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From the beginnings of recorded history, murderous invasions have crazed the global community from which relatively few have emerged unscathed. Yet from such mayhem, some, through meditation, have forged fresh paradigms of leadership.

Such has been the case in our time. Two stand apart: Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa. The 1959 Chinese invasion of Tibet and the decades-long apartheid in South Africa scored these men with indescribable angst but did not vanquish them. With wisdom and compassion, both still shepherded their people: one toward the relocation of Tibetan Buddhism in India’s upper reaches of the Kangra Valley and the other toward the elimination of apartheid with the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela’s government.

In 2015, Desmond Tutu chose to honor the Dalai Lama’s eightieth birthday by visiting him in exile. In his company was Douglas Abrams, his literary agent. For five days, the octogenarians shared, their faces crinkled with mirth as they quipped, held hands, and opened their hearts to each other.

Fortunately for us, their dialogue fills the pages of The Book of Joy – Lasting Happiness in a Changing World (2016), a book to be savored, not read. Their lifelong practice of daily meditation, though coming from differing spiritual traditions, fills them with abounding joy. A final chapter includes such practices—A tonic for whatever troubles us.

Surrendering to the Stillness within empowers us to listen for direction and take action, thereby becoming spiritual warriors in a world sorely in need of truth.




Still another version of the life of the nineteenth-century American poet, Emily Dickinson, this time a movie, has been released to theaters around the country. Terrence Davies, screenwriter and director of A Quiet Passion, has been captivated by her enigmatic world since a teenager, one that mirrors his own; its production is the highlight of his long career.

But the question remains—Just who was Emily Dickinson? How account for her extraordinary brilliance, given the late Puritanism in Amherst, Massachusetts, that seeped into the warp and woof of life, against which she stormed?

Among the scholarly studies of this poet, Richard B. Sewall’s The Life of Emily Dickinson (1974) presents a multifaceted perspective and affords readers their own take on this woman. By piecing together her correspondence and poems with those in her immediate world, as well as by substantiating his findings with newspaper articles and public records, he contextualizes her. We hear her voice and wonder at its sagacious humor. Fortunately for us, Emily’s pen was rarely idle and her letters, preserved.

But Sewall’s presentation of Emily’s world is unique: it bears his imprint of having been Professor of English Literature at Yale University for forty-two years. Volume I devotes single chapters to the principal players in Emily’s life: grandparents, parents, siblings Austin and Lavinia, Susan Gilbert, and Mabel Loomis Todd—all in relationship through correspondence. And Volume II contains the life of the poet, even further nuanced.

It has been said that the definitive biography of Emily Dickinson has yet to be written, and it must be done by a woman scholar.

There is hope, as Emily proclaims in poem # 314:


“Oh no! —Would look at that? —That’s me! —I can’t believe that!” It tickles, unmercifully, the heart, the mind, even the gut.

Even the presentation of these nine essays is a hoot. No serious authors use the color orange for their book jackets. Sky-blue graces the inside covers, the title page, the chapter titles, and page numbers; it also highlights the first letter of the word in each chapter’s opening paragraph. Lavender replaces the usual black print in the text.

Who is behind these reversals?

It is Anne Lamott, a prolific author, now in her sixties, “with bad hands and feet.” Again, she leads her readers into the intricacies of her seasoned psyche found on each page of Hallelujah Anyway – Rediscovering Mercy (2017). Wide-eyed, she does not flinch from life’s setbacks. Her soldering spirit enlists humor, the “wise counsel of teachers with flashlights,” the fruits of Eastern and Western spirituality, and the courage to change, with others, often—all within the mystery of heart-mercy that forgives and offers relief.

Anecdotes flesh out this process, often messy and unseemly.

Such tickling pries open the clinched heart and plummets it within deep prayer wherein mercy resides. We breathe, again.




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