ART’S READING – 2000 thru April 2001

          My reading list is not much to shout about. It’s only published as an antidote to Jean’s list. Most books were recommended by blue sheet readers. Some were suggested by my winemaker’s reading group. Some are much better than others. Here goes, in order of reading.

A.N. Wilson, God’s Funeral Charles Powers, In the Memory of the Forest
Scott Peck, Golf and the Spirit Brian Morton, Starting out in the Evening
Jonathan Raban, Passage to Juneau; A Sea and Its Meanings Tristan Jones, The Improbable Voyage (Into, through, and out of the heart of Europe)
Aaron Elkins, Loot (Art Treasures of WW II) Dick Francis, Second Wind
Thomas Cahil, Desire of the Everlasting Hills Patrick Walsh, The Prostate
Larry McMurtry, Roads Skye Kathleen Moody, Habitat
Jeffrey Hogue, O’Keefe: The Life of an American Legend Walter Mosley, Workin’ On the Chain Gang
Barb Delinsky, Coast Road Kathryn Lasky Light, Atlantic Circle
Thich Nhat Hanh, Going Home Dava Sobel, Longitude
Thich Nhat Hanh, Jesus and Buddha as Brothers Dava Sobel, Galileo’s Daughter
Barb Kinsolving, Poisonwood Bible David Duncan, Brothers K
John Shelby Spong, Here I Stand Thomas Lynch, Bodies in Motions and at Rest
Marcus Borg, Jesus and Buddha Mary D. Russell, The Sparrow
Daniel Quinn, After Dachau David Chadwick, Crooked Cucumber
Stephen Coots, The Cannibal Queen Michael Connelly, The Poet
Ram Dass, Still Here Olive Ann Burns, Cold Sassy Tree
          There may have been brief comments on some of these books in the blue sheets. Additional reading includes The Christian Century, Friday Wall Street Journal, Modern Maturity, National Geographic, Car and Driver, Sierra, VIA (AAA), Columns (Univ. of Washington Alum), Nature Conservancy, Nor’Westing, and others. I have also read innumerable articles, pamphlets, papers and books about the diagnosis and treatment of Prostate Cancer. Many books have been recommended, although it has not been possible to read all. Jean keeps a list for me and has a book or two ready at all times.
        Did I mention Newsweek? Probably not, since I rarely read it except while in some waiting room as per chance I was at my dentist’s. The cover jumped out at me, “GOD AND THE BRAIN — How We’re Wired for Spirituality.”(Newsweek, May 7, 2001)  I was pretty sure I already knew what the article was going to say. In fact, I included the same research in my last paper for the Association For Theological Discussion a couple of years ago. In that paper (“G. Hayden Stewart, The Life and Thought of a Modern Mystic”) I raised the question of whether the “mystical experience” might be the result of stimulation of a certain part of the brain. My source was an article by David O’Reilly on “The Physics of Meditation” that reported the research of two doctors at the University of Pennsylvania hospital. In brief, they located places in the brain that respond to stimuli with feelings of wonder, awe, sense of “absolute unity of being,” and other mystical sensations.
          As reported in my paper, acts and symbols of liturgy connect to parts of the brain that transmit feelings of spirituality.  Liturgy was created to help people repeat previous moments of spiritual feeling. To the dismay of some church folks, the very same sense of spiritual or mystical feeling may be elicited by way of meditation, music, nature, fire-watching, and innumerable unexpected “moments.”
          Some argue that God created the brain in such a way as to experience the sacred moments. Others suggest that the brain is constructed in such a way as to create a sense of God.
          Others argue that religion is more than “feeling,” or emotional response to a spiritually stimulating event. Note how people who never had a “spiritual moment” have felt driven to stand up for human rights and all sorts of humanitarian causes. Spiritual or religious behavior does not require a mystic revelation. The left brain can find a worthy cause without the inspiration of the right brain.
          Aren’t we grateful, however, for whatever it is that creates moments of inspiration, awe, wonder, and mystic connection to life? Whether you get it from sacred liturgy to the tune of a grand pipe organ, sitting in silent meditation, or from a summer sunset, doesn’t seem to matter. As they say, “whatever turns you on.” 
— Art Morgan, May 2001