Hi. It's confessional Monday, and today's confession? I know embarrassingly little about the world's religions. And it is a real embarrassment, given the fundamentalism within and without the United States.
This knowledge deficit hit me once again when I was reading Jane Smiley's Ten Days in the Hills this weekend, and Smiley writes this from the Buddhist character's perspective: "Paul roused all of a sudden with what he considered to be the most terrifying thought, that he was in time." Later she writes, "During the day he didn't believe in either death or time..."
Because I was reading this all hepped up on cold medication, my first thought was one of sympathy for Paul. The time, or specifically the time change, semi-annually screws with my head. (Spring ahead! Fall back! Spring back! Fall down! Swing your pardner round and round!) I drive Brandon and myself crazy trying to figure out what time it is really. Should I be hungry for dinner? Not yet? But we're eating anyway? Okay.
Anyway, a few seconds later I think I got what Paul was talking about, the inability to transcend these things that, during the day, seem like illusions. To him. It's a testament to Smiley's writing that I got that much.
The last chapter of Practically Perfect is titled "The Soul," and I quickly realized that to get up to speed on the world's religions would be a whole book unto itself. As a result, it's pretty heavy on the Christianity and Judaism, with a smattering of transcendentalist thought thrown in.
I'd like to fill the huge spot of ignorance in my brain about the world's religions. (I'd be willing to give up knowing all the words to both Grease and Sixteen Candles. Sixteen Candles anyway.) One of the books I read but didn't use was Karen Armstrong's The Spiral Staircase, a memoir by a former nun who becomes one of the leading religious scholars today. I also loved Kristin Ohlson's Stalking the Divine, a book about a group of cloistered nuns in Ohio whose main job as to pray for others. (I'm looking forward to reading Kristin's latest, with Deborah Rodriguez, Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil.)
The problem with books about religion is they tend to be filled with abstractions whch makes for some snoozy reading. So, I'm looking for some suggestions for fascinating and readable books about religion: Buddhism, Hindusim, Islam, what have you. Lay it on me!