books

review: say you're one of them

Submitted by la miller on 8 November, 2009 - 20:23

In the 1994 [w:Rwandan Genocide], 500,000 to one million Tutsis and pro-peace Hutus were killed. Hutus associated with the Hutu Power movement carried out the genocide that lasted 100 days. I remember hearing radio reports of the violence and killing, the scope of which overwhelmed my understanding. Over several weeks, news items entered my ears as no more than abstractions of terror—no faces, no names, no specific to nail the corpses to my emotional reality. I never once thought of the children lost in the maelstrom of mass societal chaos and brutality.

Jesuit priest and author [w:Uwem Akpan]’s Say You’re One of Them does not forget the children. The collection of three short stories and two novellas considers in fine detail the improvised and often desperate lives of Africa’s young people.

the cave & the open road

Submitted by la miller on 9 July, 2009 - 03:10
image from [http://www.maitripa.org|maitripa] website

Is it the religion that’s important or the things fostered by practicing that religion that really count? More specifically what is the importance of an esoteric Tibetan Buddhist practice to a 21st-century American female like myself? I’ve been pondering these things since having the opportunity recently to attend [w:Chenrezig] and [w:Chöd] [http://www.maitripa.org/photogalleries/09_lamazoparinpoche/lamazopa/lamazopa.html|Initiations] given by [w:Lama Zopa Rinpoche]. To be clear, I have deep respect and love for the practices of [w:Tibetan Buddhism] and for the great work and teachings of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Even so, I wonder how several hours of unintelligible chanting, incense and bell ringing are relevant and meaningful to a Western life — fair questions for someone who is still relatively new to the religion.

Three books I’ve read recently — The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama by [w:Pico Iyer]; Cave in the Snow: Tenzin Palmo’s Quest for Enlightenment by [w:Vicki Mackenzie]; and Ethics for the New Millennium by [w:His Holiness the Dalai Lama] — have provided much food for thought as I’ve turned the above questions over in my head. The intention of my summer reading is to look at how people write about Buddhists and the Buddhist experience, with a strong eye toward Tibetan Buddhism. I’m grateful to the Multnomah County Library for having so many of the titles that interest me. The timing of my library holds becoming available explains how these three books ended up being written about together. But as these things go, I think these readings compliment each other well.

34 years in tibet

Submitted by la miller on 19 June, 2009 - 21:05

[w:Xinran]'s 2004 book Sky Burial is many things. It is an epic love story, an amazing travelogue through Tibet, an unheard perspective on the China-Tibet situation, and a story of one woman's faith and strength. I read the book in one sitting, the whole time wondering if this incredible story could really be true.

In late-1950s China, Shuwen and Kejun are doctors who are very much in love. They marry, but after only three weeks together Kejun is sent off with the army to Tibet. Within 100 days, Shuwen receives notice that her husband is dead. She can't believe the news and sets off to find him. What follows is a story of breathtaking devotion, spanning over three decades and thousands of miles.

the vast horizon

Submitted by la miller on 11 June, 2009 - 17:55
birthday flowersbirthday flowers

I just got done listening to [http://media.nypl.org/pico_iyer_4_11_08/pico_iyer_4_11_08.mp3|Pico Iyer talking with Paul Holdengräber] as part of the "Live at the New York Public Library” series on his book The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. [w:Pico Iyer|Iyer] is an insightful speaker and has a well informed mind. He’s fascinating to listen to about His Holiness, who was a friend of his father. Iyer’s book sounds like it could be a more literary look at His Holiness and what he represents than Chan’s book (see [:node/439|below]). I’ve already put it on hold at the library. So, I’ll have more to say in a few weeks.

dreaming forgiveness

Submitted by la miller on 9 June, 2009 - 16:48

book review: dreaming me and the wisdom of forgiveness

There is a tradition in Tibetan Buddhist literature of the nam-thar, the sacred life story of a Buddhist saint. They are inspirational in nature, narrating how an ordinary human can accomplish great things. While nam-thar might not be an accurate description of [w:Jan Willis]'s Dreaming Me: An African-American Woman's Spiritual Journey or Victor Chan’s The Wisdom of Forgiveness: Intimate Conversations and Journeys, it’s a model to keep in mind while reading them. Both Willis’s memoir and Chan’s account of the time he spent with [w:His Holiness the Dalai Lama] can serve as inspiration to all of us as we try to be good people on this troubled planet.