by KENT NERBURN
New World Library
reviewed by Douglas S Johnson
It is interesting that people speak of having various "tastes" in literature, for different books do indeed have diverse "flavors," that something about them that is as indefinable as a sprinkling of saffron. In fact, sometimes, one book will have a flavor similar to that of another, or it may even be said to taste like several. This is the case with Kent Nerburn's surprising little volume called Small Graces, a collection of "everyday" mystical experiences.
In the story "On Coffee Mugs and Monks," Nerburn describes how he has begun with something as uncomplicated as his morning taking of coffee and turned it into an observance of the divine. In "The Laughing Tree," he tells how he "made friends" with a birch tree that reaches down to touch his hand when he passes beneath it.
"The Gift Of The Garden" is about a friend of his, a Jesuit priest who abandoned his ecumenical calling to form the perfect garden as praise for his creator. All three of these stories have the simple but satisfying taste of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's classic, Gift from the Sea, somewhat like mild peppermint or a cool spray of ocean water that finds the tongue.
In "The Eloquence of Silence," Nerburn tells of the strange and lonesome quiet that comes when the winds go suddenly calm on the Canadian plains and how such a thing as silence can stir and haunt the human heart. "The Turning of the Day" is a lovely but somewhat melancholic piece about the subtle changes that occur not only in the waning of the day but in the waning of life as well.
"The Distant Shore" deals with the drowning death of a close friend and the mysteries of living and leaving that remain with the survivors. This triad of stories has somewhat of the flavor of Richard Bach's Stranger to the Ground, a book of great beauty and deep solemnity, a strange brew of bitter and sweet, a tea to be taken in slowly.
My three favorite stories in Small Graces all have to do with tragedy turning toward insight. "The Dark Gift" is a remarkably thought-provoking piece about something seemingly ordinary that became cause for deep reflection: how a broken ankle caused Nerburn's teenage stepdaughter to realize for the first time that life is limited, that living can and should be difficult, that mortality is never to be ignored.
"Why Birds Fly" is easily the best piece in the book. It is concerned with Nikki, a young woman horribly deformed and twisted with cerebral palsy who dreams only of getting married, and who, finally, in the face of a thousand doubts from those who are supposed to be her friends, realizes her dream. (By the way, birds fly because they're so damn bad at walking.)
In "The Gift of the Blue Moment," Nerburn tells of his lonely wanderings in Europe and how an old woman taught him to see the mystical and the wondrous in the supposedly ordinary instants of an uneventful day.
These stories all had a taste similar to James Carse's masterwork, Breakfast At the Victory, like that of strong black coffee on a winter morning.
Finally, in "The Gift of Clouds," Nerburn tells of his cabbie days when he picked up a blind woman who only wanted to know what clouds looked like. (Just before she left his cab, he told her they were "the dreams of God," the first satisfying description she had had of them.) In the piece entitled "A Ceremony of the Ordinary," Nerburn relates the simple and sacred actions of a family meal and how the giving and taking of nourishment is about much more than just the ingesting of food.
"The Gift Of The Echo" is a charming story about how a father tries to explain the mystery of an echo to his seven-year-old boy ("words that become music in which every nuance, intention and meaning is revealed"), but at last realizes that the son must, and will, discover such things for himself. These fine stories have something of the flavor of Rachel Remen's Kitchen Table Wisdom (see December, 1997 New Times review), the plain, wonderful taste of bread when one is hungry.
Small Graces is about one of my favorite things: finding life in living and knowing wonder in the ordinary moments. Its stories vignettes, really may strike the palate a little like things from other books (in a wonderfully familiar way, like eating buttered biscuits just like your grandmother used to make), but once you read and digest this whole delicious book, it will simply remind you forever of itself. LOVE CARDS What Your Birthday Reveals About You & Your Personal Relationships and DESTINY CARDS Your Birth Card & What It Reveals About Your Past, Present, & Future by ROBERT CAMP Sourcebooks, Inc. $24.95 each (paperbacks) reviewed by Kate Lin
What Your Birthday Reveals About You & Your Personal Relationships
Your Birth Card & What It Reveals About Your Past, Present, & Future
by ROBERT CAMP
$24.95 each (paperbacks)
reviewed by Kate Lin
Robert Camp writes about the use of a deck of everyday playing cards as a divination tool. The first known book to be published on the subject was The Mystic Test Book, by Olney Richmond, in 1893. Richmond belonged to a secret society known as The Order of the Magi, which was supposedly instructed (since ancient Egypt) to keep the secrets of the cards until the right time to make the information known.
Sacred Symbols of the Ancients by Edith Randall and Florence Campbell was published in 1947, but since then, not a lot was available about this subject. Camp found a teacher of this system and began studying. He eventually wrote Love Cards and Destiny Cards, which describe the details of this system.
Based on his or her birthday, a person is assigned a birth card, which is one of the cards from a deck of cards (52 cards plus the joker). Most people also have a planetary ruling card. From these two cards, one can determine the types of energy connections that this person would have with other people, based on their cards. Furthermore, a yearly reading is listed for every year of an individuals life.
This system draws heavily from astrology and numerology. Each year is divided into seven 52-day periods (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune). Different cards fall into the various periods. Destiny Cards lists all the cards for all the periods of every year during a persons life, in essence providing a blueprint for ones entire life. It also lists the interpretations for the various cards as they are manifested within the different periods so that you can make sense of this blueprint. In addition, there are yearlong influences that describe the challenges and tasks that we have set before ourselves for that particular year.
To find out more about your birth card and planetary ruling card, you can read a description found in Love Cards. Following each description is a chart listing the types of energy connections that each card has with every other card. These connections are based on the two yearly spreads occurring at ages 89 and 90 (the Spiritual Spread and the Life Spread), which reflect the influences that exist at a lifelong level.
For example, if another persons card is listed in your Mars period for year 89 or 90, your relationship to that person would always demonstrate some of that Mars energy (there could be passionate or aggressive feelings). There are several connections listed for each combination of cards. There are descriptions of all the possible types of connections, along with a rating for compatibility, intensity, and attraction between two people for each connection.
Okay, now we have some of the details of the system, but does it really work? To that end, I conducted my own informal survey. Whenever I had my book with me, I would ask different people to read about their birth card to see if it felt accurate to them.
In some cases, people said it actually was scary how on-target the description was. It seemed to unnerve them. In a few other cases, the people reading the description didnt feel that the description fit them (however, in each of these cases, I was able to detect some truth in the description based on my knowledge of the person in question).
There does seem to be a bit of a Western bias to the interpretations. For example, the suit of Diamonds represents what we most value, which would naturally, in some cases, include money. Many of the interpretations for Diamond cards (especially in Destiny Cards), however, emphasize money rather than the more encompassing area of values.
The Eight of Diamonds birth card description mentions the tendency to find "power shoppers" under this sign. An Eight of Diamonds woman to whom I showed this objected to this depiction, saying that she hated shopping. However, she does seem to have a strong value system (which does not include materialism).
Both Love Cards and Destiny Cards are new editions of previously published books (Destiny Cards was previously called The Cards of Your Destiny). However, there is enough new information in them that its worth getting the new versions if you have the old ones. Unfortunately, there are quite a few typos and, in some cases, actual errors. Happily, however, a list of errata can be found on the Internet at <http://www.7thunders.com>.
Overall, I am totally fascinated with this system and am still trying to learn more about it. Ive noticed several benefits to working with this system. By learning more about the energies present for a particular time period, one can choose to focus on the more "positive" side to get the most out of that period.
For example, the Three of Clubs can be associated with indecision and worry or it can be channeled into creative writing endeavors. By noticing that this card is present in your reading, you could choose to take advantage of this card to get some writing done. In that fashion, you would be harnessing the more positive side of this card.
Another benefit is increasing your understanding of yourself and your relationships. Sometimes a trait is mentioned in a birth card description with which we might not want to identify, even though we might know that its true (this situation occurred several times during my informal survey). Reading about the presence of this trait can help us come to accept parts of ourselves that we might otherwise try to change.
For example, the Five of Clubs person is here to learn about life by experiencing lots of different types of experiences. As a result, this person can be somewhat changeable and restless by nature. Reading the description for this card can reassure someone who might be secretly wondering why she or he can never seem to settle down like their friends.
In the area of relationships, we can increase our understanding of the elements that are present in our current relationships (or explore past relationships that didnt work out). For example, if two people in a relationship have several connections with a Neptune energy, then there will be a tendency to not see the real person, but instead to project a fantasy onto that person of how you want him or her to be. Becoming aware of the energies present in a relationship can help one make a more conscious decision about the types of involvements to pursue.
I have had several valuable insights about myself and my relationships using the information found in these books. This interesting system is a helpful tool for becoming more conscious about our lives. YOGA OF THE HEART by ALICE CHRISTENSEN Daybreak Books $21.95 (hardbound) reviewed by Douglas S Johnson
YOGA OF THE HEART
by ALICE CHRISTENSEN
reviewed by Douglas S Johnson
For those familiar with such classics as Richard Hittleman's Guide to Yoga Meditation, the very word "yoga" may call to mind a wide variety of bone-crushing, ligament-popping postures performed in the 70s by people who saw not the light of spiritual insight but spots before their eyes as the blood was cut off at the major arteries. Those who have such painful remembrances may still approach Yoga of the Heart without fear. Alice Christensen (admittedly a world-traveling teacher of physical yoga and founder of the American Yoga Association) does not write of leg-twisting and back-straightening in her new book, but rather of exercises to strengthen the spiritual body, which is, after all, the point of yoga to begin with.)
The goal of spiritual body yoga is not to lose oneself (a common misconception about meditation), but rather to find the true self by stripping away the unnecessary garments of the worldly ego. Christensen gives ten steps to follow in order to properly empower the spiritual body, the true self. She calls these ten steps her "ethics."
The first principle is ahimsa, the same ethic behind Gandhi's stance of nonviolent resistance. Martin Luther King, Jr. also embraced this type of thinking when he said, "To the extent that I hurt another, I hurt myself." Christensen flips this idea on its head, however, while maintaining its true meaning and purpose. She emphasizes the importance of caring for oneself and doing oneself no harm: not to the body, nor to the mind, nor to the spirit. To paraphrase King, "To the extent that I hurt myself, I hurt others, and so to the extent that I truly care for my deepest self, I likewise care for others."
The second principle is truthfulness. However, once again, Christensen is not writing specifically about telling the truth to others, but rather to oneself. One must know the truth of one's own goodness and innate divine nature before any good can be done in the world, and so one must never disguise the true self with worldly possessions and vain living.
The third principle is "nonstealing." The attitude of nonstealing comes about when one realizes that everything that is needed in life is already supplied by God in every moment, and thus there is no need to ever take anything that is not freely given by life.
The fourth principle is celibacy. (Don't panic, now!) Christensen's concept of "celibacy" is not sitting on a cold mountaintop of frigid abstinence, but rather coming to view sex for what it isn't and for what it is. It is not a vulgar satisfaction of a base physical need but rather a complete union with the person that is loved above all others. Christensen counsels the reader to cut ties with extraneous and licentious sexual thoughts and (for those of you who are still uneasy) states that celibacy can be practiced "five minutes at a time."
The fifth principle is "nonhoarding." This ethic is very much related to nonstealing, in that if one realizes that everything needed is furnished all the time and that everything that seems to be lost is replenished by God, there is no sense in clinging to things. In fact, if something passes out of a certain person's life, then it was meant to pass so that something new could come in.
The sixth principle is that of purity. Purity involves taking care of the body by eating and exercising correctly so that unhealthy toxins do not gather. It also entails taking care of the mind, keeping away from situations and people that cause fragmentation of thought and purpose. Of course, it also means taking care of the soul, abstaining from evil and thoughts and actions that debase the spirit.
The seventh principle is contentment. This goes deeper than nonstealing and nonhoarding in that one is not only happy with the physical things that life has given but with life itself. With true contentment, there is perfect acceptance, and with perfect acceptance, delight in all.
The eighth principle is that of tolerance. Again, the term is used differently here than it is in common discourse. What Christensen means by "tolerance" is "developing an heroic capability," namely, the ability to make all of the other nine ethics work in one's life and to have the courage to continue onward and upward in the journey of life when the ego wishes to lie and say that things are not going just as they should.
The ninth principle is one near and dear to this teacher/reviewer's heart: study. Christensen counsels that one must take part in active study (yes, reading!) every day in order to further the state of the spirit. However, like the philosopher Emerson, she tells the reader that study doesn't have to always include abstruse Indian texts etched in a cave by a hermit a thousand years ago, but rather just good, solid, commonsense material meant for the betterment of the human mind. A truly wise person may make something good of almost any text, Christensen writes.
The tenth principle is simply the ethic of remembrance. Here again, this does not refer to remembering what happened last Tuesday, but rather to something much deeper. The point here is to always remember God, to "pray always," as Paul would have it, and to likewise know that God resides within and thus can always be cultivated from within.
Christensen does issue a warning on the last page of this book: "Once you're really on the path, you can't get off it." So beware: if you begin down the road of Christensen's thinking, with all of its love and simplicity and gentleness, there just may be no turning back. GAVIOTAS A Village to Reinvent the World by ALAN WEISMAN Chelsea Green Publishing $22.95 (hardbound) reviewed by Athalie Long
A Village to Reinvent the World
by ALAN WEISMAN
Chelsea Green Publishing
reviewed by Athalie Long
Come along as Alan Weisman deftly weaves the true story of one man's dream and many people's making, a dream of hope for our planet, and belief in the triumph of many human spirits.
Gaviotas is a dream that Colombian Paolo Lugari had over thirty years ago. He never let go of that dream, and with the help of an indomitable group of engineers, teachers, doctors, students, musicians, and native Colombian Indians, he has succeeded in accomplishing it. Blessed along the way with grants from the United Nations as well as others, they have brought that dream, Gaviotas, to fruition.
Paolo always believed that a self-sustaining community could prosper, working with nature instead of against her. To that end, he found a piece of environmentally challenged land in the savannas of Colombia and began his dream.
The engineers went to work. Their solar technology runs everything from lights to phones to water pumps and heaters to water purification plants. They discovered how to get solar energy from the low light of rainy days, since the rainy season at Gaviotas lasts for eight months of the year. The children's seesaw is used to draw water from the well. They grow their own food, then cook it with methane from cow manure. They "air conditioned" the hospital with centuries-old techniques using not one whit of electricity. They've even managed to re-establish an ancient rain forest, and a thriving renewable industry to go with it.
This would be a remarkable feat anywhere. That it was accomplished in Colombia is astounding. Colombia is as battle-scarred as any nation on Earth. In one decade alone, over two thousand politicians and two presidential candidates were murdered.
Through all of this, Gaviotas has thrived and willingly made changes when needed. They have shared unstintingly with those in need around the world, all the while staying consciously unarmed while surrounded by battling vigilantes, government troops, and guerrillas.
Weisman has told the story of the Gaviotans and their accomplishments so beautifully, it is one of those rare stories that I did not want to end, and in reality it has not ended because Gaviotas continues to grow and prosper.
In a world where most of us doubt that these things can really be accomplished, Gaviotas holds out a real hope for the future of this planet.
ONLINE reviewed by Elana Lindquist Joseph Campbell Organization
reviewed by Elana Lindquist
Joseph Campbell Organization
<http://www.jcf.org/new/index.html> Articles by Joseph Campbell and opportunities to join Mythological Roundtable discussion to support you in following your bliss. Alex's Links
Articles by Joseph Campbell and opportunities to join Mythological Roundtable discussion to support you in following your bliss.
<http://www.primenet.com/~alex/index.html> Astrological and spiritual links. Learn about diagnosing medical conditions using astrology and enjoy the links to free astrology software. Spiritualism on the Web
Astrological and spiritual links. Learn about diagnosing medical conditions using astrology and enjoy the links to free astrology software.
Spiritualism on the Web
<http://www.dtx.net/~dlab/spirit.html> Quality links on all things spiritual, from "Amish" to "Zoroastrian." Inner Voice
Quality links on all things spiritual, from "Amish" to "Zoroastrian."
<http://home1.gte.net/inrvoice> A spiritual high awaits you when you connect to the warmth, beauty, and love here. Join the chat rooms to learn how to connect to your angels, or read the empowering Angel Talk articles. Facade
A spiritual high awaits you when you connect to the warmth, beauty, and love here. Join the chat rooms to learn how to connect to your angels, or read the empowering Angel Talk articles.
<http://www.facade.com/occult/tarot/> Free readings online: tarot, I Ching, runes, and more! Instant help clarifying your current issues. Elana Lindquist publishes Online Solutions for Success at MUSIC reviewed by Pat Gallagher CELTIC HEARTBEAT COLLECTION 2 VARIOUS ARTISTS Celtic Heartbeat
Free readings online: tarot, I Ching, runes, and more! Instant help clarifying your current issues.
Elana Lindquist publishes Online Solutions for Success at<http://www.seanet.com/~lindquist>; e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org> or call (253) 858-7969.
reviewed by Pat Gallagher
CELTIC HEARTBEAT COLLECTION 2
Despite the popularity of all things electronic, the Irish are never far from their traditional instruments. It is the successful combination of two worlds, the ancient and the modern, that makes for a rich, engaging sound. Celtic Heartbeat Collection 2 offers you the best of both worlds.
Bill Whelan, the composer of the wildly successful Riverdance theme, is represented here with that energetic tune. This collection hosts a number of Irish musicians of whom Celtic music fans are very fond, such as the light soprano of Frances Black (my cousin Terry in Dublin sounds just like her). There is Sean Keane, with a voice not unlike that of Randy Travis, who sounds as if he belongs on a country music stage in Nashville.
The incredible songwriter/performer Christy Moore joins forces with Bono and The Edge on "North & South of the River," produced by longtime U2 helmsman, Steve Lillywhite. There is a very lush tune called "Legend of Cuan" by a remarkable new group called The Spirit of Eden (watch for a forthcoming review of the entire album).
One of the most interesting pieces is Kate Bushs version of "Mna Na hEireann (Women of Ireland)." This song was recorded for Donal Lunnys album Common Ground. Kate performs in Gaelic (or "the Irish," as the Irish prefer it be called). "Women of Ireland" is a gorgeous, haunting tune composed by Sean ORiada. From her beautiful "Gospel Oak" EP comes Sinead OConnors mystical rendition of "He Moved Through The Fair," which she performs live and which wraps up this Celtic Odyssey.
The Celtic Heartbeat label was launched in Dublin in 1995 by U2s manager Paul McGuinness and his partners. Their mission was to introduce a wide array of Irish music to the world. Be sure to visit the Celtic Heartbeat web site at <celticheartbeat.com> and watch for future releases from this class-act label. DUALITY LISA GERRARD and PIETER BOURKE 4AD
LISA GERRARD and PIETER BOURKE
As a founding member of the legendary Dead Can Dance, Lisa Gerrard has thrust her world/ethnic/retro-medieval music into great preeminence in our Western world. As a longtime record retailer, I was astonished at the sheer volume of sales of Dead Can Dance, as well as Lisas first solo release, The Mirror Pool. Gerrards fans worship her. As customers were buying a Dead Can Dance record I would often ask, "Dont you love (Gerrards Dead Can Dance bandmate) Brendan Perrys voice?" The response was always the same; it was Lisa Gerrards voice that fans adored.
On Duality, Gerrard teams with Pieter Bourke who, for the past five years, has performed live with Dead Can Dance and who has his own band called Soma. All of the songs except one were written, performed, and produced by Gerrard and Bourke.
Dead Can Dance have thus far released eight albums, with sales well over a million units in the U. S. alone.
Gerrards rich, impassioned alto clearly has a foundation in formal classical training. Her voice on Duality is pure and gorgeous; it rolls out like red velvet. The hauntingly beautiful "Sacrifice" is a celebration of Lisas glorious voice. The song gently modulates back and forth, back and forth, between major and minor mode, sweetly demonstrating the albums title and theme, Duality. Gerrards lyrics are often unintelligible, which is perhaps as it should be. Her vocal "instrument" creates the mood, tells the tale, and cradles you in emotion.
This is one of those albums that needs to be experienced in a private listening manner, perhaps in a small room with an excellent sound system or on a quality pair of headphones. Duality is a very intimate kind of record and warrants full attention.
Duality walks between two worlds, ancient and modern. The music reflects this with instrumentation and vocals having a definite medieval sound. Is Gerrard the incarnation of a secular singer from the 11th century? Maybe a monk? Duality lets its listeners explore that transparent veil between our ancient roots and our ultramodern life.
One of the ways in which Gerrard views Duality is as the spiritual connection of two people on a musical level. "We were often surprised by the outcome of our efforts and felt blessed by the privilege of having been allowed to share in the unspoken vocabulary that music communicates," she says, "so much so that we were often left with a feeling of unfamiliarity with the process and a sense of reality unlocking itself to reveal duality perpetuated by the joining of two spirits in a journey to be reunited with the absolute."
Whew! Whatever it is, it works, and works very well. Duality is The New Times' album of the month.
For more information on Lisa Gerrard or Dead Can Dance, be sure to visit these web sites:
<Lisa-gerrard.com> or <4ad.com>.