Showing 191 - 200 of 268 annotations tagged with the keyword "Spirituality"

Medicine

Hsun, Lu

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Old Chuan and his wife, the proprietors of a small tea shop, save their money to buy a folk medicine cure for their son, Young Chuan, who is dying of tuberculosis. The story opens with Old Chuan leaving their shop and going to the home of the person selling the cure, a "roll of steamed bread, from which crimson drops were dripping to the ground." The crimson drops, we soon learn, are blood from a young man recently executed, apparently for revolutionary activities.

The cure does not work and the mother of Young Chuan meets the mother of the executed revolutionary in the cemetery. Here they both behold a mysterious wreath on the revolutionary's grave, a wreath that Lu Hsun, in his introduction to this collection (which he entitled A Call to Arms), describes as one of his "innuendoes" to "those fighters who are galloping on in loneliness, so that they do not lose heart." (p. 5)

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The Encyclopedia of the Dead

Kis, Danilo

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator is still grieving over the recent death of her father, D.M. He suffered from emphysema and died from a sarcoma of the intestine that metastasized to other organs. While visiting Sweden, the narrator explores the Royal Library. There she discovers the celebrated Encyclopedia of the Dead--a massive collection of thousands of volumes chronicling in detail the lives of ordinary people who have died.

She finds the biography of her father and takes notes while reading it throughout the night. Fifty years of his life in Belgrade are summarized in only 5 or 6 pages yet amazingly nothing seems to be left out. No detail is too small--the first day he ever smoked a cigarette, an episode of food poisoning, a love letter.

The text is illustrated with a picture of her father and an odd flower. Late in life, he began painting floral patterns like the one depicted in the book. According to the Encyclopedia, his interest in painting paralleled the onset and progression of his cancer. In fact, the narrator learns that the flower in the book closely resembles the appearance of the sarcoma that claimed his life.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

For those who have enjoyed his previous collections, this edition of new and collected poems (22 new, the rest culled from collections published from 1972-1998) will be a welcome and rich sampling of Stone's work, wide-ranging in style and subject. The three sections of new poems include a series about incidents in Serenity Gardens, his mother's nursing home; a series of "Reflections from the Middle East" that chronicle moments evocative of classical and biblical story and ethos as well as touching, comic incidents in the life of a 60-something tourist; and a short series of poems based on memories from childhood and young adulthood.

The poems tend toward narrative; many are little stories complete with plot in one to two pages of short lines; Stone's gifts for both chronicle and condensation give many of the poems a lively tension: what is told suggests how much isn't.

As a collection it is possible here to trace the stylistic development from the early poems in The Smell of Matches with their strong autobiographical focus and sense of intimate scene and situation to the recent ones, still strongly personal, but reflective, sometimes ironic, with lines that render the self-awareness of the older poet in sometimes comic flashes.

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Annie and the Old One

Miles, Miska

Last Updated: Jun-14-2004
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

A very old Navajo grandmother believes it is time her 10-year-old granddaughter, Annie, learns to weave. Gathering her family in the hogan, she asks each of them to choose a gift they wish to have (Annie’s eyes choose the weaving stick) as she announces to her family that when the weaving of the new rug is completed, she will go to Mother Earth.

Determined to delay her mother from finishing the rug, Annie plans her distractions. She acts out in school, letting the sheep out of their pen, and, most significantly, unravels at night what her mother had woven during the day. The adults catch on.

The Old One’s gentle explanations of nature’s ways--the inevitability of death and the ultimate connectedness of the whole universe--eventually comfort and inspire Annie: "The sun rose but it also set. The cactus did not bloom forever. Petals dried and fell to earth . . . She would always be a part of the earth, just as her grandmother had always been, just as her grandmother would always be, always and forever." Annie picks up her grandmother’s weaving stick, kneels at the loom and begins to weave "as her mother had done, as her grandmother had done."

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Forms of Devotion

Schoemperlen, Diane

Last Updated: May-27-2004
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Ten "forms of devotion" are described briefly in one or two pages of accessible, everyday prose: Faith, Memory, Knowledge, Innocence, Strength, Imagination, Prayer, Abundance, Wisdom, Hope. Each is illustrated with an engraving of an allegorical image with Latin and gothic German text. In the first mini-essay, the narrator contends that "the faithful are everywhere." She demonstrates that faith in a future and in immortal continuity is the driving force, not only for religious folk, but for anyone who goes to school, gets up each day, drives to work, embarks on a journey, takes a pill.

The following mini-essays show how each of the forms of devotion are wielded by "the faithful" to carry on valiantly confronting the challenges of ordinary existence. Faith and Hope together beget power. By the end, the reader senses a certain irony--as if the writer is not a member of the faithful. She may acknowledge and sometimes envy their resolute success, but does she share it? Perhaps not, and we are left wondering if she even admires it.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

One April day, a middle-aged writer, who was raised a Protestant but is not religious, is surprised to find a stranger, wearing a plain raincoat, in her home. The intruder says that she is Mary, mother of God, and something in her direct simplicity announces the truth of her claim. May will be the busiest of Mary's year, and she is tired; she asks to stay for a week to rest. Over lunch of soup and sandwiches, the two women establish an arrangement that Mary will stay and that if her host chooses to write about the visit, she will call it a work of fiction.

As Mary quietly goes about a banal existence--shopping, napping, doing laundry, using the toilet--the writer embarks on an investigation of Marian history--contrasting the relatively few biblical references to the mother of Jesus with her enormous fame and heavy responsibilities over two thousand years. Why has Mary been venerated? How can she cope with the thousands of prayers sent to her each day? Can transcendence reside in the mundane tasks of female life?

By the time her guest leaves, the writer is not converted but she comes to the conclusion that faith includes the acceptance of uncertainty, and that writing is an act of faith.

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Every Second Counts

Armstrong, Lance

Last Updated: Feb-11-2004
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

This book, a sequel to It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, chronicles five-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong's personal and professional triumphs and agonies from late 1999 (after he won his first Tour and after the birth of his son Luke) to mid-2003, the 100th anniversary of the Tour. Armstrong defines himself by his cancer experience and survival; he devotes himself to both one-on-one connections with fellow cancer patients as well as his public persona to raise awareness and funds for cancer programs and survivors' needs.

There are many medically related themes in the book. Descriptions of cycling sports injuries and illnesses include a severe concussion, a broken cervical vertebra, dehydration, road rash, tendonitis and exhaustion. Armstrong experiences the loss of friends and acquaintances to cancer and trauma. He is the subject of an intense investigation into the possible use of recombinant erythropoietin and finally cleared of suspicion after nearly two years. As a world class athlete, he is subject to frequent, random drug testing.

His wife experiences a failed in vitro fertilization cycle, though a subsequent successful treatment leads to the birth of healthy twin girls. The Red Cross invites Armstrong to visit NYC firefighters soon after the devastation of September 11, 2001 in a successful effort to boost morale. Armstrong, though, describes encounters with some cancer patients in which he felt he did not succeed in providing the desired inspiration.

Despite reaching his five-year cancer-free milestone, Armstrong, like many other cancer survivors, wonders if the cancer will return. He is hyper-vigilant of his body not only because of his elite athlete status, but also because of his cancer history. Nonetheless, he is reckless and jumps from a steep cliff to sense the rush of fear and freedom.

Armstrong trusts and believes in modern medicine and technology, as well as the physicians, nurses and other health care practitioners dedicated to cancer treatments and health care. He also lauds complementary practices, particularly the team chiropractor who uses a variety of techniques to support the riders during the grueling Tour.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poetry and Art

Summary:

This book represents collaboration between neurologist-poet Jerome Freeman and potter Richard Bresnahan. Thirty-seven black-and-white photographs of ceramic pieces by Bresnahan from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts are interspersed with 56 of Freeman’s short poems. In his introduction Freeman writes, "Richard’s pottery (champions) both our environment and the need to nourish our humanity through cooperation and caring." Likewise, Freeman notes that much of his own poetry "attempts to focus upon caring." As he also points out, "the economy and simplicity of pottery can resemble the spare verbiage and subtlety of successful poetry."

Indeed, Freeman’s poems are simple, direct, and evocative. Many of them, such as "Carrying On" (p. 3), "Ten Year Old with Rheumatoid Arthritis" (p. 17), and "DTs" (p. 49), create images of patients. (However, the 88-year-old arthritis sufferer in "Carrying On" by no means considers himself a patient!) Others evoke more general human responses to severe illness ("Apocalypse," pp. 6-7), or to the threat of illness ("In Defense of the Hypochondriac," p. 15). In the former, Freeman writes of a comatose ICU patient, "All about keep mostly / thinking there’s a mistake / here somewhere." In the latter poem, Freeman concludes, "The worst might / happen. Keep crossing / bridges before you come / to them."

These poems also evoke the landscape and flora and fauna of the Great Plains: "Lake Superior in February" (p. 29), "The Prairie Gentian" (p. 79), and "When Wild Turkeys Come Out of the Woods" (p. 87). But the outside and inside worlds are closely connected. In "Coma Vigil" (p. 59), a poem about a woman in a persistent vegetative state, he begins, "Dawn’s bounty spills over / the rim of sky to spread / across darkened / prairie." Does the woman want to be kept alive in her "coma vigil"? The poem ends, "The time has / come. / Shadows still conceal / easy ways of letting / go."

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Cane

Toomer, Jean

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a collection of related stories, sketches, poems, and a one-act play by Jean Toomer, a little-known writer of the Harlem Renaissance. The book is divided into three sections. The first part of the book is a series of stories that portray the lives of poor black women in rural Georgia. They deal with such subjects as infanticide ("Karintha"), miscegenation ("Becky"), hysteria ("Carma"), lynching ("Blood-Burning Moon"), and religious mysticism ("Fern" and "Esther"). Taken together, these stories portray an intuitive, violent, spontaneous, and pre-rational culture.

The second part of Cane takes place in Washington, DC, where Toomer depicts the life of urban black Americans in the early 1920's. Here we encounter the conflict between rationalism, as represented by the well-educated "intellectuals," and traditional lifestyle and morality. The best stories in this section include, "Avey," "Theater," and "Box Seat."

The last section is a one-act play ("Kabnis") about two urban black writers attempting to establish a contemporary "Negro identity" in light of the repression and suffering of their people. One is overwhelmed by negativity and a sense of victimization, while the other man believes that the past can be transcended, especially through the power of art.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Fabric and Thread

Summary:

Surrounded by Family and Friends is a collection of six life-sized fabric and thread wall hangings that explore the relationships between dying persons and those human or animal companions they are about to leave behind. Scherer’s drawing tools are her scissors and sewing machine; she sculpts in fabric--a warm, tactile and inviting medium.

In "At Night," a dying man, though weak, is alert, conscious, and comfortable. His direct eye contact with the viewer draws us into the family grouping of standing daughter or wife with eyes downcast on one side of the bed, and a seated elderly woman and middle aged man on the other side looking at her. The artist met and did a pencil sketch study of her protagonist 21 days after he had rejected further dialysis and other treatments. Scherer documents in her notes, "He wanted his doctor to see the drawing--proof that he was still here, doing it right, dying his way. He told his wife, ’The doctor should see this! I did it MY way!’ We agreed to write those words on the drawing." (Project on Death in America newsletter, 2002: (10) p. 7)

"Open Window" shows an elderly woman in bed with a window open to a breeze that gently stirs her long gray hair splayed out around her head like a crown. Although the woman is fragile and bedridden, the hair is striking, gray with age, but thick and vital. Her cat stands sentry beside her, greeting the viewer with a steady gaze.

In "Child" a seated mother is kissing the head of the dying child on her lap. The supportive medical technology is barely visible. A teddy bear, colorful patterned quilt, and a clean gauze-like curtain communicate the essence of palliative care.

Two standing figures tenderly touch and comfort themselves and a third who is dying in bed. "Three Men" is exceptional for its unselfconscious display of the loving relationship between the subjects. They might be brothers or friends, lovers, or professional caregivers. Intergenerational and non-traditional families from culturally diverse groups apply to all six of these works.

"In Her Room" appears to be a husband and wife, though the actual relationship doesn’t really matter. Directly gazing at the viewer, the calm subjects invite us into the comfort and intimacy of this moment. The "husband" might well be the caregiver. He sits close to the woman’s bed, his hand wrapped firmly around her outstretched arm.

"Bigger than Each Other" is a composition of a couple seated on a couch holding hands, fingers entwined. The woman--with tubing supplying nasal air/oxygen--is enveloped in the body of her husband (partner? Physician?). Although physically present to each other in an embrace, they appear to be lost in their separate thoughts.

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