Showing 191 - 200 of 270 annotations tagged with the keyword "Spirituality"

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

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)

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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."

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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."

View full annotation