CURRENT READ

As part of my Madeline L’Engle project, I am reading her autobiography, Circle of Quiet in an eBook. I read it years ago when I first discovered her, in the 70s, and remember being slightly disturbed by her broad spirituality and “religious” beliefs. Now, all these years later, my own philosophy of life and basic beliefs have, not so much changed as, “matured,” and reading her at this late stage of my life is an entirely different experience. I not only am being led by her to “think about things” from a different angle, but to examine my own inner thoughts and, perhaps, to adjust a few of them. Reading her story has been a growth experience. It reminds me of Cassandra Claire’s quote to beware of books because they have the power to change you.

A CHRISTMAS PRESENT TO MYSELF

I heard about this book the way I hear about so many–on the Today Show on NBC

Cleo Wade’s 2020 poster/poem/little book, despite its title, speaks to one’s mind as much as to one’s heart. It is full of quotes, poems, memes and posters, all of which seem to speak directly to each reader. It deals with self-image, self-care, self-love and many philosophical issues one deals with daily. As the subtitle indicates, it is “wisdom for a better life.” The neatest part is that the advice is all doable.I kept mu Quotes Notebook close at hand because I was constantly reading something I wanted to remember–forever. It was a slow read, even though there were only a few words on many of the pages because I would gently close the book, close my eyes, and “think about” what Wade had written. I felt a definite “attitude adjustment” and growth as a result of reading this little book.

DRIVING WITH BUDDHA

I have just finished the road-trip books by Roland Merullo that have a philosophy side to them. I was hooked early on by Breakfast with Buddha ,the first book in the series and really enjoyed meeting Otto, his screwy sister, and her boyfriend, the semi-Buddhist priest, Rimproche. At first I was skeptical (as was Otto) about all this meditation and enlightenment “stuff,” and followed more closely Otto’s efforts to show Rimproche the “real America.” Picturing the Burgundy, gold-trimmed robed priest playing miniature golf and bowling was a fun thought, but soon I began to pay more attention to the Holy Man’s words. I think Otto’s reaction followed the same trajectory. By the end of Breakfast, I, like Otto was beginning to really like Rimproche and to wonder if there wasn’t something to this meditation “thingy.”I began to notice and sometimes read columns and articles that touted the value of meditation that came my way.

Lunch with Buddha continued the saga, Rimproche now married to Otto’s sister with a small daughter. This second book dealt with another road trip, but also with Otto’s maturation of a spiritual side which was clearly necessary for him to survive the death of his beloved wife. It went into detail about his meditations, his seeking for enlightenment, and the relative success he had with both. My inquisitive mind and spirit “ate this up”! By this point I had found a columnist in our Houston newspaper that came out each week, featuring self-care and advocating guided meditation as a way to destress, relax, and change one’s busy lifestyle. I downloaded twenty something guided meditations and began enjoying them on a regular basis. In fact, I became “good at it” and saw a definite relax in my normal “driven” attitude and lifestyle.

That’s when the fun began. Book three , Dinner with Buddha (published in 2015–hopefully there will be a book four, maybe “After Dinner Coffee With Buddha,” LOL, because this book upped and amped the plot 100%. Otto’s little niece turns out to be a very special child with special abilities (bordering on superpowers, LOL). Plus sinister Chinese strangers seem to be stalking her and her family and join the “chase” across country in the third road trip. Talk about action! The final meet-up in Las Vegas, of all places, is action packed and eerie to say the least. Otto comes to a turning place in his life and the end of the book gives us his dramatic decision. All of this action and many side-trips to National parks and scenic places manage to tie in all this meditation recommendation with an appreciation of Nature and a sense of cosmic and spiritual benefits to those who seek.

The three road trips with Otto and Rimproche have not only been a darned good, fun read, but they have enlightened my way of thinking about meditation specifically and “religion” in general. Who says a novel (or series of novels) can’t make you think?

THE SPARROW by Mary Doria Russell: A Review

I thought it was about time to get back to reading some sci-fi, and I chose a “classic” published in 1996. I decided on this one because the information I had about it had a definite philosophical “edge” to it. This information described the novel as “Jesuits in space.” It is set in 2016-2060.

Emilio Sandoz, the main character is as complex and strange a character as I have ever encountered before. He is a priest who “lost his friends and his faith” while on his journey to and arrival on Mars. The secondary characters are admirably drawn, characters you come to “know” and care about. George and Ann, the married couple were my favorites. The aliens are interesting and creatively described and presented as well.

Russell is known for her “meticulous research, fine prose, and the compelling narrative drive of her stories,” and this one did not tarnish her reputation. The title comes from a gathering/inquisition of priests into Emiliano and the mission when one of them says in answer to one priest’s question, “…So God just leaves”?

“No, He watches. He rejoices. He weeps. He observes the moral dynamics of human life and gives meaning to it by caring about us, and remembering.”  The head investigator then quotes Matthew 10:29, “Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father acknowledging it.”

A younger priest, Felipe, who has seen Emilio Sandoz’s suffering, adds, “But the sparrow still falls.”

I guarantee this is a book you won’t forget.

MONDAY MUSINGS SOPHIE’S WORLD by Jostein Gaarder: A Review

The paperback edition I read was a 20th anniversary edition and was advertised as being about “life, the universe, and everything” which made me think of Douglas Adams.  However, two books could not be more unalike.  Sophie, the fourteen year old protagonist who is about to turn fifteen and is just beginning to be aware of herself, her surroundings, and her life in general, begins to receive strange postcards and letters addressed to another fourteen year old girl halfway around the world named Hilde.  The letters seem to be from Hilde’s father who is making plans to return to her on her fifteenth birthday, but strangely enough they are sent in care of Sophie and addressed correctly to Sophie’s address.

The plot alone is enough to keep the reader interested, but the book turns out to be a study in philosophy from Plato and Socrates to Marx and Sartre. Sophie in Philosophy World takes twists and turns similar to Alice in Wonderland.  The book, as one critic said, is an “easily grasped way of thinking about difficult ideas. If nothing else, the book is highly original.

Published first in 1995, the paperback edition of this YA “classic” is available as of 2015, thus the 20th anniversary of its publication.

At times this is a hard read, but it is good review of the study of philosophers with examples given that are fairly easy to comprehend and apply.  This book will answer many questions, but it will keep you coming up with questions of your own.

TEXTBOOK by Amy Krause Rosenthal: A Review

This unusual (for lack of a better name) book is, as the front cover says, “not exactly a memoir”, but “a book about…being alive.”  Published in 2016 ten years after Rosenthal’s Ordinary Life, it is a mix of the author’s thoughts, musings, and feelings on “things” and life in general. The “text” in Textbook, the title, has multiple meanings.  The reader can actually send a text to the author, it is a textbook divided into nine different disciplines from “Geography to ” “Language Arts,” and it often has pictures of texts the author has received.  Sometimes there is only one sentence on a page; sometimes the page is blank, presumably to allow the reader to pause and think about what was just shown or written.  Sometimes the text is a record of thoughts that struck Rosenthal on a facsimile/picture as follows:

In curator style, the author has aligned on the page,

“Existential Napkin

ink printed on a disposable napkin

dispensed at a local restaurant, 1999”

A picture of the napkin where Rosenthal has written follows,

“Aren’t we just trying to leave one, good, lasting thing behind?”

 

And hasn’t the author written one, unique textbook here?