Saturday, September 26, 2015

What I Read at the Retreat

Two weeks ago, I woke up at Luther Springs.  It was early and dark.  I was the first one up.  Happily, I had brought a book.

Nancy Ellen Abram's A God that Could Be Real:  Spirituality, Science, and the Future of Our Planet has been on my books-to-read shelf for many months.  I bought it after reading her essay at an NPR site.  One of the highlights of the retreat was having time to finally read it.

The first part of the book was wonderfully rich and satisfying, especially when she delves into recent scientific discoveries.  I also liked her brief history of how humanity has thought about God.

The book shifts to her musing about a god who could be real, and towards the end, I found myself frustrated.  Her idea of God seems just as likely to be real as many other versions of God.

Her view of God reminds me of Jung's idea of the Collective Unconscious, or perhaps of the ideas of 20th century writers who ran with that idea.  Her view of God is something that humanity has a role in creating.  She seems to say that every time humanity creates something noble and bold, we build up this God-like entity that is both part of us and greater than us.

She does not explore in depth what happens when humanity creates something vast and evil, like the Holocaust.  Her book does shift towards some of the challenges that humanity faces on a planet threatened by global climate change.  I found myself skimming some of it.

Much of what she discusses throughout the book is not new to me, from the idea that God isn't omniscient or omnipotent to the ideas about climate change to the other scientific developments that she covers.  But she writes about them and weaves them all together in compelling ways.

I'm glad I read this book.  It was especially enriching because the retreat materials we used weren't as intellectually interesting as I would have liked.

There are days that I look at my bookshelves and marvel at the books I once had time to read.  One of the nice things about being on retreat and off the grid is having time to read an old-fashioned book.  And what a gift to have a book that gives my brain plenty to chew on!

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