The Best Spiritual Writing series is published annually by Penguin Books, and the 2012 installment (The Best Spiritual Writing, 2012, edited by Philip Zaleski) is outstanding. The 30 selections in this edition include essays, poems, reflections, and meditations that explore spirituality. The contributions are from a diverse group of writers — some of the nation’s best.
Library Journal says of this edition that it is “excellent especially for literary-minded readers of all religious persuasions.” And The Christian Science Monitor says, “Those who embrace variety will find plenty to sink their teeth into.” I think the quote from Publishers Weekly sums it up best — “It is a curious literary party at first glance, but the diverse forms, voices, topics, gradually coalesce into something bigger and more elegant, something spiritual and extraordinary.”
Indeed! It’s a terrific, nourishing read for Easter week and beyond.
Here is a sample of what is inside…
There is a wonderful essay by Pico Iyer, one of my favorite travel writers, titled “A Chapel is Where You Can Hear Something Beating Below Your Heart” (“Happiness is absorption, being entirely yourself and entirely in one place. That is the chapel that we crave.”)
John Berger on the creativity/spirituality of the artist — “We who draw do so not only to make something observed visible to others but also to accompany something invisible to its incalculable destination.”
Paul Myers has compiled several anecdotes of his own experiences, as well as the experiences of others, in “Apparitions & Visitations” that, as a scientist and clinician, he cannot “explain away in sensible fashion…”
Richard Rodriguez, another of my favorite authors, sums up the “great irony of the Mexican-American border” in one sentence — “American sadness has transformed the drug lords of Mexico into billionaires, even as the peasants of Mexico scramble through the darkness to find the American dream.” It’s something to think about.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s “Harmony of Heaven, Earth and Man — Harmony of Civilizations” is the text of the keynote speech given at the Beijing Forum in October 2000. Nasr’s view at that time was that harmony within and amongst civilizations was not merely an illusion or a dream, as many believed, but a real possibility. He ended with the famous Chinese proverb — “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It seems our species has a habit of taking two steps forward and one step back — or is it the other way around?
And there are poems by Billy Collins, Betsy Sholl, Sherod Santos, Robert Bly, and Karen An-Hwei Lee, essays by Marilynne Robinson, Evan Osnos, and Mark Jarman, and much more.