Showing 161 - 170 of 273 annotations tagged with the keyword "Spirituality"

Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The work consists of twenty-three devotions, each in three parts--a meditation, an expostulation, and a prayer--recording and exploring Donne’s experience of illness (probably typhus). The work traces the disease’s course and treatment, beginning in the first devotion with the first signs of illness, moving through the patient’s taking to bed and sending for physicians, their prescribing and carrying out various treatments, and a worsening of symptoms followed by the crisis where, in Devotion 17, the patient prepares himself for death. He then begins to recover, the physicians purge him, and, like Lazarus, he rises from his bed. The physicians then try to correct the cause of the disease in him, and, in the final devotion, warn the patient that a relapse is not out of the question.

Donne explores the spiritual implications of each stage of his illness, using the experience of his body to provoke reflections on the health of the soul. For instance, in the first devotion he asks why sin, unlike physical sickness, does not show early signs which might enable one to get treatment in time. Donne uses the arrival of the physicians to explore Christ’s role as physician to the soul, and the spots which appear on his body to meditate on Christ as the unspotted carrier of human stains.

Anticipating death, he considers the relationship of soul and body, seeing the body’s death as the cure of the disease. He then sees the physicians as God’s instruments in curing his body and miraculously raising him from illness. Finally, he argues that the root of all illness is internal, lying in the sin which infects his soul, and that therefore he must work constantly to prevent the relapse which continues to threaten.

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Dialogues with Madwomen

Light, Allie

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This documentary presents a pastiche of illness narratives, the stories of seven women (including the filmmaker and the associate producer) who have struggled with mental illness, including depression, bipolar disorder, and multiple personality disorder. Intercut with the interviews are reenactments of key events in the women? lives; vivid depictions of sometimes frightening, sometimes exhilarating mental states experienced by the women; films and still photographs from the womens' childhoods, and archival film footage. In the process of exploring their illnesses and recoveries, the women discuss experiences that hurt them (rape, misdiagnoses, racism) as well as those that helped them heal (creativity, caring, therapists, and spirituality).

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Doctor Faustus

Mann, Thomas

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The full title of this novel is "Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend." Mann wrote it during the latter part of World War II when he was living in exile in the United States. The Faust character in this story is a German composer named Adrian Leverkühn (1885-1940), whose biography is recounted by his childhood friend, a schoolmaster named Serenus Zeitblom. Zeitblom presents the tale in his own voice--in essence, the novel is an extended reflection on the composer’s life (the past) set into the context of the deteriorating military situation in Germany (the present) as he is writing; i.e. the same period that Mann is actually writing the novel.

Adrian Leverkühn starts out as a student of theology, but succumbs to his passion for musical composition. His early pieces, though technically skillful, lack energy and imagination. However, all this changes when the young man experiences himself as having made a pact with the devil. In a confession written years later, Adrian recounts that he "voluntarily" contracted syphilis in an encounter with a prostitute, an episode that he believed was emblematic of this Faustian bargain.

In the confession he recreates his dialog with Satan, who promises the composer an artistic breakthrough, if he agrees to forego human love. As a result of the pact, Leverkühn sets off on a brilliant 24-year career, becoming the greatest German composer of his time. Throughout the novel Serenus intersperses technical details of Leverkühn’s many compositions, culminating with his masterwork, an oratorio called "The Lamentation of Doctor Faustus."

Adrian Leverkühn had been a self-centered youth who failed to reciprocate the friendship and devotion that others, especially Serenus, had lavished upon him. As an adult he leads an austere, solitary, monk-like life. Yet, while he lives only for his music, he also yearns for love. His personal life consists of a series of aborted relationships. Leverkühn becomes attracted to a female acquaintance and asks a friend to court her for him, only to learn that she has fallen in love with the friend.

Toward the end of his career, Adrian’s 5-year-old nephew comes to live with him in the country. The nephew ignites in him another spark of love, only to be snuffed out when the boy suddenly dies of meningitis. Finally, just as he is in the process of "unveiling" his great composition to a select group of friends, Leverkühn experiences a "stroke" and lapses into a coma from which he recovers physically, but not mentally. He survives for another decade in a demented, childlike state, and cared for by his mother.

The larger theme of this somber work relates to the decline of German culture during the decades before the onset of the Nazi era. Mann explores the collapse of traditional humanism and its replacement by a mixture of sophisticated nihilism and barbaric primitivism. In "The Story of a Novel" (1949),

Mann wrote that "Dr. Faustus" was about "the flight from the difficulties of a cultural crisis into the pact with the devil; the craving of a proud mind, threatened by sterility, for an unblocking of inhibitions at any cost; and the parallel between pernicious euphoria ending in collapse with the nationalistic frenzy of Fascism." In Zeitblum’s narrative comments, Mann subtly relates the composer’s personal tragedy to Germany’s destruction in the war. Mann also claimed a "secret identity" between himself, Leverkühn, and Zeitblom.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This remarkable book takes the reader into a Dutch nursing home where many of the 300 patients are terminally ill. The main protagonist is Anton, a competent, tough, and compassionate physician who tries to discover some meaning in the suffering of his patients, while at the same time disavowing any such meaning. Anton’s colleagues include Jaarsma, a somewhat detached and bureaucratic older physician, and Van Gooyer, a young physician who still believes that science has all the answers.

The first-person narrative consists of short, punchy segments (almost like an endless series of discrete physician-patient interactions) detailing the stories of Anton’s patients and his reactions to them. Many of these persons request assisted suicide or euthanasia. Anton reveals what he feels about these requests, how he goes about judging their validity, and the manner in which he actually carries out assisted deaths. A strong spiritual theme permeates the book; while Anton denies the relevance of God and religion, he seems constantly to be searching for a spirituality that "makes sense" of contemporary life.

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Dear Mili: An Old Tale

Grimm, Wilhelm Karl

Last Updated: Aug-16-2006
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Fairy Tale

Summary:

This fairy tale by Wilhelm Grimm, rediscovered in 1983, is prefaced by a short letter to "Mili," presumably a young girl much like the one in the story; what follows is a tale designed to teach children that life can be unpredictable. The story also demonstrates, however, that the unknown can sometimes provide shelter and security even when things are not familiar.

A young widowed mother, afraid for her daughter when the village they lived in was about to be attacked by invading warriors, sends the child to hide in the forest for three days. Alone and frightened, the girl loses her way, prays to God and is led to a little house tucked away in the woods where she meets a kind old hermit, Saint Joseph.

Three days (translated thirty years earth time) later, he decides it is time for the girl to return to her mother, whose dying wish is to see her daughter once more before death. Handing Mili a rosebud, he promises that after she meets her mother, she will be able to return: "Never fear. When this rose blooms, you will be with me again." The next morning the neighbors find the child and mother together, dead in their sleep.

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Dancing with Elvis

Stephenson, Lynda

Last Updated: Aug-15-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Fifteen-year-old Frankilee's sense of justice leads her to conspire with her mother to kidnap Angelica Musseldorf from a home where there is every evidence she has been consistently beaten and abused. With reluctant cooperation from her father, they take the girl in, confront the parents, and install her in Frankilee's room for an indefinite stay. Angelica, who asks to be called Angel, is not only scarred, but needy--indeed, over time, demanding. As her parents shower her new roommate with attention, clothing, lessons, Frankilee struggles with her deepening resentments. She confides them to Wanita, the family cook, an African American whose long service to the family has given her a place of special affection.

When Wanita's son is killed in an accidental shooting, Wanita abandons the family for a time; she returns, sorrowful, but steady, to see Frankilee through her own trauma. Suspicions aroused, Frankilee decides to do some detective work with the help of a reluctant boyfriend, and discovers that Angel's "parents" are an aunt and uncle with a criminal record in fraud; they have staged abuse in order to situate their orphaned niece with unsuspecting families of means who will take on the expense of her upbringing and education. In her efforts to expose the fraud, Frankilee is attacked by the aunt who is, in fact, violent, but she survives with some stitches and a sobering sense of what it might mean to be both kind and discerning in offering help.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

A timeless, archetypal moment of the passing of one generation on to another. While Joseph and his Egyptian Wife, Asenath serenely look on, the aged, nearly blind Jacob on his deathbed breaks with tradition in blessing the youngest grandson first. In the Biblical account (Genesis: 48:8-20), the displeased Joseph interferes, trying to move his father’s hand from Ephraim to the dark-haired Manasseh--"This is the first-born; put your hand upon his head." "I know it, my son, I know it," replies the dignified patriarch, continuing to bless the younger angelic-looking, chosen child, Ephraim, as if moved by prophetic intuition, "set[ting] Ephraim before Manasseh."

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The Road to Mecca

Fugard, Athol

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Since her husband's death, Miss Helen has lived alone and transformed her home into a work of art by creating a myriad of cement wise men, camels, owls, mermaids, and other figures around the house; and decorating the inside with dozens of candles and mirrors. She has created her own "Mecca" of beauty and freedom amid the harsh church-going Afrikaners and voiceless Colored of this desolate region of South Africa. She has befriended a young teacher from Cape Town, Elsa, who sees the light of humanity in Helen, while others view her as an old woman who went crazy after her husband's death.

In response to Helen's letter of distress, Elsa drives from Cape Town to make a surprise visit on the same day the local pastor, Marius Byleveld, comes to Miss Helen's house to help with her application for a bed at the local Old Folks' Home. Marius is invested in Helen moving to the Home because he fears for her safety (she recently burned herself by accident). Beneath this concern, however, is his deeper fear of her "idolatry" and her self-imposed exile from the Church; yet deeper still, is his human love for Miss Helen. With Elsa's support, Helen takes a stand, deciding to remain alone in her Mecca, rather than going to the Home.

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Remnant

Lieberman, Michael

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is a sequence of 45 poems on the Holocaust. Of course, "on" is impossible. These poems suggest, approach, reflect and consider. They range from the tale of the Maker of Walls in Krakow who chooses to make his new wall out of "jewstone," which is cheap and conveniently sized, since it consists of gravestones; to a paean in which the poet asks the blessing of "the god of small poets" to take pity on him: "May a self-righting gyroscope inhabit me and guide me. / May I smell the lilacs of my parents' yard."

The poems situate themselves in gnomic utterance ("Black Forest Cake" and "Women"), narrative movement ("Amsterdam" and "Grace Note"), ironic lyricism ("Idyll" and "Spring"), and reflective toughness; take "Nothing" for example: "He leaves us nothing / as a remnant of His people."

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Summary:

Howard Carter very skillfully weaves together the various meanings that the heart holds for us--biological, medical, psychological, cultural, and spiritual. He does so through four patients that he interviewed when he was appointed to a distinguished professorship in medical humanities in a joint program of St. Patrick Hospital and the University of Montana, in Missoula.

Each of the sections of the book focuses on one of the patients who suffers, respectively, from a prototypical heart problem: a young man with congenital defects who undergoes successful surgery; a middle-aged woman with a viral illness who learns how to live with her chronic heart condition; a middle-aged man whose blocked coronary arteries are cleared, as is the stress in his life; and an old man who turns to spiritual matters as he faces heart failure.

What contribute significantly to the uniqueness of this book are the essays that Carter provides at the end of each Patient Section. They are the vehicles for the synthesis of the patient stories, the scholarly look at how "we have largely lost the anchoring image of the heart" in American society, and his very poignant personal reflections about life in (or at least near) the wilderness of Montana. (See Solid Footing, Higher Ground -Third Essay as an excellent example of his skillful and moving writing.)

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