EXPECTED & UNEXPECTED

As I count down to the end of 2015, (64 books read and a week to go,) two favorites emerged this past week.

I expected to savor the new book of poetry by Mary Oliver and it did not disappoint. FELICITY: POEMS is filled with love- its remembrances, surprises, and permutations. Here’s a poem for opening your heart and mind to the New Year:

                   “The World I Live In”

I have refused to live

locked in the orderly house of

   reasons and proofs.

The world I live in and believe in

is wider than that. And anyway,

   what’s wrong with Maybe?

You wouldn’t believe what once or

twice I have seen. I’ll just

   tell you this:

only if there are angels in your head will you

   ever, possibly see one.

 

The unexpected favorite is a memoir by Mary-Louise Parker. DEAR MR. YOU allows us to know the author through her letters to the men in her life – some real, others hypothetical. There is no “orderly house of reasons and proofs” here. Rather, Parker expands the events of her life and her reactions to them as the pages draw in various people in her world. She starts with the grandfather she did not know and ends with her beloved father. In between, we get vivid pictures of acting classes, sexual encounters, taxi rides, childbirth, rural life, faith discussions with her priest…and more. I expected a mildly entertaining celebrity memoir and became intrigued by an unconventional life story of someone with a very rich interior life.

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ANTIDOTE

I have been caught up in the political campaigns’ media blitz these days. It’s not good for the soul. The dearth of substance, the lack of compassion, the fierce greed, the egocentric posturing. Then there is the constant stoking of fear and anxiety. It becomes an addiction in which the negativity grows ever more intense, while reason shrinks and positive beliefs fade.  Happy news: reason and optimism glimmered this weekend.

Part one: On Saturday, I attended a talk by Jon Meacham who spent the last seventeen years writing a biography of George H.W. Bush. The book is DESTINY AND POWER: THE AMERICAN ODYSSEY OF GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH. It’s a comprehensive account of the life of the forty-first President offering both the events of his life and the underlying moral principles that have provided his motivation, his successes, and his failures. Bush seems to be a complicated man understanding both the uses of political expediency and the importance of ethical principles. We could use some of this complication today!

The talk was great! Meacham is a talented public speaker- knowledgeable and charming. He knows politics and history and his admiration for George HW Bush is apparent, as is the book’s objectivity and fairness. (How refreshing after the steady diet of current media fare.) Hearing about Bush’s careful words and understanding when interacting with political foes added to the comfort of recalling calmer, kinder, saner times.

Part two: On Sunday, I heard a sermon that reminded me of the core beliefs of my faith. Full disclosure: the sermon was delivered by Reverend Jennifer Campbell, who happens to be my daughter. Jennifer recounted some of the outrageous ideas we are hearing these days and directed us to turn our attention away from fear, threats, xenophobia, and megalomania and focus on faith, love, inclusiveness and our common good. She reiterated God’s love for us and our responsibility to love our neighbors.

Share the antidote. Turn away from the ugliness.  Keep your eye on the light of reason and optimism!