Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Gratitude: The Heart Of Unitarian Universalism

Back in the Spring of 2007 the UU World published a feature article entitled The Heart Of Our Faith by Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich the senior pastor at All Souls Church in New York City. The article was based on a sermon that Rev. Dr. Guengerich had given at All Souls on October 15, 2006.

Rev. Dr. Guengerich writes in part:

The feeling of awe emerges from experiences of the grandeur of life and the mystery of the divine. We happen upon a sense of inexpressible exhilaration at being alive and a sense of utter dependence upon sources of being beyond ourselves. This sense of awe and dependence should engender in us a discipline of gratitude, which constantly acknowledges that our present experience depends upon the sources that make it possible. The feeling of obligation lays claim to us when we sense our duty to the larger life we share. As we glimpse our dependence upon other people and things, we also glimpse our duty to them. This sense of obligation leads to an ethic of gratitude, which takes our experience of transcendence in the present and works for a future in which all relationships—among humans, as well as between humans and the physical world—are fair, constructive, and beautiful.

Rev. Dr. Guengerich had a book published in May of 2020 entitled “The Way Of Gratitude: A New Spirituality For Today.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Integral Vision: A Very Short Introduction by Ken Wilber is on sale today on Kindle.

 Integral Vision: A Very Short Introduction by Ken Wilber is on sale today, 09/28/22 on Amazon Kindle for 1.99. It is well worth it.

David Markham

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Grief over pet loss - Goodbye, Friend by Gary Kowalski

Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost A Pet by Gary Kowalski is a very helpful person who is or ever has grieved over the loss of pet.

Gary Kowalski happens to be a Unitarian Universalist minister which gives this book about grieving a reverent and spiritual tone. Kowalski not only covers several topics about pet loss conceptually, but gives specific suggestions about how to plan ceremonies, rituals, and practices to share the loss with others and honor the memory of the pet.

If you or someone you know is struggling with grief over the loss of a pet or you are a helping person who is inclined to console others going through pet loss, this book may be very helpful to facilitate a way of thinking about the experience.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Book Review - Camino Winds by John Grisham

I have been a John Grisham fan over the years but his latest novel, Camino Winds, is a disappointment. The word that comes to mind is "schlock."

Camino Winds is a story about a hurricane destroying an east coast, outerbanks, island and during the hurricane a contract killing is committed. The man killed is a novelist who has written a novel depicting Medicare fraud by a nursing home chain operator who artificially keeps comatose patients alive to bilk Medicare for their extended care.

The main character, Bruce Cable, is a book store operator on the island who becomes the murdered novelist's literary executor and is determined to find the novelist's murderer.

The moral of the story is murky and while the reading of it is somewhat entertaining, the characters are flat and the plot leaves a lot to be desired.

Our recommendation here at UU A Way Of Life is to pass this novel up. Grisham has much better novels he has written in the past.

If anyone wants my copy send me a request with your address to and I will send it to you.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Voter suppression and how it works in the United States

For more on voter suppression read Carol Anderson's book, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth Of Our Racial Divide, chapter five entitled, "How to unelect a black president," pp.138 - 160.

Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote the right of conscience and the use of democratic processes within our congregations and in society at large.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Looking for a good book for your book discussion group? Check out Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Looking for a great book for your fall book discussion?

UU A Way Of Life recommends Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, and David Markham's companion book Critical Reading of Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver from a Unitarian Univeralist Perspective.

A critical reading of Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Flight Behavior, from a Unitarian Universalist’s perspective explores the topics that Fight Behavior covers: climate change, stagnating marriages, fears for the future of the children we desperately love, the role of science in society, the role of ethics in society, the dynamics of extended family life, cultural differences of region and class, infidelity, the importance of friendship, and the role of religion in our contemporary society. 

Whew! This is not beach book, but a critical reading of a novel of substance, depth, grace and challenge.It is not necessary to have read Flight Behavior to enjoy and profit from this book.

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Death Of Expertise by Tom Nichols.

I am going to read this book next month, September, 2020, for a nonfiction book discussion group I am in. I have a hunch in the days of the Covid-19 pandemic the ideas in this book will be more timely and relevant than ever with Donald Trump's denial of the public health principles underlying the spread of the coronavirus which is contributing to a death toll climbing towards 200,000 Americans.

Donald Trump claims he is a very stable genius and smarter than the generals and the public health experts. Many Republican governors are cut from the same cloth and their constituents are becoming infected and dying. This dismissal of expert knowledge and advice based on the Dunning-Kruger effect has deadly consequences.

Unitarian Universalists affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. An emphasis on "responsible" should be placed.

There will be articles posted during September, 2020 on this blog about ideas generated from the reading of this book. I hope you will read the book if interested and participate in the discussion.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

New course available: Reviews - Educated by Tara Westover

There is a new course entitled Reviews:Books, articles, movies, stories available free of charge.

The first review is of a book, Educated by Tara Westover.

You can access the course by clicking here.

You can help UU A Way Of Life by sharing this course with others by email and on social media. Thank you.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Climate Justice - What is the story we are telling ourselves about climate change?

Chapter Nineteen
What is the story we are telling ourselves about climate change?

What does it mean to be entertained by a fictional apocalypse as we stare down the possibility of a real one? One job of pop culture is always to serve stories that distract even as they appear to engage—to deliver sublimation and diversion. In a time of cascading climate change, Hollywood is also trying to make sense of our changing relationship to nature, which we have long regarded from at least an arm’s length—but which, amid this change, has returned as a chaotic force we nevertheless understand, on some level, as our fault. The adjudication of that guilt is another thing entertainment can do, when law and public policy fail, though our culture, like our politics, specializes in assigning the blame to others—in projecting rather than accepting guilt. A form of emotional prophylaxis is also at work: in fictional stories of climate catastrophe we may also be looking for catharsis, and collectively trying to persuade ourselves we might survive it.

Wallace-Wells, David. The Uninhabitable Earth (p. 144). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

In this time of climate warming due to carbon emissions and the resulting climate change, what are the stories that we are telling ourselves about what is happening?

If you look at the movies where the box office hits are based on comic book superheroes and horror films based on robots and space aliens, an observer might wonder what are these projections that the public finds so entertaining that they will spend money and time to watch these scenarios portrayed and told for entertainment and distraction from the unconscious eco-anxiety which has infected the public conscious and unconscious?

David Wallace-Wells suggests that this entertainment is the unconscious projection of guilt, but another hypothesis is that it is a sublimation of fear. Heroes and villains are depicted and creative narrative tension is created which is diverting as we sit in darkened air conditioned theaters eating our buttered popcorn and sipping our sugary soft drinks.

The band is playing and the fiddles are fiddled as Rome is burning. Are there any realistic stories about climate change that help us deal with the moral issues of stewardship for the eco-systems which we inhabit? Flying off to Mars and inhabiting space stations as a substitute for life on planet earth seems childishly fanciful and an abdication of responsibility.

If you are interested in learning more about novels and films that deal with climate change use the search phrase, “cli-fi.”

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Book Review - The Gadfly Papers - What's wrong with Unitarian Universalism

The Gadfly Papers: Three Inconvenient Essays by One Pesky Minister by Todd Eklof is a very interesting collection of essays about what troubles Unitarian Universalism in our current times.

I found it very validating as Rev. Dr. Eklof points out several of the dysfunctional dynamics which plague the UUA and many UU churches.

In the first essay, Eklof, to put it bluntly, writes that policial correctness is killing us, and forcing us into identity politics which diminishes the importance of our shared humanity.

In the second essay, Eklof argues that it may be time for a divorce because the merger of Unitarians and Universalists has not served the NRM, New Religious Movement, well leaving its members and outsides confused about our identity, mission, and vision. In other words, Eklof writes that we have lost our way because we have not remembered our history and without a sense of our history we have no joint vision of our future. Amen! I have sat through enough incoherent and irrelevant sermons to last me for the rest of my life.

In the third and last essay, Eklot argues from a position of scholastic logic how the brouhaha over the hiring controversy back in 2017 leading to the resignation of the UUA President, Peter Morales, and several of his staff, was based not on sound human resource management policies and ethics but on identity politics and inbred conflicts of interest when a board member wanted a job as a paid staff person and cried foul when she wasn't selected for the job.

I was already on the edge when it came to my committment to Unitarian Universalism because I have felt for many years that its governance structure left a lot to be desired as well as its lack of a clear mission and vision for its organizational efforts.

I don't like Eklof's cute and self-denigrating title. His critique is substantive and it amounts to more than just being a gadfly and his being "pesky." He is a deep thinker and a skilled writer and anyone who cares about Unitarian Univeralism should give his book a serious read.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Is the United States becoming the people of the lie?

In reflecting on moral character of individuals and the effect of the moral character of the individual on society, one wonders what the affect of President Donald Trump's 13, 435 lies so far in his 1,000 day presidency is on the United States and the world? HIs lies average 13.5 per day.

M. Scott Peck wrote an interesting book The People Of The Lie in which he describes the toxic impact of blaming others rather than taking personal responsibiliy.

What do you think the toxic impact of the Executive in Chief lies are on the moral integrity of the country? 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Book discussion, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

We discussed this book a couple of months ago at First Universalist Church in Rochester, NY.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Is exemplary public service a good example of the application of Unitarian Universalist sixth principle?

Michael Lewis, in his book, The Fifth Risk, describes how Max Stier collaborated with Samuel Heyman to create the Partnership For Public Service which would give awards every year to people in public service who exhibited exemplary service. These awards became known as "The Sammies."

The first time I had heard of this program was in Lewis' book. I wonder why "The Sammies" don't get the news coverage that the Oscars and the Golden Globes get? It's like the Noble prize for public service in the United States.

Had you heard of them before?

What do you think of this idea of giving awards for public service that recognizes and publicly acknowledges outstanding achievements and results in public service activities?

Would the giving of these awards change the public cynicism pioneered by Reagan and Republicans that "government is not the solution but the problem" in a positive direction that public service is commendable and honorable work?

Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Prophetic women and men - Patrisse Khan-Cullors

Prophetic women and men is a regular feature of UU A Way Of Life ministries blog which appears on Sundays.

Patrisse Cullors is a prophetic woman in our contemporary age. She has written "When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir."

In this memoir, Patrisse generously shares the intimacies of her life and loves, and her unyielding devotion to the cause of freedom. 

The stories she tells here with asha bandele help us to understand why her approach to organizing and movement building has captured the imaginations of so many. 

Her story emphasizes the productive intersection of personal experiences and political resistance. The pivotal story of her brother’s repeated encounters with violence-prone police officers, for example, permits us to better understand how state violence thrives at the intersection of race and disability. That Monte—Patrisse’s brother—is shot with rubber bullets and charged with terrorism as a routine police response to a manic episode reveals how readily the charge of terrorism is deployed within white supremacist institutions. 

We learn not only about the quotidian nature of state violence but also about how art and activism can transform such tragic confrontations into catalysts for greater collective consciousness and more effective resistance.

Khan-Cullors, Patrisse. When They Call You a Terrorist (pp. xi-xii). St. Martin's Press. Kindle Edition.

You can learn more by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Do you believe in hell?

"I read in the Times the other day that no one believes in hell anymore - the premise being that its existence is contingent on consensus. Now won't the devil be surprised."
Linda McCullough Moore, An Episode Of Grace, p.34

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Book - Why Religion by Elaine Pagels

Elaine Pagels, a scholor of religion at Princeton University, became famous with her first book, Gnostic Gospels in 1979. Since that book she has written several more on religious texts. Her latest book is quite different from her others in that it is a memoir of her personal faith journey.

Growing up in an agnostic scholarly family, Elaine, as a teenager, went to a Billy Graham crusade and became born again at age 15. A few years later, her friend, Paul, died in a car crash and she lost her faith. This traumatic loss precipitated her search for truth and meaning which continues to this day.

She and her husband struggled with infertility and then conceived a son, Mark, who had many physical disabilities and died at age 6. She and Heinz then adopted two children and a year after that Heinz died suddenly in a hiking accident when he fell off a cliff.

Elaine experienced years of grief and loss and while she returned to the agnostic faith of her family of origin, she found strength and comfort in many religious texts she focused on in her scholarly study. This experience of scholarly study seems to lead her to the conclusion that while belief in a personal deity does not make much sense, religion has played an important function in her life and the texts she has studied has contributed to her resilience in dealing with the tragic losses in her life.

Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. There can be, perhaps, no better example of the application of this principle in one's life, than the life of Elaine Pagels.

Unitarian Univeralism thinks of itself as a "living tradition" based on several sources one of which is the words and deeds of prophetic women and men. Elaine Pagels is one such woman.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

UU A Way Of Life Reads - Christmas Days by Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson has written a quirky, delightful, collection of Christmas stories that are unconvential enough to be interesting and reassuring that Christmas spirit can heal many anxieties and trepidatiions.

These stories are for people of all religions or none. She alludes to her own pain and sorrow evoked at the holidays especially in references to her mother and family and lost partner through separation.

Jeanette has created her own special times, and traditions which she describes in recipes for holiday treats which she intersperses between the stories.

UU A Way of Life gives Winterson's Christmas Days a 3.75 on a 5 point scale.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Books - Cherry by Nico Walker

What I learned from the novel, Cherry, by Nico Walker is that the anomie that has invaded our society is destroying the mental, emotional, and spiritual health of the young people in our country.

Cherry is a distressing novel to read as it describes a young's man's decision to enter the military because he has no purpose for his life and gets sent to Iraq which he experiences as a senseless and stupid war where he watches the senseless deaths of his fellow soldiers as they terrorize and bully the local populations for no good reason that he can discern. He then returns home and engages in a life of heavy drug use whcre his time, energy, and talents are occupied with scoring his fix for the day. It appears that the only thing that makes him happy is when he obtains his drug supply to get high with his girl friend, wife, ex-wife, and then girlfriend again, Emily.

The narrator describes the wanderings of a lost soul in stark, bleak, and minimalist terms. As his drug addiction deteriorates further and further he starts robbing banks to obtain the money to support his habit.

The matter of fact recounting of depravity is somewhat captivating for its genuiness and authenticity. The narrator thinks of himself as a loser and readily, if not somewhat satisfyingly, admits this fact as if it would be enough of an excuse to justify the continuation of his life style.

The story leaves me somewhat disgusted and then just sad that things in our society have come to this. The description of activities and events the characters engage in seem so joyless that the waste of human potential is almost overwhelming.

The even sader thing is that in my personal life and as a psychotherapist I have known and worked with people like the characters in the novel. The mortailty rates of the so called "opiod epidemic" are very high and close to home. The spiritual poverty in our communities is so great that what our society offers to people suffering is chemical relief from drugs that become mortally toxic leading to first death of the spirit and then the body.

As Unitarian Univeralists we have something to offer our suffering communities, but we have not found effective ways of attracting and engaging people with what we have to offer. We must creatively design, organize, and deliver activities of uplift which facilitate life giving relationships providing relevance, and meaning upon which people can build their lives.

Cherry is a dark book and difficult one to read. It is best read by a mature audience who have abundant compassion for the suffering souls among us.

Cherry earns a 7 on the UU A Way Of Life 10 point scale.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir - Psychiatric and addiction disorders complicate the narrative

Racism is not always personal. It is institutional. Racism occurs in the way that society is structured.

And who structures society? People of privilege who claim they are not racist, and likely they are not consciously racist, but their values, choices, and decisions when it comes to social policy and how they live their lives in their community, protecting their own interests, have the effect of subjugating and oppressing people in their communities, counties, states, and country. To deny their choices and decisions are not racist is the height of ignorance and hypocrisy.

On 10/31/18 I will be celebrating by 50th anniversary as a Psychiatric Social Worker. I have spent my whole career working with people who suffer from psychiatric and substance abuse problems. Psychiatric problems cut across all races and social classes, but psychiatric problems are especially harmful and destructive for people, families, and communities without adequate resources for treatment and rehabilitation, and in many cases even habilitation in the first place.

Funding for community based mental health services have been severely cut over the last 30 years after the Community Mental Health Centers Act expired in the 80s. Psychiatric services were increasingly, and now almost exclusively, funded by medical dollars which demands that payment only be made for services that are "medically necessary." Consequently, what has been called "wrap around services" have been severely cut and defunded, and by default people struggling with psycho-social problems wind up getting no help and they wind up in the criminal justice system. Currently the largest mental healh program in the country is the one run by the Los Angeles County jail. This is the mental health care, such as it is, that Patrisse's brother Monte received.

Patrisse Khan-Cullors with a biting tone of black humor, pun intended, describes how psychiatric illness impacted her brother, Monte, her family, and her community.

"I know about crack. Everybody uses it, it seems like. At least in my neighborhood where there are no playgrounds, no parks, no afterschool programs, no hangout spots, no movie theaters, no jobs, no treatment centers or health care for the mentally ill, like my brother Monte, who had begun smoking crack and selling my mom’s things and is already showing signs of what we would much later come to know as schizoaffective disorder. 

But without health care beyond LA County USC hospital, we can’t know about my brother. We only know that crack filled the empty spaces for a lot of people whose lives have been emptied out. We are the post-Reagan, post–social safety net generation. The welfare reform generation. The swim or motherfucking sink generation. And, unlike our counterparts on Wall Street, where crack is used and sold more, we don’t have an employee assistance plan."

Khan-Cullors, Patrisse. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (p. 34). St. Martin's Press.

And who were all the good people that voted for Reagan who mocked the "welfare queens" and touted "trickle down economics.?" And who are the people today who support the Republican policies of tax cuts to the corporations and the 1% leading to huge deficits which they insist must be addressed by cuts to entitlements? And who do you suppose will suffer the most as the safety net is further destroyed?

And why is it that we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world in the United States where class warfare, racist at its core, has propped up the 1% while the poor suffer and when they rebel and resist are killed in the streets by police?

As I end my carreer of 50 years, I have watched the mental health and social welfare systems be destroyed and all that is left to keep the order is the criminal justice system.

As a Unitarian Univeralist I have covenanted with others to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Would that more people would join our covenant and promote policies that create a society which is more just and humane.

At age 72, I continue to work providing psychotherapy three days a week in my private office to individuals, couples, and families. My work often brings me into contact with schools, probation, parole, doctor's offices, the social services department, Social Security, attorneys, and rarely clergy.

I also consult twice a month providing clinical supervision to counselors in a substance abuse agency where I was previously the Executive Director.

I see about 20 clients per week, and always offer pro bono services when needed. I have always believed that my work is a ministry and a  spiritual calling not just a profession to make money. I have had very little instituional support outside of the Social Work Profession and the health care insurance panels that pay for some of the clinical work.

In reading Dorothy May Emerson and Anita Farber-Robertson's book, Called To Community: New Directions In Unitarian Univeralist Ministry, I have come to appreciate that what I do is very much a community ministry based on the UU principles.

There are some churches which have mental health ministries such as Spiritus Christi in Rochester, NY. Perhaps some UU churches might consider supporting a mental health ministry. The connection between racism and mental health and addiction issues is tightly connected in Patrisse Khan-Cullors memoir as she describes the intersection of mental health health and substance abuse disorders and racism in the lives of her brother, Monte, and her father, Gabriel. A the very least, it would be a step in the right direction if larger Unitarian Universalist churches were affiliated with an Employee Assitance Program. After all,  as Patrisse Kahn- Cullors points out, Wall Street Brokers have one. 😏

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Ashe Bendele

I am reading When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bendele. It will be discussed this coming Sunday, 10/21/18 at First Universalist Church of Rochester.

It is very moving.

I highly recommend it.

I will be posting some excerpts over the next few weeks.

Join me in the reading and please share your own comments.

"A few years after I complete my degree, Dr. Monique W. Morris published her groundbreaking book, Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, demonstrating how Black girls are rendered disposable in schools, unwanted, unloved. Twelve percent of us receive at least one suspension during our school careers while our white (girl) counterparts are suspended at a rate of 2 percent. In Wisconsin the rate is actually 21 percent for Black girls but 2 percent for white girls."

Khan-Cullors, Patrisse. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (p. 26). St. Martin's Press.

Print Friendly and PDF