Showing 181 - 190 of 268 annotations tagged with the keyword "Spirituality"

An Absence of Windows

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Fifty-two year old Pete, the hospital mailman, suddenly experiences severe abdominal pain. He is evaluated and treated in the emergency room. His diagnosis is acute surgical abdomen, but the exact cause of his pain is still unknown. The surgeon-narrator determines that the severity of Pete's condition mandates exploratory surgery. During the operation, "an old enemy" (18) is encountered--pancreatitis.

Afterwards, the surgeon assures Pete that he will get better. One week later though, the mailman dies. His death has been painful. An autopsy is scheduled, but the surgeon deliberately arrives 20 minutes late. He does not want to view the intact body of his deceased patient. No matter, the pathologist has waited for him to arrive before beginning the post-mortem examination. The pathologist closes Pete's eyelids before starting the autopsy, mindful of how the mailman's "blue eyes used to twinkle" (21) when he delivered the mail everyday.

View full annotation

The Surgeon as Priest

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-13-2005
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Selzer begins by describing an anonymous painting of Vesalius at the dissecting table, about to cut into the cadaver in front of him, yet glancing over his shoulder at a crucifix on the wall behind him. He then tells two medical stories in which spirituality has played a crucial role.

In the first, a man who has repeatedly refused to have a brain cancer operated on turns up one day healed, attributing it to the holy water a family member brought back from Lourdes. In the second, the Dalai Lama's personal physician does rounds in an American hospital and, using ancient techniques, diagnoses correctly, and in some detail, a case of congenital heart disease.

View full annotation

Summary:

This is a collection of 14 contemporary patients' accounts of dealing with their illness or injury. (The patients, four men and ten women, including the editors, are all writers.) Among them the stories cover numerous medical conditions: erythroblastosis, environmental illness, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis, hip replacement, H.I.V., Crohn's disease, broken leg, ruptured cervical disc, myelitis, rheumatoid arthritis, paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, lupus, alcoholism, multiple sclerosis, diabetic retinopathy, breast cancer, severe facial scarring, and depression. The collection is unified by a focus on selfhood--the recovery, discovery, or reconstruction of the psyche that the editors propose is the deepest form of healing.

View full annotation

Science and Charity

Picasso, Pablo

Last Updated: Nov-12-2004
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

A sick woman (dying mother) in a comfortably made-up bed serenely occupies the center of the canvas's diagonal composition. She lies between a seated doctor focused on his hand-held watch while he takes her pulse, and a nun who holds the woman's child and extends her a drink (tea, medicine). The simple, calm, orderliness of the sparse setting is echoed in the postures and countenances of the four figures.

In his biographical study, Robert Maillard documents that Picasso's father--art teacher and model who posed as the doctor--worked out both the composition and the title of the painting for his 16-year-old son (Picasso. New York: Tudor, 1972, p. 180).

An earlier watercolor draft of this work sketches the child with arms outstretched reaching forward to the sick mother. In the draft, the physician and nun, too, are more concerned with the mother's condition. Though strengthening the allegorical significance of this academic composition, the dramatic intensity is lessened if not lost in the final version (1897), which was awarded an honorable mention in Madrid and a gold medal at the Exposición de Bellas Artes in Málaga.

View full annotation

Greenleaf

O'Connor, Flannery

Last Updated: Nov-12-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A stray bull has been grazing on Mrs. May's farm for several days. She is outraged that her tenant/farmhand, Mr. Greenleaf, hasn't chased the bull away; and her outrage only grows stronger when she learns that the bull belongs to the tenant's sons, who have settled not far away with their French wives and bilingual children.

Mrs. May is a widow lady whose two sons, both in their mid-30s, live on the farm with her, but have no interest in farming. One sells life insurance to black folks; the other is an intellectual. Mrs. May thinks she knows how to "handle" Mr. Greenleaf; she has employed him for 15 years despite his stupidity and shiftlessness. His wife is a religious fanatic and faith healer. His twin sons, unlike Mrs. May's, went away to the war in Europe, rose in the ranks, came home with European wives, and now each had a piece of good land and three children in a convent school. They also have a bull that escaped, but they evidently don't it want back.

Mrs. May becomes more and more obsessed with the bull that is eating her out of house and home. Finally, she demands that Mr. Greenleaf shoot it and insists on accompanying him to make sure the deed is done. When the bull escapes to the woods, Greenleaf follows it. Shortly thereafter, it comes charging out of the wood directly toward Mrs. May. Mr. Greenleaf finally shoots the bull just after it has gored Mrs. May in the chest and killed her.

View full annotation

Grace and Grit

Wilber, Ken

Last Updated: Oct-22-2004
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In the fall of 1983, Treya Killam was about to be married to Ken Wilber, a prominent theorist in the field of transpersonal psychology, when she was diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of breast cancer. This is Ken Wilber's story, with much of it told through his wife Treya's journals and letters, of their five-year battle against her cancer, a long roller-coaster ride that ended in her death by euthanasia in 1988. The narrative includes details of several conventional and unconventional cancer therapies.

View full annotation

Dancing on the Edge

Nolan, Han

Last Updated: Oct-19-2004
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Miracle McCloy received her name because, as she's been told many times, she was pulled from the body of her mother shortly after her mother was run over and killed by a bus. Raised largely by her grandmother with her depressed and dysfunctional father nearby, she has learned a great deal about séances, contacting the dead, reading auras, and paying attention to energy fields. But she doesn't know much about how to locate her own confused feelings about her parents, her identity, and her relationships with "normal" kids at school who see her has some kind of freak.

She perpetuates this image by casting "spells" to help fellow students connect with boyfriends. But after her father disappears, and her grandfather's house is destroyed in a tornado, she lapses into mental illness and burns herself badly trying to "melt" as she believes her father did by dancing among flaming candles. She is taken to an institution where an astute therapist and an aunt who realizes how much Miracle needed her combine their efforts to help her recover a sense of who she is--a dancer, a strongly intuitive, intelligent girl with an interesting history and a promising life to live, liberated from the obsessions of a superstitious grandmother and mentally ill father.

View full annotation

Zimmerman's Tefillin

Pies, Ronald

Last Updated: Oct-19-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a collection of humane and humorous stories by psychiatrist Ronald Pies. Many of them portray snippets of Jewish-American family life; others feature Pies's alter egos, young psychiatrists named Applebaum; or Ackerman, or Alterman; still others introduce a number of wonderful geriatric characters the reader is unlikely to forget.

In the title story, an elderly man lies in the hospital and remembers how he inserted snippets of pornography into his business partner's tefillin nearly 40 years earlier, just to spite his holier-than-thou partner, who had evicted his Playboy magazines from the premises. "Mandelbaum's Passion" is the story of an elderly professor whose daughter wants to put him into a nursing home. He, on the other hand, focuses his energy on anticipating the twice-weekly visits of Luz, his 26-year-old Hispanic visiting nurse.

Dr. Otto Hertzmann in "Show Us Where God Is" is a retired analytic psychiatrist who lives with his sister. When a young admirer comes to visit, the sister introduces him to Davie, Hertzmann's severely retarded son who, when asked to "show us where God is," grins widely and points to the ceiling. Max Dershman, found dead in his room "stinking of cheap cigars and surrounded by Playboy centerfolds," is another such character. He falls head over heels in love with Riva Greenberg, the nursing home social worker, and leaves her a love letter when he dies ("A Medical Diptych"). In "Sophie Fein Goldberg Stein" the title character insists on always being addressed by her full name--at least, that is, until the nursing home psychiatrist is willing to sit down and listen to the full story of her life.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Collection (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

Fifteen selections--short stories, essays, and memoir--make up this collection. Two stories are notable: The Whistlers' Room and Atrium: October 2001 (see annotations). The title story is a translation and retelling of an obscure German tale published 75 years ago. Set in a military hospital in Germany during World War I, four soldiers share a common wound--throat injuries and laryngeal damage necessitating a tracheostomy for each man. This remarkable quartet of patients forges a fellowship of the maimed.

"Atrium: October 2001" describes the random meeting between a physician and a terminally ill teenager in the hospital atrium. The subject of death dominates their discussion. "Parable" chronicles an elderly doctor's efforts to comfort a dying man, and in the process, ease both their suffering.

Excerpts from Selzer's diary reveal much about the character of the author as well as the characters in his life. He also reminisces about growing up in Troy, New York. Approximately one-quarter of the book is devoted to Selzer's musings on works of art (sculpture and painting). Lighter fare includes a discussion of life behind the podium, a description of his home, and a new ending for A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

View full annotation

The Uses of Imperfection

McMahon, Ted

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In "Breakdown" the narrator watches the bikers ahead of him glide effortlessly up the long hill. Halfway up, he downshifts, cranks hard, and eventually--stops. "Then dismount / and walk. At the crest / the road stretches flat, narrows out of sight. No bikes, no cars, no sound." (p. 18) This lonely moment embodies two aspects of Ted McMahon's poetry.

First, he acknowledges his (our) limited ability to live up to expectation, achieve the sought-after goal, or understand what is really happening in life. As in "Amniocentesis" (p. 15), we may convince ourselves that we are "prepared to embrace a life of sacrifice," but when finally confronted with the reality (e.g. a Down's syndrome baby), we lose our bearings and grow silent. What seems a sure ticket to happiness--for example, the "snug white Levis" woman who shares her heart with you at a "Writers' Conference" (p. 33)--turns out to be a false alarm: "I stood alone, / controlled, on twilight grass, observed / a fly, quivering in a web."

However, McMahon touches these moments of imperfection, not with explanations or suggestions for improvement, but with profound compassion. In "Satchitananda" (p. 49) he discovers the attributes of the Hindu God (being, awareness, and bliss) residing in the most ordinary daily activities. He stops his truck on a windy plain and reflects: "I'll settle to have sparked / a single flash of joy, to have erased / a single line of sorrow." (p. 48)

View full annotation