners. Yates travels back in time to tell parts of the story, yet his narrative is always clear. The characters are well drawn. Given the gravity of subject matter, it would seem this would be a ponderous read. Not at all. It was hard to put this book down.
I highlighted many passages. Here are a few:
Instinct took over, and sometimes instinct isn't about surveil. Sometimes it's only about stopping the pain, however you have to do it.
Dad was a fun house mirror. Whenever we looked at him, we saw nothing but the most grotesque aspects of ourselves.
Love attacks. It sneaks up like a pride of lions or a pack of hyenas and eats your heart out while you watch. Love is the bully on the playground who takes your lunch money and gives you a black eye in return, the arsonist who burns your house down with you in it , the witch who lures you into her home with candy and boils you alive for dinner. Love is raw, and violent, and instantaneous. You don’t fall in love; you get trampled by it.(less)
I was assigned this book to read in the last month of a four-year seminary study. After all that focus on my particular Christian denomination and the...moreI was assigned this book to read in the last month of a four-year seminary study. After all that focus on my particular Christian denomination and the Old and New Testaments, it was important to get back to a broader vision. This is a compendium of first-person faith stories that stress the intersection of Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam. I have some favorites. I particularly loved the Jewish chaplain called to the room of a dying Baptist who sincerely sits in prayer with a family while staying true to his faith. I also loved the two fathers — one Christian, one Jewish — who form a friendship spanning many years based on an annual conference they attend to help their children with special needs. In many cases, the writers' are seekers who trod many different paths and come back to their roots. One Muslim young man is drawn to Catholic Houses and the work of Dorothy Day. When he asks about the roles of the residents and staffers at his volunteer job he is told that this is not a productive way of looking at the people around him. Instead of asking something like, “Why are you here?," he is urged, instead, to ask, "What is your story?" Later in life he learned that his Muslim grandmother had been offering charity and shelter to Muslim women in danger for more than 40 years. He had a Dorothy Day-like matriarch in his family and didn't see the connection until he experienced faith from a different perspective. Another author posits why so many recovering alcoholics and drug addicts embrace Jesus. "In Jesus they literally find someone who came back from the dead, who was reborn."(less)
Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Polish-born man who lost family members in the Holocoust. He became a scholar and a rabbi. He famously marched for civil...moreAbraham Joshua Heschel was a Polish-born man who lost family members in the Holocoust. He became a scholar and a rabbi. He famously marched for civil rights with Martin Luther King, Jr. The Sabbath is only one of his respected books on Jewish teachings. This is a thin volume — and an easy read — filled with perspective on why a Sabbath, whether a religious observance, or a state of soul, is important to our lives.
I have some passages that stood out for me:
One of the most distinguished words in the Bible is the word qadosh, holy; a word which more than any other is representative of the mystery and majesty of the divine.
All our life should be a pilgrimage to the seventh day.
The faith of the Jew is not a way out of this world , but a way of being within and above this world; not to reject but to surpass civilization.
This was another assignment for my seminary studies. Loved this book. L. William Countryman is a gay, Episcopal priest with a wonderful message about...moreThis was another assignment for my seminary studies. Loved this book. L. William Countryman is a gay, Episcopal priest with a wonderful message about ministry. We all have a fundamental ministry. Others, in addition, pursue a sacramental ministry. Our mission is to question what our ministry is and how we are to fulfill it. Along the way, the author explores the ministry of Jesus, his teachings, the ministry of ordained clergy, and the laity.
There were several sections and commentary that stood out for me.
On ministry and priesthood: All human beings, knowingly or not, minister as priests to one another...The priesthood belongs to everyone.
The gospel was not spoken (and cannot be spoken) in a timeless or abstract way. It is always spoken to specific people, who hear it with human ears and human minds.
Heaven is an epektasis—not an arriving at God—but a continual process of stretching and being stretched out toward God.
When we encounter the HOLY, we are encountering what is essential to us, even if it seems beyond us.
The word of GOD, in Christian religion, remains subversive.
Whenever someone is living attentively in the borderlands where we meet the HOLY and is ministering and being ministered to there, that person is a priest.
On Jesus' ministry:
According to the law of Moses, Jesus was not a priest at all in the sacramental sense. He belonged to the tribe of Judah, not Levi, and to the family of David, not Aaron. As such, he had no more access to the inner part of the Temple or knowledge of its rites or authority to preside over them than any other male lay Israelite. He was not, in other words, one of those reckoned particularly close to the sacred.
He welcomed women among his close followers, despite the fact that, according to the Torah, they were especially prone to impurity. He associated with "tax collectors and sinners" and even ate with them, no doubt at great risk to his own purity.
He taught that one can encounter GOD in the midst of the profane life of the world without benefit of clergy.
Jesus retreated for periods of rest and prayer, and Paul stressed that a religion fascinated and dominated by works will turn out to be a religion obsessed with what we do, rather than holding itself open to GOD.
Jesus' life was anything but timid...He was not afraid of taking risks.
The point is not that we should remember Jesus as someone from the distant past, but that the rite reminds us who we are in Christ here and now.(less)
This was another seminary class assignment. The title made me groan. I was expecting some dictatorial, rigid outline of how to be a "good" Christian....moreThis was another seminary class assignment. The title made me groan. I was expecting some dictatorial, rigid outline of how to be a "good" Christian. I was relieved to find a thoughtful and wide-ranging study on the nature of Jesus, his ministry, and his legacy for us. The author covers all aspects of life: vocation, avocation, sexuality, marriage, worship, and outreach. I enjoyed most the section on hospitality and its role in the Christian ministry.(less)
Rarely do I finish a book and flip right back to the first page and begin again. I did that with The Secret Life of Bees. The writing is wonderful. At...moreRarely do I finish a book and flip right back to the first page and begin again. I did that with The Secret Life of Bees. The writing is wonderful. At one point I felt as if the prose was washing over me like a cleansing rain. I know there are critics who have questioned whether we needed one more novel about a southern girl coming of age. Who cares? This story is so unique and empowering—it is a wonderful read. Bees is the first of Sue Monk Kidd's novels that I have read. I have since added all her books to my reading list. This is the story of women, empowerment, the spirituality of bee keeping, the yearning for mother love, and the strong force of women helping each other.
Here were some of my favorite quotes:
Looking back on it now, I want to say that these were sent to me. I want to say they showed up like the angel Gabriel, to the Virgin Mary, setting events in motion I could never have guessed.
People, in general, would rather die than forgive. It's that hard. If God said in plain language, "I'm giving you a choice, forgive or die," a lot of people would go ahead and order their coffin.
Drifting off to sleep, I thought about her. How nobody is perfect. How you just have to close your eyes and breathe out and let the puzzle of the human heart be what it is.
You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside.
In the photograph by my bed my mother is perpetually smiling on me. I guess I have to forgive us both, although sometimes in the night my dreams will take me back to the sadness, and I have to wake up and forgive us again.(less)
I stumbled across this book on YouTube because it received a prominent mention in a free documentary on the origin of AIDS. Edward Hooper presents a c...moreI stumbled across this book on YouTube because it received a prominent mention in a free documentary on the origin of AIDS. Edward Hooper presents a captivating theory that the OPV vaccine developed in the late 1950s unwittingly unleashed the HIV virus on humanity. His theory has been challenged and debunked, but the idea still fascinates me. If the 860 pages could be summed up with any questions it would be, "Why now?"
Hooper presents a very detailed case for those who argue that HIV was introduced to humanity from eating monkey meat, or hunting primates. Hooper goes on to write, "If (as seemed increasingly likely) SIVs had been had been present in African monkeys for many thousands of years, why was it only now that many of these viruses had been transferred into humans?"
He contends that medical virologists and doctors, namely Dr. Hilary Koprowski, developed their important oral polio vaccines in the late 1950s with tissue taken from chimpanzees infected with the simian immunodeficiency virus. This SIV contaminated vaccines were "tested" on unwitting subjects in African villages and in prisons and children's homes in the United States. While Koprowski denied that he could have unleashed HIV on humans with his vaccine, he was incredibly uncooperative in released research data, notes, and old samples of his vaccine.
The world may never really be sure how HIV came to be and how AIDS became the health issue of our age.
While I was gripped by the topic and Hooper's theories, this became one long, ponderous read. What started as an easy and understandable story because a real labor. Not for the faint of heart.(less)
This is a book I have been meaning to read for the past decade. My brother John, a successful book dealer, had it in his inventory. He graciously gave...moreThis is a book I have been meaning to read for the past decade. My brother John, a successful book dealer, had it in his inventory. He graciously gave it to me. This book is far from perfect. It should have been better organized. It is hard to write history. I admit, I had to push myself through a few chapters. Other reviwers have been harsh on Cokie. Please give this book a chance. I think she delivers on a great concept and brings to light so many of the brave women patriots that have been lost to history. For that alone it is worth my four-star review.
Some of these women were burned out of house and home, lied and spied for the Revolutionary cause, and sacrfied their sons, brothers, and husbands. And they did all this while being denied formal education and the right to own property. I am wellread on the Revolution, but I am no expert. Of course, the parts I enjoyed most were the lengthly chapters on Abigail and John Adams. Abigail homeschooled her children, ran the family farm during the years John was away, and started her own imported fabric business to supplement John's pawlry congressional salary. Here is my own gem that I discvered while visiting the Adams historical home. Abigail melted the family silver and pewter to mint her own musket balls. I can only imagine her teaching the children latin for their afternoon lesson and sitting by the fireside at night preparing to defend her home from nearby Brittish troops. While John initially rebuffed her letter in which she implored him to, "Remember the ladies," when writing the new codes of law, history has certainly taken note. As a woman I thank her for her many insights. She advocated for education and financial indepedence long before anyone would listen.
Their famous correspondence included many of her thoughts. Here's one: "I wish most sincerely that was not a slave in the province. It always appreached a most iniquitous scheme to me — fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have."
There are other important aspects to Founding Mothers. You will learn that Benjamin Franklin was a complete cad. You will also see Martha Washington in a while new light. While she could have stayed home living a comfortable life, she traveled with her husband, cooked for the troops, and raised funds to purchase supplies. (less)
A member of one of my book groups recomended this for our monthly read. I am glad she did, otherwise I would have never discovered Fr. de Mello. He wa...moreA member of one of my book groups recomended this for our monthly read. I am glad she did, otherwise I would have never discovered Fr. de Mello. He was a Jesuit priest and a therapist. Raised in Bombay, he lectured and taught internationally, and had ties to Fordham University. Sadly, he died young. These writings are really the oral transcription of a retreat he led. The entire presentation can be found on YouTube. There are wonderful quotes and insights in this thin volume — too many to record here. Basically, de Mello warns us, with humor and candor, that we are all "asleep." Most of us like it that way. Awareness brings us to blunt truth. If we do decide to wake up, we are confornted with all sorts of concepts: spirituality, happiness, love, passion. His insights here may help us shed what we think we "should" be, and help us embrace our truth.
de Mello sprinkles his work with many myths and stories from various faiths and cultures. I noted several passages.
"You know, all mystics—Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology , no matter what their religion— are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well."
"Even the best psychologist will tell you that, that people don’t really want to be cured. What they want is relief; a cure is painful."
"Jesus proclaimed the good news yet he was rejected. Not because it was good, but because it was new. We hate the new. We hate it!"
"When someone tells you, “There is nothing you can do about it,” you say, “There is, I can wake up!” All of a sudden, life is no longer the nightmare that it has seemed. Wake up!"
"You do not have the wind, the stars, and the rain. You don’t possess these things; you surrender to them." (less)
This is the true story of a spiritual seeker who is rejected by his guru for being gay. In this case the seeker was renown author Andrew Harvey and th...moreThis is the true story of a spiritual seeker who is rejected by his guru for being gay. In this case the seeker was renown author Andrew Harvey and the guru is Mother Meera. I have to give credit to the author — he puts forth his complete experience, even when the details make him look like a naive follower desperate for his teacher's approval. Harvey now claims that Mother Meera is a cult leader whose disciples threatened his and his spouse's life.
These were the dangers of the New Age movement, which was at his hilt in the 1980s and 90s. There were a lot of people charging lots of money of their "followers," and claiming to be things they were not. I completely agree with the author's conclusions. We need no intermediary to speak to God. If we worship with a religious group we can turn to our teachers and leaders to assist our process. But there is no need for me to pray to another human. I am reminded of something my wise friend Joan said years ago, "No one soul is greater than another."
The first half of this book is a gripping page-turner. I appreciate Harvey's ability to quote Saint John of the Cross and St. Augustine while talking about his own spiritual journey.
Unfortunately, Harvey could not resist the drama. I can completely believe that Mother Meera told him he could no longer be gay and be employed by her. Harvey, though, further claims that she practiced black magic, gave his spouse cancer (through her occult powers), and planted thoughts in their minds. Hence my three-star rating. I really don't know what to make of all this and am still processing. I'll get back to you.
I was completely moved by several passages. As a person who came out later in life and as someone who didn't marry until well into my 40s, I thoroughly understood Harvey's fierce devotion to his true love, Eryk.
"Even as I wept and cried out, I knew that something had forever been saved in me, because, finally at last, I loved another human being more than myself."(less)