Books 2016 Q2

2016 Q2

Ian McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

The author gave a talk at Diocesan Synod, during which I downloaded the book – but had made no progress before his name cropped up in conversation with Hilary.  The first half, reporting hundreds (or so it seems) of experiments and observations of brain-damaged subjects, was very heavy going; the second, historical section, more readable.  But the problem is, how can anyone write about the problems of left-brain dominance without the very activity being left-brain dominated?  As I was beginning to read this, I did a Facebook quiz on “are you left-brained or right-brained?” and found to my surprise that I scored higher on right-brain characteristics.

Rick Granger, Why Travel When You Can Live There? Hong Kong

What the author liked about living in Hong Kong: ease of buying American brands at supermarkets, and public transport.  What he disliked: reluctance of the medical staff to let him film the birth of his daughter.  I did not warm to him.

Kristine Stevens, If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It Isn’t Big Enough: A Solo Journey Around The World

OK, I guess – but there are so many of these trip-round-the-world books!

Sarah Tucker: The A to Zen of Travelling

 A student of Edward de Bono listing types of journey and their psychological benefits or limitations.. She makes a little insight go a long way.

Pico Iyer et al, Deep Kyoto: Walks

Great descriptions of favourite walks, with some maps at the back.

Marcus Powles, The Tokyo 33-Kannon Pilgrimage: A Guide to ancient Edo’s sacred path

Brief descriptions, with links to web pages and google maps, plus notes of temple etiquette and translations of sutras, and a crude sketch map.

Richard Russell, Dancing over Kyoto: A memoir of Japan, China and India

Mostly about several visits to Japan, punctuated with what went wrong with the major love affairs of his life.

Sheldon Kopp, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!

A 1970s best-seller, reflections of a psychotherapist who firstly disclaims any special gifts, and then shows how he was able to help in practice.  He writes movingly about his experience of a brain tumour.

William Johnston, The Mirror Mind: Spirituality and Transformation

Meditation traditions as a way in to Christian-Buddhist dialogue.

Tenzin Chögyel, The Life of the Buddha

A classic from Bhutan with the Bodhisattva as a teacher of the gods, choosing incarnation in response to human suffering.  Reminds me of the R S Thomas poem which ends with the Son saying “Let me go there.”  More focus on the supernatural and miraculous than I expected.

Philip Sheldrake, Spaces for the Sacred: Place, Memory and Identity

Hulsean Lectures.  I found some chapters difficult, while others touched on aspects of place about which I knew something, but from a perspective which made me question what I though I knew.  At the end of one which begins with Augustine’s City of God, he writes: “Any workable theology of place must … contend with estrangement, with what is flawed and damaged in material existence… However, a purely ethical approach to place is not sufficient.  There must also be a sacramental sensibility in which the particularities of places may point beyond themselves to the mystery of God.”

On the other hand, mysticism should be seen as a theologically-rooted practice, an aspect of Christian discipleship, rather than private experiences in “a devotional backwater”.  “For the great mystics such as Ruusbroec or Julian of Norwich, God is our country, our home and our place.  Yet God is to be thought of as both in no place alone and yet in every place at once.”

He ends by trying to bring a Christian perspective into contemporary discussions of cities.  Augustine for the 21st century, or …?

Hilary Linstead and Elisabeth Davies, Growing Old Outrageously: A Memoir of Travel, Food and Friendship

Two old school friends meet up in their retirement and share a number of holidays all over the world.

William Dalrymple, In Xanadu: A Quest

His first book describes an undergraduate journey trying to follow the route of Marco Polo from Jerusalem to Kubla Khan’s summer palace.  An amazing project through many kinds of obstacle, finally arriving, illegally, just in time to catch a flight back to Cambdridge for the beginning of his final year of study.  I bought this at the Oxfam shop at the Hay Festival.  I think I may have read one of his later books but am possibly confusing him with William Johnston.