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Category: Books

BOOK REVIEW: Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind by Maura Soshin O’Halloran

I came across this book at Bookmans in Tucson during our apartment-hunting trip a couple weeks ago. I’d never heard of the book or of Soshin O’Halloran, but I’m an admirer of books about the lives of Buddhist monastics and other practitioners. Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind is a collection of diary entries and letters published after O’Halloran’s death in a car accident at the age of 27. She was on a tour of Asia following three years as a Buddhist nun in Japan. It’s a lovely book; honest and forthright and brimming with zeal for her newfound Buddhist practice. At times the focus on kensho (englightenment) was a little much for me, but that’s because the flavor of Buddhism I practice doesn’t emphasize that aspect of Zen to the extent that Soshin’s did. It’s a worthwhile book, made bittersweet in the knowledge that she died just weeks after receiving transmission and being given permission to teach.

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BOOK REVIEW: What We’re Fighting For Now Is Each Other by Wen Stephenson

This is easily one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Multiple times throughout this story of the climate crisis and the people fighting it, I had to set the book down and process what it made me feel. By the end it was as if a fire had been lit in my chest; a flame fueled by rage, a need for justice, a sense of crisis, and an overwhelming feeling of love. We need this book, but more importantly, we need to follow the lessons contained within it. I’ve been an organizer, often professionally, for my entire adult life. I’ve spent most of that time doing labor and anti-war organizing. In recent years I’ve been feeling a need to shift the focus of both my organizing and my broadcasting/podcasting work. What We’re Fighting For Now Is Each Other helped me sharpen that focus and prepare for the next phase of my life’s work. Highly, highly recommended. You can follow Wen Stephenson on Twitter.

[I need to thank climate justice writer Mary Annaïse Heglar for introducing me to this book via this essay. You can also follow Mary on Twitter.]

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POEM: Moby-Dick in the break room

Moby-Dick in the break room

because otherwise it’s a round Formica table
& the clicks and beeps from the alarm system
& the vending machines
a slowly shrinking horizon of possibility
& the monstrous white shape of the future

I read to remember myself
(a boss walks by, says, “Call me Ishmael”)
Melville was in his late 20s & early 30s
as he was writing his Great(est?) American Novel
luckily Alan Rickman was 42 when he played Hans Gruber
so there’s hope for me yet

///

Jason Crane
4 November 2019
State College PA

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Book Review: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buddha! by Bodhipaksa

I Can't Believe It's Not Buddha!: What Fake Buddha Quotes Can Teach Us About BuddhismI Can’t Believe It’s Not Buddha!: What Fake Buddha Quotes Can Teach Us About Buddhism by Bodhipaksa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun and fast read that is a real boon to anyone hoping to (a) figure out when things attributed to the Buddha are wrong, and (b) learn more about what the Buddha actually said (knowing, of course, that the first couple hundred years relied on oral transmission). Recommended.

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Book Review: Uppity by Bill White

Uppity: My Untold Story About The Games People PlayUppity: My Untold Story About The Games People Play by Bill White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A real page turner that highlights some of the lesser-covered parts of the game of baseball. While the racism that has plagued the game is certainly no secret, White’s first-hand account as a player, broadcaster and president of the National League puts a personal, human face on the changes baseball has made, and the distance it has yet to travel. This book was written by someone who is very confident, and who certainly seems to feel he rarely if ever made a mistake, but at the same time he made it through a four-decade career in a tough business as a black man, so some protective ego isn’t surprising. All in all, well worth reading.

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POEM: Kees Popinga

This poem was inspired by the book The Man Who Watched Trains Go By by Georges Simenon

Kees Popinga

to pretend with all your might
for fear that one slip
& you’ll find yourself carried
like so much dead wood on the waves

to stop pretending
yanking at the door of life
till it bursts open & the light
spills over your face

you make a pledge of fealty
death its only end
as if the human soul were
a bright unchanging diamond

rather than a sand castle
with the tide approaching
the little architect long since gone
leaving a half-buried plastic shovel

/ / /

Jason Crane
19 January 2018
State College, PA

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