Thursday, June 26, 2008

13 Books that Changed my Life (TT#11)

Thirteen Books that Changed My Life

Booklists were a bit of a blogsphere theme in the past few weeks - so here's my list - and limiting it to thirteen was almost impossible. I could have 13 lists of 13 - but picked a few of the many "old friends" on my bookshelf to introduce you to.

1. Cheaper by the Dozen - Frank Gilbreth Jr. & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey - This family autobiography about the life of a 12 child family at the turn of the last century, parented by Time & Efficiency Pioneers Frank Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth made the largest impact on my life than any other book that I can think of. It was the philosophy of "the therblig" that captured my imagination and made me look at "how things really worked" - and could be made to work better faster smarter to save time. Why save time? To have it for the things that matter. Like knitting, spiritual practice, healthy relationships, and FUN!

2 Anthem / Atlas Shrugged / The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand - Okay, so Ms. Rand goes a little too far some of the time - but the core ideas of her philosphy of Objectivism make a ton of sense - at least to me. Selfishness is a virtue - and is congruent with the Wiccan values of causing no harm. Anthem should be issued to everyone on their 13th birthday. Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead are mind blowing explorations of the human psyche - are we gods? are we men? What does it mean when we react to ordinary events with superhuman insights? Is it in our best interests to respond to hypernatural events as mere mortals, with all our pettiness intact? Who am I? What do I contribute? Where do I fit? And the very indirectly posed but ultimate question - "How should We Then Live?" Ayn - you rock my world.

3. The Illuminated Rumi - Coleman Barks - I have been a devotee of the spiritual poetry of Sufi Dervish Rumi since I first read his work as a teenager. I re-awakened to his magick through this book - inspirational artwork that takes the sacred words and gives them a different focus - it made me understand "why" the Bible is read in single sentences (putting aside the discussion about context) - because sometimes a phrase is so beautiful - so profound - so inspiring that it simply must stand alone - or in front of a synergistic piece of art that illuminates its meaning at an entirely new level.

4. As in the Heart, So in the Earth - Pierre Rabhi (or if you read French )
I wrote a review of this book for the Aquarian (happy to send you an electronic version if you would like to read it as their online archives are not up to date). This is the most inspiring book I have ever read. It touches on all the things dear to my heart - spirituality, environmentalism, social justice and it knits them all together in a wonderous fable that could be shared with anyone over the age of 10. It allowed me to see with new eyes, and feel the changes on our planet so much more deeply than I felt possible. Please, can someone put Pierre Rabhi and Al Gore in the same room, (preferably the General Assembly of the United Nations) and let the rest of the world just soak up the wisdom - and the human-ness - of Gaia's current crisis through the voices of these two incredible men.... and because Pierre comes from the developing world (Africa) he is the flame to Gore's wick - because he has seen it all - and sees it all - and still gets his hands in the earth to affect change in both the micro and macro cosym.

5. The Book of Runes - Ralph Blum - Okay - so its not a historically accurate guidebook to the runes, and its full of new age claptrap warm fuzzy spiritual meanderings. BUT - it accompanied my very first set of Runes - hand crafted by a Heathen Priest, consecrated by blood, fire, and moonlight - and Ralph's gentle teaching style guided me into the world of divination and Divine Connection - he took me to the feet of the Oracle. Never mind that the Oracle then took me off in an entirely different direction - Ralph got me there. His opening poem is something that my corner of the Pagan Circle still use as a ritual greeting. It works. Just goes to show that the Divine doesn't have to be historically correct to be connected to the hearts of the faithful - the Divine can speak through any medium and the journey can begin.

6. Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner - Scott Cunningham. From my earliest memories, I was a spiritually questioning child - and knocked on a lot of doors to find the house where God lived. No matter what "church" I was attending, I always did my own thing, and my questions defied any orthodoxy I encountered, much to the chagrin of several pastors, deacons and elders. It wasn't until my early twenties when I wandered into the Philosphers Stone (of blessed memory)on Vaughan St to find a roomful of books that were very much tuned in to my inner frequency - and met members of the Winnipeg Pagan community. I'd bought books on crystals, astroology, etc from Prairie Sky, but like tens of thousands of others, this was my first book on Wicca - and it was my "kindergarten" for a lifetime of Wiccan Studies. I figure I'm still in high school in the Craft - and hope to live long enough to practice deeply enough to be awarded a PhD at the moment of my transition from this life.

7. Glorious Knitting - Kaffe Fassett - Two sticks and some string-like material can make amazingly beautiful things but many of us knitters are stuck in a rut and forget to approach knitting as artistic creation. This book reminds me (as does his other works) that I can play with colors and shapes within the body of my knitting and make truly glorious pieces - especially using up all the little bits and pieces of yarn left over from other big (read: usually monochromatic) projects. I don't "do" as much knitting in the Fassett style as I would like (read: laziness and comfort with the familiar) but from the day I bought this book, my ideas of what was EASILY POSSIBLE have changed - and I think of this book as knitting porn. Kaffe Fassett Official Website

8. The Power of Myth - Joseph Campbell - Rent the PBS series, then read the book, and then watch the PBS series again. You will see life, media, literature, history, religion, mythology, legend, and Star Wars very differently. If you are very brave, read the Masks of God series - to see the evolution of spiritual understanding in the context of human historic development. The collected writings of Campbell shaped my philosophy, informed my religious practice, and gave me an ever deepening appreciation for the wisdom of my ancient ancestors.
The Joseph Campbell Foundation

9. Wheels of Life: A Users Guide to the Chakra System - Anodea Judith - For the first time, chakras made sense. The sequel - Eastern Body Western Mind took my understanding of energy work and vibrational magick to a whole new level - but it really all started with this book. It was like a light going on in my soul that has continued to illuminate my spiritual practice. Anodea Judith's Sacred Centers website

10. Kushiel's Dart - Jacqueline Carey - If I was ever to base my religious practice on a novel, I would be a devotee of Elua, and an adept at "one" of the Houses of Night-Blooming Flowers. In a heartbeat. Love as thou Wilt. An inspiring theology, a wonderful story, a complex culture - who could ask for anything more in a fantasy novel - oh - other than the infusion of Divine Presence. The ongoing debate between those who know me and love me is "what house "is" she? I maintain that I have an "all access pass" to the Night Court in its wonderous variety of tastes, textures and proclivities, but others think they can slot me into one or two houses - and the fun part is finding out who is right. "As You Wish"... The Official Jacqueline Carey Homepage

11.Fionavar Tapestry - Winnipeg's own Guy Gavriel Kaye - This trilogy about "the first of all the Weaver's Worlds"entered my life at a time of crisis in the 1980's, and reading it felt like being thrown a life preserver when storm tossed on perilous seas. I have re-read it annually every year since. There are still passages that make me cry and passages that I still read aloud just to hear the majesty of the writing of this tale often told, but told again with power and compassion. I had the great priviledge of meeting Mr. Kaye, and made an ass out of myself trying to tell him about how much his writing meant to me. His subsequent books all stand alone, but are still connected in some way to this story - through a song, a child's tale, a mythic reference ... and while Tigana is my favourite book (oh - break my heart - every time) of his, Fionavar is the first, and still touches me the most deeply, and is my eternal refuge from the storms of life. Chris Tolkein - you could not have chosen a more worthy assistant, and heir to your father's legacy. Thank you. Guy Kaye's Website

12. Antagonists in the Church - Kenneth Haugk - The Goddess provides me with exactly what I need when I need it, sometimes from an unexpected source - in this case, a Christian minister who wrote the ultimate book on the dynamics of spiritual congregations. "The scales fell from my eyes" as the good book says, and I got to see things as they really were/are - and then make strong and supported decisions about how things would change, move forward, and in some cases end. This "literary revelation" gave me language to identify and name and transform energetic disturances that were no longer serving me, my coven, my tradition or my spiritual community. And - the ultimate lesson is always that we see in others only what we need to address within ourselves. It was a housecleaning of incredible proportions, inside world and outside world, and my only regret was that I got drawn back into that outside world a couple years too early through my attendance at and involvement in Gaia Gathering. The saving grace, to borrow another expression, has been meeting some wonderful people at the first two CPNC's in Edmonton and Halifax (Gina, Kit, Alex, Mike C, Bythor, Selene, Sheena, Hawk, Moon, Fritz, Wren, Blue Wave, Kevin C, Amanda, Tim W, Brendan, Shelley, Lucie, Torrie and others) - who I hope to stay connected to as the Goddess wills and the journey continues. The principles of this book now guide me in all my interactions within anything that calls itself a spiritual community.

13. The Ethical Slut - Easton & Lizst - This book is not really about Sex. It is absolutely about relationships, using sex as a metaphor. It works at two levels - the level of "what it's about" (healthy consensual nonmonogamy) and "what it is really about" - which is how to have healthy relationships (regardless of the sexual aspects) with your partner and how to communicate, negotiate and live within an ethical construct shaped by and for the people in the relationship. It's all about how to negotiate, make and live by your own set of rules. It stresses the Absolute Importance of keeping those rules intact - and not changing the rules of the game without negotiating with the others involved in that fragile construct. Truly, love as thou wilt - one or many - together or separately - but be honest, be honorable, be accountable, and be considerate. To break faith - to be dishonest - to lie by omission - these are dealbreakers and heartbreakers - and the scars remain after the scab heals. We wound each other so easily through self-absorption, self-justification, and self-righteousness. This books helps me to walk the tightropes of the intricate web-weaving of human relationships, understanding the parts that I play in all the interactions I have with those I hold near, dear or far - and hopefully makes me a better person, partner, friend, and lover. Those who see this book only as a polyamorous sex manual miss the point and are doomed to hurt those they love, or say they love. Hopefully, there can be learning through the pain. For those who only learn through pain, I recommend "Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns"- a little light reading from the Mandrake and Valerian Library at the Night Court.

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