December 2016 book recommendations

The Book of Joy– Dalai Lama with Desmond Tutu

from Jenneffer

In, “The Book of Joy,” by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, a powerful distinction is made by one of their attending physicians between cures and healing. “Curing involves the resolution of the illness…[but] healing was coming to wholeness and could happen whether or not the illness was curable (p161).” Archbishop Tutu is intimate with cures and healing. Early in his life, he was diagnosed with TB and was nearly given up for dead. Facing such adversity with the body, the only vehicle we know that inhabits this world, must be scary for those of us who identify our being with our body.

However, the Dalai Lama offers another perspective, also from, “The Book of Joy.” “As a Buddhist practitioner…I take seriously the contemplation of the Buddha’s first teachimg, about the inevitability of suffering and the transient nature of our existence.” He says it’s important to meditate daily on our own mortality, because all earthly things pass away. His interpreter, Jinpa, explained further that confronting our own mortality is a, “true measure of Spiritual development.”

Christians, of course, rejoice in comfort of being with the Lord. Romans 14 (KJV) says, “For whether we live, we live into the Lord; and whether we die, we die into the Lord. Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living. Although this passage provides comfort in the idea of death, the context is actually in that of forgiveness.

Bishop Tutu and his daughter wrote a book on the topic in 2014, called, “The Book of Forgiving.” He was the chairman for the Truth and Reconciliation commission in South Africa, which promoted forgiveness and healing for a nation broken by apartheid. He says, “the quality of human life on our planet is nothing more than the sum total of our daily interactions with each other. Each time we help, each time we harm, we have a dramatic impact on our world.” So by forgiving, we can mend our broken social fabric. “It is the way we stop our human community from unraveling” (p4).

By this logic, we can deduce that through forgiveness, we can also stop ourselves from unraveling. Maybe not physically, but emotionally and spiritually. When a person is in pain, or the body is failing, it is easy to blame: doctors, God, the body itself, our past choices, pollution, global warming, the breakdown of modern society, and on it goes. The beauty of advent, whether you are healthy, poor, rich, suffering, is the beautiful gift for which we can prepare ourselves.

Born a Crime– Trevor Noah

from Jenneffer

In some ways, I felt like I knew everything Trevor was describing, because I served in the Peace Corps in the Kalahari in South Africa for two years, and also because I grew up part Cherokee part White. Being a half-breed of mix, you don’t ever fit in. But, once I finished the book, especially ruminating on the horrendous story toward the end, I realized, “I don’t have the slightest clue what he’s been through.” Not being able to hug his Daddy in public, having to jump out of taxi cabs for fear of his life, slumming in the ghetto just to make a living, living with an abusive step-father, all events that would lead almost anybody to the propensity of addiction, failure and poverty.

This book is so inspirational because Trevor is clearly none of those things! He has this knowing that he is worth more than any of that garbage. What courage to write about such painful experiences, and do it so eloquently, and with humor. A super great read. I was actually mad when I finished and turned the page and realized it was over.

The Education of Little Tree– Forrest Carter

from Jenneffer

Everyone should read this book. It’s really a shame that each of us can’t have an experience like Carter describes, becoming so intimate with our surroundings that we know them better than we do each other. The description of the mountains, and the ways of the people living there is so rich, and beautifully described. You really feel like you’re following along with Little Tree, into the holler, up the hills, into the creeks, everywhere.

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