Showing 171 - 180 of 276 annotations tagged with the keyword "Spirituality"

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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Opera Therapy

Evison-Griffith, Traicee

Last Updated: Mar-29-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

This documentary video follows the making of an opera, based on the illness experiences of four Australians who have been diagnosed and treated for cancer. Their feelings about these experiences are translated into music (with lyrics) as they work closely with music therapist/composer, Emma O'Brien. As the three women and one man tell their stories of physical debility and emotional pain, the music therapist asks them to think in terms of color (they choose purple, black) and tones and rhythms that she plays for them on the piano.

When the narratives and their musical representations have evolved sufficiently, trained singers take on the roles "written" for them by the four former patients; the latter continue to be intimately involved in the opera's production, directed by David Kram. At the end of the project, which is also the conclusion of the film, the opera is performed in front of an audience (with musicians playing instruments, singing, and dramatic enactment) and the four people whose illness experience is performed take their bows together with the singers.

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Maimonides

Nuland, Sherwin

Last Updated: Mar-29-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

This concise and well-written biography is meant to be, as Sherwin Nuland tells us, "a guide for the perplexed," for those who may recognize the name of Maimonides and his historical importance to Jewish religion and culture, or who may even have read some of his works, but have no knowledge of the man behind the name. The story begins, as it should, in Medieval Spain with its vibrant Judaeo-Islamic culture, in which the historical relationship between Judaism and medicine developed and later expanded throughout the European and Islamic worlds. Though they were outsiders in both civilizations, Jewish physicians became the most sought after healers in the Christian and Muslim worlds.

Moses son of Maimon (also known as Maimonides and the Rambam, 1138-1204) was born in Cordoba, the cultural and political center of Muslim Spain. He and his family had to flee Cordoba to avoid persecution in 1148. They wandered through Spain until 1160, when they settled in Fez, Morocco. Again fleeing from persecution, Maimonides moved to Fustat, Egypt, when he was 30 years old and remained there for the rest of his life. During these early years, the young rabbi wrote numerous biblical commentaries, culminating in the Mishneh Torah, his great code of Jewish law. Later, he attempted to reconcile faith with reason in another great work, The Guide for the Perplexed, completed in 1190.

Maimonides's specifically medical work is difficult to characterize and evaluate. The traditional historical assessment is that he was "unique in his time in the theory and practice of medicine." Essentially, he practiced Galenic medicine, as transmitted and developed in the flourishing Islamic tradition. We don't know how he acquired his medical knowledge, but by the time he reached Fustat, Maimonides was acknowledged to be a leading physician and in 1190 he was appointed personal physician to the vizier of Egypt. Late in life, Maimonides wrote a number of medical treatises, most importantly his Medical Aphorisms, which presents a coherent, well-organized, and practical medical system based on Galen and Aristotle.

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A Million Little Pieces

Frey, James

Last Updated: Jan-30-2006
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

At 23 years old, James is brought by his parents to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Minnesota to get treatment for his alcoholism and drug addictions. Physically and emotionally shattered, he slowly recuperates, sometimes insistently conquering his addictions with his own willpower, and at other times with the help of those around him. The consequences of his addictions, his struggle against the platitudes of the Twelve Step programs, and his relationships with his counselors build the tension in the book; his relationship with his family and several of his fellow addicts forms the heart of it.

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Summary:

This collection contains all the stories in Arthur Conan Doyle's Round the Red Lamp, six additional medical tales (three of which are from the Sherlock Holmes oeuvre), and the published version of "The Romance of Medicine" (1910), an awards ceremony address to the medical students at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School.

Round the Red Lamp (see annotation in this database) received almost universally negative reviews when it was published in 1894. They deplored the fact that Conan Doyle wrote about such "nauseating" and "ghastly" topics. All but one of the stories deal with doctors, disease, or medical practice. (The exception is a gothic tale that has a medical student as its hero.)

For example, "Behind the Times" contrasts the behavior of old fashioned humanistic physicians with that of modern scientifically-oriented physicians; "The Doctors of Hoyland" conveys a very positive image of women physicians; "His First Operation" depicts a first-year medical student fainting in the operating room; and "A False Start" presents a humorous account of Conan Doyle's difficulties in starting his own medical practice.

The three Sherlock Holmes stories are "The Dying Detective" (1913), "The Creeping Man," (1923) and "The Blanched Soldier" (1926). "The Romance of Medicine" is an inspirational essay on professionalism and medical history, somewhat similar in tone to, and contemporaneous with, the essays of William Osler.

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Strange Pieta

Fraser, Gregory

Last Updated: Jan-30-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In three sections of remarkable narrative poems, Fraser reviews how his own and his family's lives are utterly changed by the birth of his youngest brother, Jonathan, who is profoundly disabled by spina bifida and has survived into adulthood--long beyond what doctors predicted. An introduction provides the context: the poems chronicle a hard journey from denial, shame, and anger to acceptance. As Fraser writes toward the end of the final, title poem: "We must learn to cherish chance to have one." But chance has dealt his brother, and so his family, a particularly hard blow.

The first section focuses primarily on his own remembered reactions and reflections--his guilt, his cluelessness--as a child and adolescent; the second on relationships with family and friends as an adult, all of them partly shaped and shaded by the ongoing suffering of his disabled brother; the third and longest, an exercise in empathy-with his mother and with Jonathan, neither of whose suffering, he realizes, is entirely imaginable to him. The poems are regular free verse, rich with allusion, emotional precision, and narrative detail.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

A variety of figures, all of them Tahitian, sprawl across the wide frame of the painting, each engaged in a particular and significant act. In the center of the image, a man wearing a simple loincloth picks an apple from the top edge of the image. To his right, a nude person examines his or her underarm, two clothed women in the background walk together with their arms around one another, three women sit together around a babe, and a dog looks inward from the exterior of the right edge.

On the left of the apple-picking man, two white kittens play with one another next to a clothed young girl who eats an apple. Behind her lies a goat. In the far background stands a blue religious statue, to the right of which stands a lone fully clothed woman. At the far left of the painting, a dark-skinned unclothed old woman sits with her head in her hands, next to a seated, nubile young woman with firm, full, bare breasts. A white bird sits to their immediate left.

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The Hour of Our Death

Ariès, Philippe

Last Updated: Jan-09-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This is a comprehensive social history of European (or "Western") attitudes toward death and dying over the last thousand years. Ariès organizes his history into five sequential cultural constructs, each of which conveys the meaning of death to the individual and community, as well as the social institutions around death and dying, during a different period of Western history, beginning in the Middle Ages.

Cultural responses to death must begin by acknowledging that death is mysterious and overwhelming; a wild beast; a meaningless monster. Death lurks at the edge of our consciousness, ready to destroy us and demolish whatever meaning we attribute to our lives. In medieval Europe Christianity had domesticated this monster by establishing a comprehensive set of beliefs and practices that Ariès calls the "tame death." Death was merely a transition to eternal life. The individual was understood as an integral part of the community and not as autonomous and isolated. Therefore, death and dying were communal events, supported by specific prayers and practices (i.e. ars moriendi) that "tamed" the unknown.

In the centuries that followed, Ariès's "tame death" evolved through five stages into the radically different cultural conception of death that characterizes Western society--especially in its American form--today. These changes result largely from the gradual replacement of community-oriented personal identity with today's radical individualism; and the gradual sequestration of death to a position behind the scenes, so that dying and death become remote from ordinary experience.

In today's world we encounter "invisible death," a somewhat paradoxical name because its invisibility allows the savage beast free rein. Death is no longer "tame" because we deny its existence so effectively we no longer develop personal and communal resources to give it meaning. Death's invisibility enhances its terror; our culture's loss of spirituality enhances death's meaninglessness.

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