Well, I finally finished a book. It took me a while, mostly because I've been a lazy reader, but also because this fine book was just thick with the stuff that gets you thinking. The Best Spiritual Writing 2012 is a diverse and stimulating collection that includes both poetry and essay, work about wonder and awe, politics and chapels, evil, light, Cesar Chavez and the Dalai Lama, Judaism after the Holocaust, apparitions and visitations, and much much more.
The advantage to an anthology like this and the other Best Ofs that come out each year is that it's likely the reader hasn't really thought much about the majority of the topics, at least not recently. I can't say I've considered how to reconcile faith in God after the Holocaust as a Jew. And besides those things that I haven't thought about there are the subjects I wouldn't have even known about if not for the selections made by the editor. I love this kind of stretching, this kind of push to understand more of the world, spiritual and otherwise.
I was particularly moved by Tony Hiss's "Wonderlust", originally published in American Scholar, and Billy Collins's poem, "Gold" has stuck with me. Also "A Chapel Is Where You Can Hear Something Beating Below Your Heart" by Pico Iyer (from Portland). And "Rescuing Evil" by Ron Rosenbaum, from First Things is an extremely accurate reflection on what happens when we eliminate the concept of evil and write it off to all sorts of other things, as if crimes and violence are biological and not choices we make. The essay ends with a powerful line I'd hate to share and give away too much of what is so good about the work.
So there you have it - the first of ten books I intend to read for 2012.
In other news, I think I'm going to give the poem-a-day in National Poetry Month (April) a go once more. At the least, I'll get back into the habit of thinking poetically, right?