Books to help your soul: 10-7-11
October 07, 2011
Once again, my desk is piling up with lots of new books, and so today I'm going to introduce you to a small stack of them that relate, in some way, to how spiritual and ethical thinking and practices can improve our lives.
* Streams of Contentment: Lessons I learned on My Uncle's Farm, by Robert J. Wicks. There are simple, important lessons that can be learned in a rural setting, and this book is full of such wisdom. Wicks, a psychologist who teaches at Loyola University in Maryland, is wise enough to make his points mostly by telling relevant stories that illustrate such virtues as warmth and kindness. In the end, however, I found not a lot new here and not a lot of it said in surprising or fresh ways. It's good to be reminded of simple ways to achieve peace and contentment in life, but I kept hoping for flashes of insight I'd never before considered.
* SoulSpace: Transform Your Home, Transform Your Life, by Xorin Balbes. The author is an interior decorator who is concerned not just about the interior of your home but also the interior of you -- meaning your soul and spirit. His contention in this interesting little book is that the home we create not only can say a lot about us but, more to the point, can help shape who we are and how we approach our life and the wellness of our souls. Home, he writes, is about more than being a place to take care of our basic animal needs, it is in addition a place that can help us achieve transcendence. In other words, home can be our own sanctuary if we think carefully about how to create the kind of space that will serve us in that way.
* A Book of Miracles: Inspiring True Stories of Healing, Gratitude, and Love, by Bernie S. Siegel. A Jewish prayer book I've quoted here before tells us that "we walk sightless among miracles." Bernie Siegel seconds that motion in this book by expanding the idea of miracle to include all of life. Which, in the words of one of my favorite songs sung by Greg Tamblyn, means that everything is holy now. This book offers testimony to Siegel's idea of miracles by giving readers dozens of little stories by various contributors in which they describe their own experience with a miracle. Whether it has to do with the birth of a baby or the detection and treatment of a cancer, the stories are small statues honoring the concept of miracle. Reading about such miracles should make us more mindful so that we'll notice when such things happen in our own space and time.
* Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles, by Gabrielle Bernstein. Speaking of miracles (as I was in writing about the previous book mentioned here) this author, a New Age self-help leader, tells readers that "each time we shift our perception from fear to love we create a miracle." The author, who describes herself as once a lost and fearful young Jewish girl, describes how she found the spiritual guidance text called A Course in Miracles and how it changed her life. She describes her addictions, her ups and downs and her circuitous path toward finding happiness and peace. You'll have to figure out how, if at all, what you read here will connect with any faith tradition of which you've been (or are now) a part and whether you can remain in that tradition and still benefit from what Bernstein offers you.
* Ethical Intelligence: Five Principles for Untangling Your Toughest Problems at Work and Beyond, by Bruce Weinstein. As example after distressing example of unethical behavior in the business world (and elsewhere) has filled news stories, it's easy to believe that we're a people without much of an ingrained sense of ethics. Weinstein, who writes and speaks about ethics as a profession, doesn't want us to give up that easily. What we need, he says, are some reminders about the core principles of ethical living. So in this book he unpacks in various ways with helpful examples what it means to 1. Do no harm 2. Make things better 3. Respect others 4. Be fair and 5. Be loving. Even if you're convinced that you have no ethical flaws, Weinstein's book can remind you of how complicated life sometimes can be and how at times there are no simple or easy answer to the situations we face in life. This book can raise what its author calls your ethical intelligence. And we certainly could use some upward pressure in that category.
* The Prayer Chest: A Tale about the Power of Faith Community, and Love, by August Gold and Joel Fotinos. I generally don't review works of fiction here for several reasons, including my own feeling of incompetence to judge fiction professionally. But I'll make a brief exception here just to alert you to an engaging little book that uses fiction to teach people three lessons about prayer. 1. Prayer is answered through you. 2. Prayer is answered when you listen. 3. Prayer is answered when you welcome everything. At the end of this charming little book, readers will be asking themselves how prayer fits into their own lives and whether they are capable of a prayer discipline that can in some ineffable way put them in touch with the divine. And what an excellent purpose for storytelling.
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KEEPING THE CHURCH-STATE BARRIER
An Ohio judge has ruled that a school district properly fired a teacher who preached Christian doctrine in his classroom. There's a place for such preaching, but it's not in a classroom of a public school. Seems pretty obvious.