I'm the type of person who can find deep meaning in a bowl of cereal and I love reading, so its not surprising that much of my thinking about religion comes in the form of the books I read and how I respond to them. This time around I've been reading a mix of fiction and non-fiction.
“Meditations on Violence: a comparison of martial arts training and real world violence" by Rory Miller
I had the opportunity of watching a presentation the author gave on how police are trained to handle potentially violent situations while balancing competing needs. I found him to be a compelling speaker, so when I found he had a book out, I bought a copy. It is a quick read and packed with useful information and interesting insights. In fact, I would recommend this book most highly because so much of it comes from the author's personal experience-- as he says in the introduction: “This book is about violence, especially about the difference between violence as it exists 'in the wild' and violence as it is taught in martial arts classes and absorbed through our culture.” As someone who does not have much experience with violence first hand, I found his book to be engaging and thoughtful. He explores the difference between the structured violence of sport and the wild violence of an ambush as well as talking about the effects of both short-term and long-term exposure to violence. I really appreciated that the author seemed to stick to what he personally knows--whenever he would touch on aspects of violence where he did not have first-hand knowledge he was up front about it.
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs.
I bought this book on spec at Powell's books during one of our pilgrimages there. Especially given the bro-ha-ha in the Episcopal Church over biblical literalism and inclusiveness, this looked like it might be a light-hearted take on subject. I was not disappointed. The author has a lively writing style and is perfectly willing to poke fun at himself and some of the situations he gets himself into as a result of trying to follow the bible's 'rules' as literally as possible. However, this book surprised me with its depth. It is one man's spiritual journey-- all the more interesting because he starts from a secular understanding of 'faith'.
Castle Waiting written and illustrated by Linda Medley
This story of Sleeping Beauty's castle re-imagined as a refuge for those with no other home and populated with classic fairy-tale elements is a lovely story about community and all the little acts it takes to make a house (or in this case a castle) a home. A series of linked stories introduces the reader to both the castle and the people who call it home. The stories range across the characters lives, showing little bits and pieces of the roads travelled to arrive at Castle Waiting. The detailed artwork makes it worth several close reads as more details emerge as one knows to look for them. My brother gave me this as a gift and I greatly enjoyed reading it. One of the characters that I found the most interesting is a nun with a strange sense of humor and a knack for telling stories. Her story of life in the circus and then in an unusual order of bearded sisters is a light-hearted but meaningful look at what it means to be a person of faith.