Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sometimes I read...

Sometimes I read.
Especially during the summer.
This summer I plowed through a bunch of books; some were just for fun and some were ones that made me think a lot.

On one run to the library for books about fishing, I grabbed this book...

And this book.
They were on a display for some reason.
 I "judged the book by its cover" and
I grabbed them both.
The surfing book was really odd, as most surfing narratives are, but this one included lots of references to places where we have surfed over the years.
That was kind of like a trip down memory lane for me.
The reason for the book being written?
The author had come down with a mysterious disease that was zapping him of all his energy.
After a couple of years of being unable to even walk to the kitchen, he was finally diagnosed with Lyme's disease.
He was a writer, and at the same time as they figured out what he had, he also learned that several writing projects/assignments that he had poured his life into were being rejected or defunded.
He was at ground zero in his life.
He remembered that twice in his life, on different continents and with different people, he had had surfing wipe outs, and after he got back to shore his surf buddy pointed out the "Conductor" had had his way with him.
"Who is the Conductor?" he wondered.
The buddies told him the legend of the Conductor who made the surf and could wipe people out at sea.
"How did this myth get started?" was his next question.
No one knew.
And with that he was off traveling the world attempting to discover the origins of the Conductor story.
Reading about his travels and his slow regaining of his strength was interesting.
The big surprise was finding that he spent a lot of time looking into neuroscience, and how various neuroscientists were examining near death experiences and how such events literally change people permanently.
Then he look at the lab test on the part of the brain that has been identified as "lighting up" during meditation, and the elements that go into making that area light up.
Many surfers report a sense of being with God as they surf.
Oddly, the same experience is not reported by those involved in other sports.
The author sought to pin down why surfers experience a God connection, and why.
(For those who don't wish to plow through the text, here's a couple of pictures from today's adventure at Red Butte Garden with my friendly 16 month old lad.)
(Who teaches kids to pick flowers and bring them to their mom or grandmother? Isn't it just something that seems to come naturally?)
Now about the second book, the one about cats and daughters...
I was looking forward to humorous cat stories with that book.
Turned out it was about a woman who had had her young son killed by a car in front of her other even younger son.
A cat had figured into her family's healing.
She had gone on to have another child, a daughter, then she divorced, remarried and had yet another daughter.
As this book begins the family cat had recently died after being with the family for an extraordinary 21 years.
Her daughters are now in their late teens and the remaining son is engaged to be married.
And she learns she has breast cancer.
She reluctantly gets a new cat, the Siamese cat alluded to on the cover, although the book has very little about the cat actually.
And in the middle of all that...her first daughter decides to become a Buddhist nun!
The story is breath taking, heart breaking, tear jerking, and very funny.
Helen Brown, a 59 year old Native New Zealander is quite talented at describing real and mental situations.
 I found myself making mental comments about what I thought, only to then read her thoughts and find that her observations matched mine.
Unexpectedly, her book also veered into neuroscience, and the quest to experience God through meditation, and how the brain displays the God connection.
Now how did it just happen that two random book choices would both wind up discussing God and neuroscience at length?
(A cute picture of Luke, for those of you who aren't going to read a bunch of words...Summer reading and Popsicles are vaguely connected, right?)
So here is my question after reading the two books:
If someone is blind, is there still such a thing as the color blue?
If one doesn't have a mental sensation of being connected with God, is there still a God?
An appropriate question for today as today is Mother Theresa's 103rd birthday.
I think everyone on the planet would agree that she, of all people, should have been able to report a sense of being close to God.
And yet she wrote in her journal that God felt like an absent husband to her.
She wrote about how young nuns would come up to her, flushed with excitement, full of joy, to report how close they felt to God as they prayed.
She received such sharing kindly  but felt bitter in her own heart as she had only experienced God in such a manner for a few days in her entire life of faith.
Mother Theresa went so far as to seek spiritual counseling about her utter lack of "warm fuzzies" in her relationship with God.
There was some counsel that was along the lines of Christ's comment to Thomas, about that those who have not seen and yet believed were greatly blessed.
In her case, she was blessed because she believed, even though she "felt" nothing.
The books reported studies of those who "feel" God's presence.
Their brain scans show a marked activity in one specific place at the exact moment they report the connected feeling.
Their hormone are at a certain level.
Those who have those kinds of God moments, via near death experience, enter REM sleep slower than others.
A whole lot of elements can be physically identified in those who feel God, elements or levels that are missing in those who don't feel God despite focused efforts to do so.
I did a little research and found one theologian willing to discuss this.
His comment was about how a television set needs to be working properly in order to see a television program, but there also needs to be a station broadcasting.
If the TV is not working, the broadcast still is happening.
Back to the color blue...yes, blue is real, even if one is blind.
On a curious note, one of the things that makes the brain register a God sense is rhythmic sound.
Surfing has the lap of water, churches have hymns, many religions have chanting.
Now science has documented that those things "pops" the brain in a way to make it register God sense.
I personally rarely feel God's presence in a warm fuzzy way.
I intellectually identify God's signature all over the place and have mentally accepted Salvation through Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in faith.
Why I don't have warm fuzzy feelings?
I am starting to get information that may eventually solve the puzzle for me.
The West of Jesus book is a "good read" as it meandered through lots of personal experiences as well as scientific research.
Cats & Daughters is a book that I would think any woman who has gone through a bit of life would find compelling reading.
They are books that probably won't show up on most best selling book lists, but they are books that are well worth reading and even more worth discussing.


Vee said...

Certainly fascinating material you've been reading lately. I would have walked right past both books. I'm glad that you didn't. I remember being quite horrified that Mother Theresa did not feel God's presence in her life. I am grateful that I do and often. Oh, yes, there are dark valleys and long nights from time to time, but I don't know if I could carry on as you do on faith and faith alone. Guess that God knows exactly what we need. Perhaps the warm fuzzies would creep you out. ☺ Very interesting topic. I'll have to drag John over here to read this in the morning...

Anonymous said...

You might try reading John of the Cross' "Dark Night of the Soul" It shows how we are closer to God in these "dark nights" than even when we "feel" the warm fuzzies!

Judy said...

Whew...you have covered a lot of territory and raised some good questions. Interesting...the connection of surfers to 'the Conductor'. I think we all tend to look for a Conductor when we are at 'ground zero'. Thanks for sharing your reviews.

Love the pic's of Luke interspersed!

Lorrie said...

Lots to think about here. As someone who has felt God's presence in my life more when I was younger, I wonder why I do not feel Him now. Instead, I have to cling very hard by faith to what I believe true. That is really what faith is, isn't it? Believing. Choosing belief. The feelings are the cherry on top. I'd like some cherries, please.

Lovella ♥ said...

These are interesting topics! I also would have walked right past both those books and appreciate how your intellect is different than mine and allows me to learn through you.
I think we all feel Christ differently at different times in our lives. I certainly feel his presence at different times and often during worship I sense his presence and wonder if it is because of corporate worship.
I recently read of a minister who goes into the basement where there are no lights regularly so that he is not tempted to allow his mind to wander while he prays. He said that at first it was very difficult but now can't imagine not taking that time with God as it has become so precious to him.

RoeH said...

I've got the Cats and Daughters book. I need to get some cool Arizona air called wintertime so I can sit down and read it. Preferably without sweating! :)