Sunday, January 09, 2005

On the Coffee Table (and elsewhere)

Some of you may have noticed the new sections to the lower right: the first is "Siteseeing," recommendations to other weblogs and sites of interest (any reader recommendations?). The other is "On the Coffee Table," a list of books I am currently reading (and which are actually scattered between the coffee table, couch, bedside table, and various other locations).

I recommend the new book by the Monks of New Skete, Rise Up with a Listening Heart, but their previous book, In the Spirit of Happiness, remains far and away the best contemporary work of Orthodox spirituality, bar none. This book helped me to take the next step in my inner life at a time when I really needed to do so.

Gilead is a lovely book, wistful and wise. It is a story about listening, about our efforts to bridge the "great chasm" that separates us from each other like Lazarus and the rich man. As Rev. Ames, the narrator, says in the opening pages, "See and see but do not perceive, hear and hear but do not understand... You can know a thing to death and be for all purposes completely ignorant of it."

Ain't that the truth.

The Rape of Nanking I commented on in my previous post "The greatest miracle." It is utterly devastating to read, but I believe ultimately redemptive in its candid search for the roots of violence.

The Castle by Franz Kafka I have only just started. I met a homeless fellow a few days ago, bought him a cup of coffee and a pastry, and we had the most fascinating discussion ranging from Dostoevsky to Kazantzakis to Camus, but he highly recommended Kafka's unfinished work The Castle as the greatest work of modern fiction. So I'm checking it out, and hoping to discuss it with him the next time we meet.

And while we are on the subject of recommendations, my "best film of 2004" award goes to The Motorcycle Diaries. In fact, I have to confess that it was this movie that was the inspiration for the rechristening of this blog as "Guerilla Orthodoxy" (it was originally titled "Orthodox Action"). A lusciously filmed movie cinematographically speaking, detailing the famous journey of Ernesto "Che" Guevara across the South American continent. The movie depicts Che as being above all open-eyed, seeing everything that is happening, the vast injustice then sweeping South America, as it still is today. Although at a superficial level the movie expresses a kind of disdain for the Church, at a deeper level Che is portrayed very much within the categories of South American hagiography, acquiring a kind of saint-like persona through his deep identification with the suffering of the people. See this film.

So what are you reading? More importantly, what are you reading that is changing you?

PS Note that all of the books are linked to Powells.com, the largest of the indie bookstores, a good place to get books from, and a thoroughly cool place to visit. But even cooler is supporting your local independent bookseller. Kick the Amazon habit.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sampson, thanks for the two comments in this post concerning going deeper: the first about reading Iris Chang's book even though it is really difficult, to find the redemptive message encoded therein, & the second about looking beyond the surface of MOTORCYCLE DIARIES into the transparent essence of the person depicted. It's so true most everywhere one would care to spend time looking. And the way it seems to me is that anything that comes your way can be used to go deeper, to see more, to become more transparent. Absolutely anything. You simply have to be dedicated to that possiblity.

A good book to read...to broaden horizons & deepen the practice of self-purification...EVERYDAY ZEN by Charlotte Joko Beck. Pretty much as practical as THE LADDDER (which is currently the before-falling-asleep book), with many insights. And definitely the antimony to Orthodoxy, which is all about "fullness". Why shouldn't I be equally as interested in "emptiness" for what it has to offer on the path? Perhaps it is only emptying one's vessel of egoic self-concern so that one may be filled with the light of Christ.

In the meantime, thanks for suggesting THE RAPE OF NANKING. I'll be sure to go to the library & take it out.

Johanna

Anonymous said...

Sampson, you might also really connect with SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL: ECONOMICS AS IF PEOPLE MATTERED by E.F. Schumacher. It's loosely about economics, but its ideas can easily be applied to anything in life.

Johanna

Sampson said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Johanna. I'll check it out.

S.