Monday, February 01, 2010

Some January 2010 reading - mixed variety

The Book of Genesis, illustrated by R. Crumb. I had been made aware of this book several months before it was published. What a delight to happen upon it at the local public library a few days ago. I had not planned to purchase the book, and was not even sure if I would enjoy it - but I certainly did. I did not read the book precisely - as it covers verbatim the book of Genesis and, more or less, I have a sense of what is going on in the story. But, I did spend numerous hours over a few days reviewing key stories from Genesis.

I think one of the issues that was most apparent to me, has to do with the realization that in this illustrated story I could see "for real" how R. Crumb imagines and pictures the story. Some of the stories were pictured by Crumb in ways similar to other "Children's stories" of the Bible. Of course, certain familiar stories make it into children's books more often than other stories - creation, Noah's flood, the Akedah, etc. But what was intriguing in particular were the stories that I have no seen illustrated elsewhere. Even small things like how much Adam and Eve looked alike in Crumb's pictures - compared to other stories I have seen where they look so male/female gender specific. In one illustration by Crumb, I could not tell who was the male and who was the female. Crumb did an excellent job, too, of "correctly" illustrating Ancient Near Easter parallel cultures when the images were appropriate. The book inspired me to think about teaching Genesis from the perspective of illustrations/art/movies. To lay side by side the narratives of the Bible alongside images/portrayals of the stories that both get the story correct - and offer their own (mis)reading of the text based on interpretive bias/position. Intriguing read and study. I will need to pick up this book to put on my personal shelf.

Daniel Berrigan: No Gods But One. Berrigan has been a popular agitator, and intriguing reader of the Bible for a number of years, even for decades. In this book, like other books I have read and reviewed by Berrigan, he offers a unique form of running commentary on a text of the Bible. In this book, Berrigan offers reflections/quotes/anecdotes/thoughts on the Book of Deuteronomy. Characteristic of his style, the anecdotes and quotes read as a series of disjointed thoughts on various texts and/or verses in their sequential order. It does not read like a "normal" commentary and I am not sure it would even prove helpful in a casual study of Deuteronomy. However, if a person were working through Deuteronomy with other resources and a close reading, I am certain that Berrigan's work would offer tantalizing and fresh perspectives for the interpreter to consider. Since I am not now studying Deuteronomy, I did not read Berrigan's work in its entirety. In fact, I probably read less than 20% of the text while I had it in my hand - as I flipped through important passages that stand out in my mind from the book of Deuteronomy. I was much more influenced by Dennis T. Olson's reading of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy and the Death of Moses, from several years back, that reads and understands the book of Deuteronomy from the perspective of catechesis. Nevertheless, the next time I teach Deuteronomy, I will need to insure I own a copy of Berrigan's work for perspective as I teach and read.

Daniel R. Heischman, Good Influence: Teaching the Wisdom of Adulthood. This book caught my attention because it seemed to connect principles of biblical wisdom with the practice of raising children. In fact, in some ways the author does this. Heschman tells stories of students/families he has mentored over the past numerous decades as a school administrator. He lines up this experiential wisdom with reflections on how to better raise children into adulthood. Central to Daniel's thesis is the idea that children need responsible adult influence to nurture their response-ability into adulthood. (That is my language, not his. But I like my language!) In the context of his central chapter he offers the following proverbs, which he then reflects upon: Adult's serve as what might be called a "speed bumps" to younger people. Adults serve as a deep sea divers. Adults need to be willing to be unpopular. Adults need to be willing to seem "old."

I found the book interesting and readable. Full of stories and reflections that offering meaning in their context - and I enjoyed the read. But, I am not sure that it *really* offers anything new to the ancient practices and perspectives of Wisdom as reflected in numerous Wisdom writings, the Bible included.

Don't ask me why, except a weird curiosity, but I also recently read Madoff's Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie and Me by Sheryl Weinstein. I suppose I am like so many other people, and want to know more about how Madoff pulled off his ponzi scheme (swindle!) for so long. It is intriguing to me in several ways how people can be as animated and well loved as Bernie was - while "underneath" or even out in the open - they are villains who thieve away the money of others. As is likely expected from this story, Sheryl, who lost all of her own finances to Madoff, as well as other family members etc - had a personal and romantic affair with Bernie. Another curious fact to me is how influential people have time/opportunity to hide their dalliances! Anyway. Certainly a casual, light read - but intriguing as well. I think the "best" part of the story was reading her comments to the judge - she was one of the few who were allowed to address the judge regarding Bernie's punishment. The reading was at least as enjoyable as anything I could have watched on T.V. for the afternoon!

There is so much going on with the economy right now, that I decided I ought to pick up a few books to give me some "economic" perspective. I did not read entirely, but perhaps read 30-40% from each of the following two books these past few days. Charles Goyette's The Dollar Meltdown: Surviving the Impending Currency Crisis with Gold, Oil, and Other Unconventional Investments. And, separately, Crash Proof 2.0: How to Profit from the Economic Collapse by Peter D. Schiff with John Downes. Several reflections that I would offer: both authors are convinced that the future state of the economy will change drastically, and wealth will transfer from the "fiat" system of paper money that we now have - (citing various issues including the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and the 1934 Gold Reserve Act, and the 1944 Bretton Woods event, and issues in the 1960's and 1970's including Nixon closing the Gold window.) The authors, of course, are writing to an audience that is seeking to save and or establish wealth into the possible (unpredictable ?) future, asserting of course that their systems of wealth management and success will give perspective and hope to their readers. Among other things, as could be implied by the title of the text, natural resources and international economic industry are heralded as the authors of the means to a better financial future. The authors explain the problem with current credit for personal use, and for international economies in international trade that suggest impending problems at micro and macro economic levels. The authors offer various perspectives on "staying liquid" in the midst of our "coming years of economic uncertainty."

I guess I am a bit of a skeptic about all of it. Oh, I understand money - at least at some personal level. We live on a budget. We plan, save, build equity, spend, use credit wisely and invest. But, I am not convinced that we are in an uncertain future - I think every future is always uncertain! That is, I think the past was as uncertain as the future. I want to read books like these two and learn how to better have the cash for the future, but after I read them I will confess to feeling a sense of being overwhelmed, I confess to feeling like I do not have enough "liquid" capital to make a difference, and I assume that I simply won't be the one who takes all the time to figure all the various systems to make the cash that supposedly out there to be made. So, I will live responsibly and as safely as I can into the future - but I think I'll manage my gardening skills as well as my stock portfolios. If its *that* uncertain, I think my time will be well spent. But, one never knows.

50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists by Wiley-Blackwell. I with a philosopher colleague who has a particular interest in the ideas of atheism/agnosticism. I suppose I have picked up some of his interests over the years, as colleagues are prone to do. Additionally, I have been in relationship with enough students over the years, that I realize they are prone to ponder and wander through their own patterns or perspectives of belief. It was enjoyable to take the time to peruse the perspectives offered in this collection, though I only took the time to read 10 of the 50 collected essays - each about 3-6 pages in length. I read perspectives from a variety of positions, logical arguments to "unanswered prayers." In my quick read of on a few essays, I did not encounter any particular position that I had not experienced in the past, from other persons. I think this book would be very helpful though, to persons who have faith figured out. To those persons for whom faith is simple and unambiguous. This collection of essays offers an interesting perspective on the "good" "reasons" and "good" "experiences" why many do not believe. And that offers opportunity to rethink ones own perspective and even how one engages and converses with others toward advancing positive, shared, edifying dialogue that is beneficial and maybe even brings good news for all.

1 comment:

revbrunet said...

I was gifted Crumb's Book of Genesis for Christmas. Absolutely LOVED it.