Books

A Place in Time by Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry’s newest novel is a tender embrace of those who populate what he calls the Port William Membership, a multi-generational saga of farm life in rural Kentucky during the late ‘thirties and early ‘forties. The transitions between the story tellers are seamless and the narrative itself is deeply rooted, through several generations, in a sense of place. It stirs up in me a longing, sometimes insatiable, to belong to the land. The stories lift up the heart of Berry’s lecture as he accepted the 2012 National Endowment of the Humanities award; he entitled it It All Hangs on Affection. A simple enough premise; if you know and love the land, you cannot harm it. It is a stunning compilation of lives lived on the land, lives belonging to the land. You will savor it!.

The Open Space of Democracy by Terry Tempest Williams

• I realized that in American Letters we celebrate both language and landscape, that these words, stories, and poems can create an ethical stance toward life.

• In the open space of democracy, beauty is not optional, but essential to our survival as a species. And technology is not rendered at the expense of life, but developed out of a reverence for life.

• The open space of democracy provides justice for all living things – plants, animals, rocks, and rivers, as well as human beings.

• If we listen to the land, we will know what to do.

Quoting Benjamin Wyer Bragonier This windswept country (The Arctic) is so revealing that you see what you are, spiritually, morally.

Beauty is another word for God.

Personal Reflection
In the space between . . . beauty is another word for God. The power of this book for me lies in Terry Tempest Williams’ concept of democracy, which must provide justice for all living things, that both morality and technology, when they emerge from biocentric perspective, will not be antithetical one to the other. If you are interested in reading more about an earth-centered morality,  in The Space Between Church & Not-Church, Chapter Three addresses the need for a reconfigured moral compass.

Bringing It To The Table by Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry has been saying for decades, that the appropriate measure for our economy is not production but nature. He says it again in Bringing It To The Table. “For a long time now we have understood ourselves as traveling toward some sort of industrial paradise, some new Eden conceived and constructed entirely by human ingenuity. And we have thought ourselves free to use and abuse nature in any way that might further this enterprise. Now we face overwhelming evidence that we are not smart enough to recover Eden by assault, and that nature does not tolerate or excuse our abuses. We are seeing more clearly every day how that ambition has reduced and enslaved us. The whole world is belittled by the idea that all creation is moving or ought to move toward an end that some body, some human body, has thought up. To be free of that end and that ambition would be a delightful and precious thing. Once free of it, we might again go about our work and our lives with a seriousness and pleasure denied to us when we merely submit to a fate already determined by gigantic politics, economics, and technology. Such freedom is implicit in the adoption of nature as the measure of economic life.”

This is a book to bring us up short, to insist that we look long and hard at the way we produce and consume food, and to change. My hope is that we let Berry’s prophetic voice work on us, and through us.

The View from Lazy Point by Carl Safina

Carl Safina lives where worlds intersect: science, ecology, the arts, contemplation, spirituality, and his writing, which allows these and more to ebb and flow into one another, making seamless the distinctions. He writes, “Ethics that focus on human interactions, morals that focus on humanity’s relationship to a Creator, fall short of these things we’ve learned. They fail to encompass the big take-home message, so far, of a century and a half of biology and ecology; life is – more than anything else – a process; it creates, and depends on, relationships among energy, land, water, air, time, and various living things. It’s not just about human-human- interaction; it’s not just about spiritual interaction. It’s about all interactions. We’re bound with the rest of life in a network . . . a network including not just all living things but the energy and nonliving matter that flows through the living.”

I am in love with this book, and in awe of Safina – his work and his writing.

The Great Work by Thomas Berry

Berry writes, “The deepest cause of the present devastation is found in a mode of consciousness that has established a radical discontinuity between the human and other modes of being, and the bestowal of all rights on the humans. The other-than-human modes of being are seen as having no rights. They have reality and value only through their use y the human. In this context the other-than-human becomes totally vulnerable to exploitation by the human, an attitude that is shared by all four of the fundamental establishments that control the human realm; governments, corporations, universities, and religions.”

Personal Reflection

I would recommend anything of Thomas Berry’s: for example,  Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community
Dream of the Earth.

I consider Thomas Berry a mentor, although I never met him. I was introduced to his writings by a dear friend Tom Wisner, whose life’s passion and commitment had been directed to the healing of the Chesapeake Bay, through art and story, science, political doggedness, and annual ritual. I met him again through the documentary clips produced by Caroline Webb, which can be found in the video section of this resource section.

Moral Ground ~ Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril Editors Kathleen Dean Moore & Michael P. Nelson

This is a big book and it brings together ethicists and moral thinkers from around the globe. You can open this book to any page, as I just did. I discovered F. Stuart Chapin, a scientist himself, who writes, “The scientific community has been relatively ineffective in conveying this message of planetary change to our society. As scientists, we are trained to avoid speaking in ways that touch people’s souls. New forms and venues of dialogue must emerge through words, images, and tones that enable society to see and hear more clearly the changes that are occurring, to feel deeply and personally their importance . . .

For my nickel, he’s talking about the space between . . .

Extraordinary Knowing by Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer

My husband Jim and I read this book aloud, and just loved it! A total affirmation of one’s intuition – call it inner teacher or deep knowing, the kind of knowing that we might not be able to articulate. It’s the knowing that’s operative when someone says “how do you know” and the only way you can respond is, “I just know.” What Mayer does is build the scientific foundation under what we tend to think of as the paranormal or anomalous.

Creating Worlds ~ Constructing Meaning by Jeff Creswell

What the Reggio Emilio paradigm of education and formation offers young children, The Scottish Storyline Method does for Elementary School children. As the subtitle suggests, this model for teaching and formation began in Scotland (nearly fifty years ago), and Jeff begins by quoting from the Scottish Office Education Department, “It cannot be too strongly stressed that education is concerned as much with the personal development of the child as with the teaching of subjects. How the child learns is educationally no less important than what s/he learns.” All of us need to be reading and rereading this book; it’s another “this changes everything” experience.

The Making of a School in Vermont by Tal Birdsey

It’s the kind of book you want everyone you love to read. It’s a story of courage, self-examination, humor, pain, joy, and the absurdity of knowing that what you are actually doing can’t possibly be done. Not only is this the most exquisite teaching I’ve ever encountered, the students themselves have created a culture of education that defies middle school expectations.

The Courage to Teach by Parker J. Palmer

The subtitle is Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. Imagine yourself as a teacher. Here is a message to remind you of why you do what you do; of the passion that brought you into this work; and of your utter commitment to those students in your care. It’s a message to remind you that you can’t do this work with an unquiet heart. It’s a message and invitation to spiritual renewal. This book of wisdom heralded the beginnings of The Center for Courage and Renewal. From Parker’s own words, “This book is for teachers who have good days and bad, and whose bad days bring the suffering that comes only from something one loves. It is for teachers who refuse to harden their harts because they love learners, learning, and the teaching life.”

The Future of the Faith by Harvey Cox

It’s a relief to have such a respected voice challenge the institutionalization of the church beginning with the politics and policies of the Emperor Constantine. In this book Cox points faithful people back to what the early Christians called The Way, by dismantling the past fifteen hundred years of institutionalized hierarchy, orthodoxy, and clericalism. Cox can say what most of us can’t, and with the history to back it up.

The Buzz on Bees by Shelley Rotner & Anne Woodhull

This is an important book, not only readable – across the generations – and with beautiful photographic images, but informational, as well. For example, I didn’t know that Pennsylvania bees were trucked to the California almond groves, or that those same almond groves required 1 ½ million hives. Anne Woodhull and Shelley Rotner have asked the right question. What’s happened and still happening to the bees? And the second follows – how does it matter? The answer to that reveals once again the intricacies, interconnectedness, and interdependence of all life forms. “Honeybees are master pollinators,” the authors tell us. “We can thank them for about one out of every three mouthfuls of food that we eat.”

Old Turtle and the Broken Truth: story by Douglas Wood, watercolors by Jon Muth 

This is the second of the Old Turtle Books, ostensibly written for children, but one of those book which transcend the generations and transcend cultures. The Truth is broken as it reaches the humans on the planet, but it’s gold and shiny, and the humans fight for it. “You are Loved” is the message, and who wouldn’t fight for it. It remains to the instinct of a young girl to travel far and wide to engage the wisdom of Old Turtle, who gives her the other piece of the broken Truth. “You are loved, and so are they.” It’s a book for these times, which is why we chose it for our first production of Restoring the Waters Puppet Theater.

The Pollinator’s Corridor by Aaron Birk

Aaron’s is a graphic novel – brilliant art and supporting text – which lays out a vision for the Bronx, rich in biodiversity, rich in collaborative adventure, rich in making partners across the lines that tend to divide us, and divide us to our systemic peril. In his own words, “Set in the aftermath of the 1970’s landlord fires, The Pollinator’s Corridor follows the lives of three friends in their attempt to connect watersheds, city parks, and forest fragments via corridors of flowering plants, restoring biodiversity to the streets, and awakening communities to the soil beneath their feet. Don’t just buy one copy of this radically hopeful book, buy a dozen. Let Aaron get on to Volume Two!

One comment on “Books

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Natasha on October 23, 2015 6:51 pm

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