Saturday, October 14, 2006

100+ Books to read

Books I have not yet read but feel the need to before I die:

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
The Imitation of Christ – Thomas A’Kempis
Macbeth – Shakespeare
The Merchant of Venice – Shakespeare
A Grief Observed – C.S. Lewis
The Power and The Glory – Graham Greene
Waiting for God – Simone Weil
Love in the Ruins – Walker Percy
The Book of Bebb – Frederick Buechner
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
De Profundis – Oscar Wilde
The Wounded Healer – Henri Nouwen
No Man is an Island – Thomas Merton
The Phenomenon of Man – Teilhard de Chardin
Escape from Freedom – Erich Fromm
Pensees – Pascal
The Ladder of Divine Ascent – John Climacus
St. Francis of Assisi – G.K. Chesterton
St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox – G.K. Chesterton
Little, Big – John Crowley
I and Thou – Martin Buber
The Everlasting Man – G.K. Chesterton
Brother to a Dragonfly - Will D. Campbell
The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Aurora Leigh – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Notes from Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Foucault's Pendulum - Umberto Eco
Animal Farm – George Orwell
Bread and Wine – Ignazio Silone
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Self-Reliance – Ralph Waldo Emmerson
Hamlet – Shakespeare
A Third Testament – Malcolm Muggeridge
The New Man – Thomas Merton
Othello – Shakespeare
Diary of a Country Priest – Georges Bernanos
Markings – Dag Hammarskjold
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
The Night is Dark and I am Far from Home – Jonathan Kozol
Phantastes – George Macdonald
The Holy Longing - Ronald Rolheiser
Creative Ministry – Henri Nouwen
The Shipping News – E. Annie Proulx
Dear Theo: Letters of Vincent Van Gogh to His Brother
Lilith – George Macdonald
The Name of The Rose - Umberto Eco
A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
Compassion – Henri Nouwen
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Steven Covey
Exploring Spiritual Direction – Alan Jones
Lost in the Cosmos – Walker Percy
The Plague – Albert Camus
Resistance, Rebellion and Death – Albert Camus
Live from Death Row – Mumia Abul-Jamal
What are People For – Wendell Berry
Awareness – Anthony De Mello
The Varieties of Religious Experience – William James
Our Journey Home – Jean Vanier
The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
Ethics - Aerostotle
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Romeo and Juliet – Shakespeare
The Divine Comedy – Dante
Faust – Goethe
The Sorrows of Young Werther - Goethe
A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller
The City of God – St. Augustine
Dubliners – James Joyce
Night – Elie Wiesel
The Chosen – Chaim Potok
Beloved – Toni Morrison
The Magus - John Fowles
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
The Captain's Verses - Pablo Neruda
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
The Life You Save May Be Your Own - Paul Ellie
Collected Fictions - Jorge L. Borges
The Trial - Franz Kafka
Complete Stories - Franz Kafka
The Kingdom of God is Within You - Leo Tolstoy
Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time – Marcus Borg
The Virgin of Bennington - Kathleen Norris
Steppenwolf - Hermann Hesse
The Day on Fire - James Ramsey Ulman
Last Night of the Earth Poems - Charles Bukowski
Bound for Glory - Woody Guthrie
Rabbit Novels (4+1) - John Updike
Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
The Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
The Spiral Staircase - Karin Armstrong
Lolita - Nabakov
White Noise - Don Delillo
The Watchmen - Alan Moore
Love is a Dog from Hell - Charles Bukowski
The Iceman Cometh - Eugene O'Neil
A Long Day's Journey into Night - Eugene O'Neil
Pale Fire - Nabakov
Tropic of Capricorn - Henry Miller
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog - Dylan Thomas
Adventures in the Skin Trade - Dylan Thomas
Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas
Songs of Innocence and Experience - William Blake
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell - William Blake
Chekhov (various novels, short stories and plays)
Thus Spoke Zarathustra - Nietzche
Ulysses - James Joyce
What Matters Most is How Well You Walk... - Charles Bukowski
Enders Game - Orsen Scott Card
The Cost of Discipleship - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Silence

The Silence of God has always been my biggest, most problematic stumbling block in my faith (or my "christian walk" if you want to be all CBA about it). Why is God silent? Buechner says how could God speak to us in any way that would remove all doubt without destroying us in the process? but I have a problem with that. Surely God can figure out some way to communicate with me in a way that I can understand and discern as God's voice, and not some other random entity, without "destroying me". And if He can't, well then we've got bigger problems than my own. because surely that applies to the whole history of men, back to and including those who "wrote" the bible.

My personal problem is not a belief in God, it is the belief in what God is (or is not) like. and here is where I hold the most resentment towards my "chrisian" upbringing. I think a lot of people (honestly well meaning or self-serving) claim (and have taught) a lot of things about God that are simply just wishful thinking. And knowing what to hold fast to and what to unstick from is the work that can leave a person wandering around in the dark of his or her own subjective judgements and unenlightened mind for ages.

This ties in to another key concept for me, one that I don't hear much discussion of beyond circular logic. How do you discern the Voice of God from the almighty Voice-In-Your-Own-Head? (my friend Sarah, who I believe got it from one of the Nashville group, puts it similarly: a lot of people have a personal relationship with the voice in their own head). The circular logic, of course, being a dependence on the bible to guide that discernment - "The Bible says this about God, and so therefore...". (This is a huge pet peeve of mine when reading christian authors - their flippant use of "God told me" or "Jesus wants us to...", that sort of speaking for God, or telling us how God feels about certain things, as though they just talked on the phone a couple hours ago with the almighty incomprehensible infinite. Don Miller does this somewhat in Blue Like Jazz in a couple chapters, and it grated on my nerves, but some of that book I thought was pretty good in a light reading rambling memoir-ish blog kind of way. Don Miller at his best is good blog material. but we won't be confusing his writings with the likes of Buechner ever!) Translation problems and incorrect interpretations aside, why do we accept these writings as directly by God, and not, say, Annie Dillards? there are too many religious writings in the world of religion potpouri that claim divinity for me to be so dismisively cock-sure that this one is the one and only right one. or at the very least, that I know enough of what this one means to draw conclusions or expectations from it. I come to realize that much of what I believe about God is hearsay (a word that comes strikingly close to heresy). My direct experience with God, if I've had any at all, is minimal. and can I point to any of it as undeniable or inexplicable? not really. most of it's just really really good times and memories in my life, which I credit to God (and still do). but it's odd that I don't feel "close" to God at times of hardship. is my god simply enjoyable memories and good feelings? I don't feel that unshakable faith that Paul or Job had. and yet I am still here, holding these thoughts (and even these struggles) dear to me, to who I am and what I want my life to be about.

and so, what are we left with? For me, it has been the simple prayer, God have mercy. it's really the one prayer I base my life of faith on. to me, it's so incomprehensible, and I recongnize my inability to understand any of it, really, that I simply have to throw myself on His mercy. it's what Christianity teaches anyway, more or less, as it's basic tenant. My eternal destination, and what happens to me in this life, are completely and utterly subject to God's mercy. I cannot demand otherwise, I cannot claim a legal right to more, and I certainly cannot hope in my actions or beliefs to save me in any sense of the word. It's what I prayed over and over while sitting with my grandmother when she was dying, and it's what I pray all my life in the face of the overwhelming nature of lostness and incomprehensible evil, in me and the world. I fail again and again, and the world looks more and more like hell every day (if you look in the "right" places), and I don't understand it and I don't like it, but I don't get a say in the matter beyond the plea of "Lord please have mercy".

But somehow I still believe, even though I do direct a lot of angry judgement at God. and I pray that my theological "temper tantrums", the various immature ways I try "working out my faith" turn out to have been no more harmful than a baby shitting it's diaper. I don't know, and I don't understand. I was raised soaking in a christian environment, and so it is and will always be a deep, essential part of who I am and what I believe. But I have a strong enough faith in the truth that i will throw everything I've got at what i believe (and what others believe), knowing that reality and what's true can withstand the harshest onslaught. I doubt and question fiercely, and I like to think that I have the kind of cynicism that my friend David Dark talks about, one that is simply holding out for the real thing and will accept nothing less. I like to think this indicates a stronger faith in God, rather than a shakey one