How do we honor our veterans and our fallen? By remembering their names …

… and telling their stories to the world

Joe Grimm, the director of a Michigan State University School of Journalism project that is helping veterans, writes today about how one family is honoring the memory of their fallen soldier. (Learn more about MSU’s efforts below.)

Tony Yost tombstone at Arlington

Cheyenne Yost places a photo of her graduation from Michigan State University on her father’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. Photo courtesy of STRIVE Communications, Inc.

By JOE GRIMM

Cheyenne Yost could not hug her dad on Father’s Day, but she says he was with her just the same.

He was with her again five days later when the Yost Weapons Training Facility at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was dedicated in his name on June 26.

Cheyenne says her father, Master Sgt. Anthony R.C. Yost, has been in her heart—just as he promised—ever since he was killed in Iraq on Nov. 19, 2005. On that day, Yost led a unit of Iraqi soldiers he helped train to assist members of another unit who thought they had cornered Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Doc Maloney, who had been a weapons instructor with Yost at Fort Bragg, said “Tony decided he was going to take the Iraqis he had trained and clear the building. They encountered some resistance in the building and someone on the outside detonated a car that was right next to the house. That reduced the house to rubble and killed Tony and the Iraqi commandos …

“When Tony was killed, I got a phone call from another friend of ours who served with us. When he told me that Tony had been killed in Mosul that day, I was in shock. … I had not thought that he would go over there and get killed. A couple years later we ended up with this new weapons facility. Brand new. And I thought what a great thing it would be if I could get this building named after Tony.”

Maloney, who turned 72 in June, joined the Marines Corps in June 1960 and went into the Army’s Special Forces in 1978. He retired in 2003 and has been a civilian instructor since June of 2004. With 55 years in the military, he knows it is “very, very unusual and very rare” to get a building named after anyone, especially an enlisted soldier.

But Tony Yost, also called “Chief” for the Apache part of his mixed heritage, and “Andy,” was not like many other soldiers. Yost could speak Russian and other languages, played team sports in high school, hunted, was a gunsmith and rode a red Harley-Davidson motorcycle. For his service in the Army’s 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (airborne), Yost was decorated with a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and the Silver Star, the third-highest medal a service member can receive.

Maloney called Yost “a bigger-than-life guy.”

With Warrant Officer 2 George O’Neal, Maloney pursued the renaming, but a sergeant major who said Yost’s rank wasn’t high enough for such recognition, blocked them. The breakthrough came when Command Sgt. Maj. George Bequer, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, came into the line of command and green-lighted the dedication. Maloney said, “The irony of it was that George (Bequer) was also at one time an instructor and the non-commissioned officer in charge.”

Cheyenne Yost said she sees Maloney as he saw her dad: bigger than life. “He worked hard on it and I am really thankful for him. I know my dad would be proud to have this legacy. … I don’t feel sad that my dad is gone. I do feel so happy that he had a building named for him. He died doing what he loved. He loved his work; he loved his students; he loved his job.”

“Chey” was expecting her dad to come home in two months when the bad news came from Mosul. She was 13; he was 39. The Fort Bragg dedication and her dad’s presence and buddies helped make up for so many fatherless events, including Cheyenne’s graduation from Michigan State University in May.

In one of her classes, Cheyenne helped create 100 Questions and Answers About Muslim Americans, one in a series of cultural competence guides published by the MSU School of Journalism. When Cheyenne heard that the next semester’s class would publish a guide to help civilians understand veterans, she jumped to help.

The class generally interviews only members of the group it is covering, and Cheyenne Yost is not a veteran. So, she briefly faced opposition similar to what Maloney had faced with her dad’s nomination. But she insisted on telling the story of her family. There are more than 20 million U.S. military veterans—and when family members like Cheyenne are included, the number of Americans with close ties to veterans is several times larger.

Cheyenne Yost with plaque honoring her father at Fort Bragg

Cheyenne Yost says she felt her father’s presence at the June 26 ceremony dedicating the Yost Weapons Training Facility at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Photo by Erin Maloney.

TELLING THE STORY FAMILIES KNOW SO WELL

Several of Cheyenne Yost’s insights made it into the final text of the veterans guide. Within the book, you’ll find her personal touch in statements like these:

  • Military families can be very close, even though they may be far apart.
  • The military can become a family. Several of her father’s friends reached out to Cheyenne.
  • Some assume that the government pays for the college of veterans’ children. Not true.
  • Military children can have trouble making friends.
  • Family members can experience Post-Traumatic Stress, just like service members do, and it can come back.
  • Stigmas and labels abound. Veterans are stereotyped as being damaged people who have PTS, who are homeless or who must rely on wheelchairs. Or, they can be stereotyped as heroes.

Speaking for her father and his buddies, Cheyenne said, “They don’t want to be thought of as different. They don’t want to be defined as being a veteran.”

On the day after the dedication, Cheyenne Yost said, “My dad was very spiritual and he always told me that if anything would happen, that he would always be in my heart. … I feel like he’s with me all the time in these big moments.”

Now, with the training center named in Tony Yost’s memory and with the Fourth of July coming up, it is a good time to learn about U.S. veterans and their families. Find 100 Questions and Answers About Veterans: A Guide for Civilians, with Cheyenne Yost’s name in it and videos with veterans by Detroit Public Television on Amazon.

There is also a website about Master Sgt. Anthony R.C. Yost.

Joe Grimm was one of Cheyenne Yost’s professors. He continues as editor for this series of guides published by the Michigan State University School of Journalism.

CARE TO READ MORE?

Cover of the MSU 100 Q&A Veterans Large Book

Click the cover to learn more about the book.

Getting to know our millions of veterans is a major goal of ReadTheSpirit and PBS this year. With help from DPTV, Michigan’s flagship public TV station, the Michigan State University School of Journalism published a new multimedia book designed to help civilians make those connections.

Comments: (0)
Categories: Uncategorized

Best quotes from the Pope Francis environmental encyclical

Pope Francis speaking to a crowdNOTE from ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm

For more than three decades, I have been reporting on the power of religion to change our world. I’ve reported from across the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Asia and, along the way, I’ve published hundreds of stories about papal efforts to shape world opinion. In all those years, I can’t recall reading a full-scale encyclical with this clarity, this urgency and this style of speaking so directly to everyone, not just the theologically elite.

If you’ve heard anything about this encyclical, you’ve most likely heard just bits and pieces: “He warns about global warming.” Or, “Republicans won’t like this.” Or, “This is about his love of St. Francis.” Or, “He takes on the rich and powerful.” Or maybe, “He gives us new prayers to pray.” All are true to some extent, but this is a much bigger message than any of those comments suggest.

An encyclical is the highest level of teaching any pope can hope to issue from his own pen. It’s a book—in this case more than 180 pages. Today, in our magazine, we are publishing some highlights of this enormous letter to the world—with the hope that Pope Francis’s spirit will touch you and encourage further dialogue.

Go to the Vatican website and download the entire document. Talk about it with friends. Bring it into a class you’re attending. Print out your own favorite quotes and hang them in your home or office. We also are publishing, today, some of the most prominent analysis of this new letter. And, we’re adding a special commentary by Christine Gutleben of the Humane Society of the United States.

To inspire you, here are …

HIGHLIGHTS OF
POPE FRANCIS ENCYCLICAL:
LAUDATO SI
OR, PRAISE BE TO YOU,
ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME

THE OPENING

“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore”—
“Praise be to you, my Lord.”

In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.”

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

ON SAINT FRANCIS

Aba-Novák_St_Francis_Preaching_to_the_Birds_1926

Aba Novak’s 1926 painting, “St. Francis Preaching to the Birds”

I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.

Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason” His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection.

THE WHOLE HUMAN FAMILY TOGETHER

The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. Here I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share. Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest.

Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.

I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions.

We require a new and universal solidarity. All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR COMMON HOME

The Blue MarbleThe continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is coupled today with a more intensified pace of life and work which might be called “rapidification.”

Although change is part of the working of complex systems, the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution. Moreover, the goals of this rapid and constant change are not necessarily geared to the common good or to integral and sustainable human development. Change is something desirable, yet it becomes a source of anxiety when it causes harm to the world and to the quality of life of much of humanity.

The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.

THE ISSUE OF WATER

Fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Sources of fresh water are necessary for health care, agriculture and industry.

One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances. Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant cause of suffering and of infant mortality. Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls.

Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor.

LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY

The earth’s resources are also being plundered because of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production. The loss of forests and woodlands entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future, not only for food but also for curing disease and other uses. Different species contain genes which could be key resources in years ahead for meeting human needs and regulating environmental problems.

It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

DECLINE IN THE QUALITY OF HUMAN LIFE

Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed with unique dignity.

The social dimensions of global change include the effects of technological innovations on employment, social exclusion, an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other services, social breakdown, increased violence and a rise in new forms of social aggression, drug trafficking, growing drug use by young people, and the loss of identity. These are signs that the growth of the past two centuries has not always led to an integral development and an improvement in the quality of life. Some of these signs are also symptomatic of real social decline, the silent rupture of the bonds of integration and social cohesion.

Furthermore, when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. Efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches.

WEAK RESPONSES

These situations have caused sister earth, along with all the abandoned of our world, to cry out, pleading that we take another course.

Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness. The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations. The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable, otherwise the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice.

It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.

THE CHURCH’S ROLE

On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views. But we need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair. Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems. Still, we can see signs that things are now reaching a breaking point, due to the rapid pace of change and degradation; these are evident in large-scale natural disasters as well as social and even financial crises, for the world’s problems cannot be analyzed or explained in isolation. There are regions now at high risk and, aside from all doomsday predictions, the present world system is certainly unsustainable from a number of points of view, for we have stopped thinking about the goals of human activity.

If we scan the regions of our planet, we immediately see that humanity has disappointed God’s expectations.

Although this Encyclical welcomes dialogue with everyone so that together we can seek paths of liberation, I would like from the outset to show how faith convictions can offer Christians, and some other believers as well, ample motivation to care for nature and for the most vulnerable of their brothers and sisters. If the simple fact of being human moves people to care for the environment of which they are a part, Christians in their turn realize that their responsibility within creation, and their duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith It is good for humanity and the world at large when we believers better recognize the ecological commitments which stem from our convictions.

THE MYSTERY OF THE UNIVERSE

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the word “creation” has a broader meaning than “nature” for it has to do with God’s loving plan in which every creature has its own value and significance. Nature is usually seen as a system which can be studied, understood and controlled, whereas creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by the love which calls us together into universal communion.

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Ps 33:6). This tells us that the world came about as the result of a decision, not from chaos or chance, and this exalts it all the more. The creating word expresses a free choice. The universe did not emerge as the result of arbitrary omnipotence, a show of force or a desire for self-assertion. Creation is of the order of love. Every creature is thus the object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it its place in the world.

A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted. This compromises the very meaning of our struggle for the sake of the environment.

It is no coincidence that, in the canticle in which Saint Francis praises God for his creatures, he goes on to say: “Praised be you my Lord, through those who give pardon for your love.”

Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.

THE GAZE OF JESUS

Jesus lived in full harmony with creation, and others were amazed: “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” (Mt 8:27). His appearance was not that of an ascetic set apart from the world, nor of an enemy to the pleasant things of life. Of himself he said: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard!’” (Mt 11:19).

He was far removed from philosophies which despised the body, matter and the things of the world. Such unhealthy dualisms, nonetheless, left a mark on certain Christian thinkers in the course of history and disfigured the Gospel. Jesus worked with his hands, in daily contact with the matter created by God, to which he gave form by his craftsmanship. It is striking that most of his life was dedicated to this task in a simple life which awakened no admiration at all: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mk 6:3). In this way he sanctified human labour and endowed it with a special significance for our development.

RECOVERING DEPTH OF LIFE

There is also the fact that people no longer seem to believe in a happy future; they no longer have blind trust in a better tomorrow based on the present state of the world and our technical abilities. There is a growing awareness that scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history, a growing sense that the way to a better future lies elsewhere. This is not to reject the possibilities which technology continues to offer us. But humanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction.

It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life. If architecture reflects the spirit of an age, our megastructures and drab apartment blocks express the spirit of globalized technology, where a constant flood of new products coexists with a tedious monotony. Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything.

All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral; from the beginning to the end of a process, various intentions and possibilities are in play and can take on distinct shapes. Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.

AN INTEGRAL ECOLOGY

Since everything is closely interrelated, and today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis, I suggest that we now consider some elements of an integral ecology, one which clearly respects its human and social dimensions.

Together with the patrimony of nature, there is also an historic, artistic and cultural patrimony which is likewise under threat. This patrimony is a part of the shared identity of each place and a foundation upon which to build a habitable city. It is not a matter of tearing down and building new cities, supposedly more respectful of the environment yet not always more attractive to live in. Rather, there is a need to incorporate the history, culture and architecture of each place, thus preserving its original identity. Ecology, then, also involves protecting the cultural treasures of humanity in the broadest sense. More specifically, it calls for greater attention to local cultures when studying environmental problems, favoring a dialogue between scientific-technical language and the language of the people. Culture is more than what we have inherited from the past; it is also, and above all, a living, dynamic and participatory present reality, which cannot be excluded as we rethink the relationship between human beings and the environment.

Authentic development includes efforts to bring about an integral improvement in the quality of human life, and this entails considering the setting in which people live their lives. These settings influence the way we think, feel and act. In our rooms, our homes, our workplaces and neighborhoods, we use our environment as a way of expressing our identity.

PRINCIPLE OF THE COMMON GOOD

Human ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good, a central and unifying principle of social ethics. The common good is “the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment.”

In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters.

The notion of the common good also extends to future generations. The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from inter-generational solidarity.

Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit. Inter-generational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.

What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?

Unless we struggle with these deeper issues, I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results. But if those issues are courageously faced, we are led inexorably to ask other pointed questions: What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us?

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

Beginning in the middle of the last century and overcoming many difficulties, there has been a growing conviction that our planet is a homeland and that humanity is one people living in a common home. An interdependent world not only makes us more conscious of the negative effects of certain lifestyles and models of production and consumption which affect us all; more importantly, it motivates us to ensure that solutions are proposed from a global perspective, and not simply to defend the interests of a few countries.

Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan. Yet the same ingenuity which has brought about enormous technological progress has so far proved incapable of finding effective ways of dealing with grave environmental and social problems worldwide. A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries.

The same mindset which stands in the way of making radical decisions to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty. A more responsible overall approach is needed to deal with both problems: the reduction of pollution and the development of poorer countries and regions.

Today, in view of the common good, there is urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life. Saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, foregoing a firm commitment to reviewing and reforming the entire system, only reaffirms the absolute power of a financial system, a power which has no future and will only give rise to new crises af- ter a slow, costly and only apparent recovery. The financial crisis of 2007-08 provided an opportunity to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and new ways of regulating speculative financial practices and virtual wealth. But the response to the crisis did not include rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world.

A SPIRITUAL AND EDUCATIONAL CHALLENGE

Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.

Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning. We are able to take an honest look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep dissatisfaction, and to embark on new paths to authentic freedom. No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful, or our God-given ability to respond to his grace at work deep in our hearts. I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us.

The rich heritage of Christian spirituality, the fruit of twenty centuries of personal and communal experience, has a precious contribution to make to the renewal of humanity.

One expression of this attitude is when we stop and give thanks to God before and after meals. I ask all believers to return to this beautiful and meaningful custom. That moment of blessing, however brief, reminds us of our dependence on God for life; it strengthens our feeling of gratitude for the gifts of creation; it acknowledges those who by their labors provide us with these goods; and it reaffirms our solidarity with those in greatest need.

We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it. We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done us no good. When the foundations of social life are corroded, what ensues are battles over conflicting interests, new forms of violence and brutality, and obstacles to the growth of a genuine culture of care for the environment.

TWO PRAYERS

I propose that we offer two prayers. The first we can share with all who believe in a God who is the all-powerful Creator, while in the other we Christians ask for inspiration to take up the commitment to creation set before us by the Gospel of Jesus.

1.) A PRAYER FOR OUR EARTH

All-powerful God,
you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned
and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty,
not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.

2.) A CHRISTIAN PRAYER IN UNION WITH CREATION

Father, we praise you with all your creatures. They came forth from your all-powerful hand; they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.
Praise be to you!
Son of God, Jesus,
through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother,
you became part of this earth,
and you gazed upon this world with human eyes. Today you are alive in every creature
in your risen glory.
Praise be to you!
Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father’s love and accompany creation as it groans in travail. You also dwell in our hearts
and you inspire us to do what is good.
Praise be to you!
Triune Lord,
wondrous community of infinite love, teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined to everything that is.
God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight. Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live. The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty. Praise be to you!
Amen.

Given in Rome at Saint Peter’s on 24 May, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 2015, the third of my Pontificate.

papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si_en_pdf__page_180_of_184_

Comments: (1)
Categories: Uncategorized

What people are saying about the Pope Fancis environmental encyclical

Pope Francis visits Palo Cathedral in one of his sorties in Leyte Province Saturday, January 17, 2015. The Pope announced his shortened visit to the province due to on going typhoon in the area. He made a quick blessing to items presented to him by some of the churchgoers in the cathedral before leaving. (Photo by Benhur Arcayan/Malacanang Photo Bureau)

Pope Francis speaking in Brazil. (Photo by Benhur Arcayan/Malacanang Photo Bureau, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.)

NOTE from ReadTheSpirit: Here are brief excerpts of some of the most important news commentaries we’ve found in recent days …

RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

In a widely posted RNS analysis, Jay Michaelson writes:

The most significant feature of Pope Francis’ encyclical on environmentalism, “Laudato Si,’” is not about climate change. It is that the document represents a sea change in Catholic—indeed, Western religious—thinking on the relationship between human beings and the earth. Naturally, mainstream media has focused on the political ramifications of the encyclical.

But Francis’ analysis of environmental problems takes up only 28 out of the encyclical’s 184 pages. The overwhelming majority of “Laudato Si’” is, perhaps unsurprisingly, about theology. And while this material has been glossed over by the mainstream press, it is nothing less than a seismic shift in mainstream Christian thought about the human-nature relationship.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

WSJ’s influential Overheard column says:

Who cares what an old man says about climate change? That was one reaction to the pope’s green-tinged encyclical released on Thursday. To which the obvious reply might be the world’s more than one billion Catholics. Even so, it seems unlikely his call will prompt sudden mass adoption of solar panels and electric vehicles among even the devout.

That may miss the point. Keven Book at ClearView Energy Partners, a consultancy, doesn’t foresee the call spurring radical change. Yet, he does raise the idea that rather than Pope Francis being at the vanguard of the environmental movement, his call may be a lagging indicator of climate change moving ever more into the mainstream of public debate. On that reading, it is less what the pope wrote—rather that he wrote at all. This is especially so when social media enables the almost instantaneous spread and debate of issues.

NEW YORK TIMES

The Times’ Jim Yardley and Laurie Goodstein write:

Catholic theologians say the overarching theme of the encyclical is “integral ecology,” which links care for the environment with a notion already well developed in Catholic teaching: that economic development, to be morally good and just, must take into account people’s need for things like freedom, education and meaningful work.

“The basic idea is, in order to love God, you have to love your fellow human beings, and you have to love and care for the rest of creation,” said Vincent Miller, who holds a chair in Catholic theology and culture at the University of Dayton, a Catholic college in Ohio. “It gives Francis a very traditional basis to argue for the inclusion of environmental concern at the center of Christian faith.” He added: “Critics will say the church can’t teach policy, the church can’t teach politics. And Francis is saying, ‘No, these things are at the core of the church’s teaching.’ ”

NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER

Leading Catholic journalist and scholar Thomas Reese, SJ, writes:

It is true that previous popes spoke or wrote about the environment and global warming, but their message rarely got through to the public for two reasons. First, the media were much more interested in writing stories about popes and condoms than stories about popes and the environment. Second, in the last two papacies, papal statements tended to read like academic dissertations. The church has never been very good at communicating Catholic social teaching, whether it has been on justice, peace or the environment.

Francis, on the other hand, writes more like a journalist than an academic. Anyone who can read a newspaper can read this encyclical and get something out of it. In other words, the encyclical is getting so much media attention because it is on the right topic, at the right time, by the right person.

CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

CNS’s Daniel O’Shea writes:

In a new Pew Research Center survey conducted prior to the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical focusing on the environment, U.S. Catholics were asked their views both on global warming and the pope himself. Out of the overall U.S. population, 68 percent said they believe the earth is warming, with 71 percent of U.S. Catholics sharing that belief, according to results released June 16, two days before the release of the pope’s encyclical on the environment, titled “Laudato Si': On the Care of Our Common Home.” Global warming is an issue that is highly politicized in the United States, and the Pew survey showed that Catholics in the country are not exempt from that polarization, with respondents sharply divided along party lines on the issue.

WASHINGTON POST

In a news report on the failed efforts by critics to derail this encyclical, Anthony Faiola and Chris Mooney write:

It marked the latest blow for those seeking to stop the reform-minded train that has become Francis’s papacy. It is one that has reinvigorated liberal Catholics even as it has sowed the seeds of resentment and dissent inside and outside the Vatican’s ancient walls.

Yet the battle lost over climate change also suggests how hard it may be for critics to blunt the power of a man who has become something of a juggernaut in an institution where change tends to unfold over decades, even centuries. More than anything, to those who doubt the human impact of global warming, the position staked out by Francis in his papal document, known as an encyclical, means a major defeat.

“This was their Waterloo,” said Kert Davies, executive director of the Climate Investigations Center, who has been tracking ­climate-change deniers for years. “They wanted the encyclical not to happen. And it happened.”

From an analysis by environmental scholar Mark Stoll:

What most Americans seem to have forgotten is that the link between religion and environment is not recent. The relationship between religion and environment goes back centuries, but the original moral and religious inspiration for conservation and environmentalism was forgotten during environmentalism’s heyday in the ’70s. The environment is a natural concern for a pope who took the name of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the environment. The encyclical’s title, Latin for “Praised be,” is taken from Saint Francis’s most popular prayer. Pope Francis has said that the saint “teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.”

EJ Dionne writes:

Pope Francis poses a challenge to those of us in the wealthy nations, and he speaks specifically about how “opinion makers, communications media and centers of power are far removed from the poor.” Ouch! He demands payment of an “ecological debt” between “north and south.” Again and again, he returns to the twin ideas that the world’s poor face the largest threat from climate change and that the world’s rich have a special obligation to deal with it. The pope who immersed himself in the most marginalized neighborhoods of Buenos Aires has not forgotten where he came from.

But if Francis is making himself the Green Pope, it’s not just because he has a social agenda. Like his namesake saint, he believes in the transformative power of simplicity and compassion. “We must,” he writes, “regain the conviction that we need one other, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.” This is precisely where the personal and the political must meet.

TIME magazine

Aisha Boori writes:

When the former Jorge Bergoglio was selected as pope in 2013, he chose his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment. In his inaugural homily, Pope Francis cited his namesake as a model on how to treat the Earth. “It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live,” he said. The climate change encyclical, “Laudato Si” (or “Praise Be to You”), is a line taken from Saint Francis’ “Canticle of Creatures.”

MOTHER JONES

Stephanie Kirchgaessner and John Hooper report on the encyclical for the influential, activist magazine:

The Argentinean pope will align himself with the environmental movement and its objectives. While accepting that there may be some natural causes of global warming, the pope will also state that climate change is mostly a man-made problem. … The document is not Francis’s first foray into the climate debate. The pontiff, who was elected in 2013, has previously noted his disappointment with the failure to reach a global accord on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, chiding climate negotiators for having a “lack of courage” during the last major talks held in Lima, Peru. Francis is likely to want to influence Republicans in Washington with his remarks. Most Republicans on Capitol Hill deny climate change is a man-made phenomenon and have staunchly opposed regulatory efforts by the Obama administration. The encyclical will make for awkward reading among some Catholic Republicans, including John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House. While many Republicans have praised the pope, it will not be unprecedented for them to make a public break with the pontiff on the issue of global warming.

Comments: (0)
Categories: Uncategorized

HSUS Christine Gutleben: Animal Cruelty Is Contrary to Human Dignity

Pope Francis acclaimed by a crowd

Humane Society of the United States Faith OutreachCHRISTINE GUTLEBEN is Senior Director of the Faith Outreach division of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which was founded in 1954 and has more than 11 million members. The HSUS Faith Outreach program works “on the premise that religious values call upon us all to act in a kind and merciful way towards all creatures.” About the encyclical, she writes …

Pope Francis, who chose Saint Francis of Assisi the patron saint of animals and the environment as his “guide and inspiration,” released the first encyclical in the history of the Vatican on environmental concerns. It is entitled “Praised Be” in honor of his namesake’s prayer, Canticle of the Sun, written in 1224, in praise of God’s creation: “Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures.”

This is a critical moment not only for Catholics but for everyone concerned about animals and creation. Pope Francis has effectively defined environmental issues as moral issues and called upon people of faith to take definitive action on behalf of God’s creation.

Throughout the encyclical, Pope Francis highlights the connection between human and ecological flourishing. We are reminded over and over again that “all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.”

At The Humane Society of the United States, we work to highlight the rich history of religious concern for animals. While this encyclical is historic for its central focus on the environment, including animals, the Catholic Church has a strong theological foundation for the moral consideration of animals. A quick survey reveals explicit statements on animals from past popes, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Catechism and many more.

However, Pope Francis’ encyclical stands out as a bold, beautiful and uniquely explicit call to protect God’s creation, His creatures and one another. Pope Francis clarifies the nature of our relationship with animals: “We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us…. we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.” (#67)

It is our sincere hope that these words inspire a thorough and honest look at the systematic abuses of animals and help put an end to the callous reference to “dominion” as a justification for factory farms, puppy mills, animal fighting, the fur trade and so many other unnecessary cruelties.

Pope Francis provides us with a clear and unambiguous understanding of our relationship with animals and our responsibilities towards them. He writes, “The laws found in the Bible dwell on relationships, not only among individuals but also with other living beings…Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.” (#68) The concept of relationship, which implies a balanced give and take, serves as a truly humane framework for how we ought to approach our dealings with other creatures.

Additionally, Pope Francis reminds us of the absolute value of other creatures beyond their usefulness to us: “we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes… ‘we can speak of the priority of being over that of being useful’” (#69). We are to see animals as creatures unto themselves and valued by God. In this light, practices such as the routine testing of animals for cosmetics, or the genetic manipulation of farm animals for high productivity, becomes gratuitous and wrong.

This historic encyclical underscores the clear, almost radical, statement from the Catechism on animals: “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.” (#130) He says in another place, “Every act of cruelty towards any creature is ‘contrary to human dignity.’” (#92) If taken seriously, this unequivocal assertion of the value of animals has the power to transform nearly every industry involving animals. Discarding millions of live male chicks born to egg-laying hens, shooting wild animals for entertainment or breeding animals for frivolous experiments are obvious repudiations of this claim.

Pope Francis’ reflection on the beauty of God’s creation and our place within it is sure to provide us with continued guidance and inspiration. We will strive to understand it in its fullness and carryout it’s bold vision for a more respectful treatment of God’s entire creation. If indeed God is praised through His creatures, it is our duty then to help with their flourishing as well as our own.

If you care about animal welfare, share this commentary with friends—and visit the Faith Outreach department of the USHS. You’ll find many helpful resources.

Comments: (0)
Categories: Uncategorized

Celebrating innovation: New ideas in “children’s picture books”

Reviews by ReadTheSpirit Editor DAVID CRUMM

Red Clouds War by Paul Goble for Wisdom Tales Press

Click the cover to jump to the book’s page in Amazon.

The world’s first human media? Sketches on cave walls—and thousands of years later, humans still thrive on visual culture. In publishing, today, the crescendo of that age-old journey is a flood of graphic novels and children’s picture books. (The “Children’s/Young Adult” segment of American book publishing is growing faster than other genres at 20 percent last year.)

When did this “trend” start? You could argue that children’s stories are thousands of years old, dating back to Aesop and ancient religious storytellers. But historians say that our modern concept of children’s books didn’t start until people accepted the cultural idea of “childhood” in the 1700s. Then, the widely recognized Father of Children’s Literature came along: John Newbery, the namesake of the famous prize established by librarians in the 1920s.

So what can possibly be innovative in children’s picture books after all these centuries?

The answer lies in the secret behind great books for kids: They’re as much for the adults who love children—as they are for the kids. That’s why inexpensive Little Golden Books exploded after World War II. Mom and Dad were a soft touch when kids begged for a quarter (“Just 25 cents, Mom, pleeese!”) to bring home a brightly colored Golden Book.

But that was harmless kids’ stuff, right? The idea of adults reading children’s books on their own? For decades, adults who loved picture books tended to be fans of—horrors!—comic books. Then, in the late 1970s, as comic books were recovering from their long, dark era of shame, Will Eisner published the ground-breaking “graphic novel” A Contract with God—and the rest is, as we journalists like to say: History.

A secret no more, serious writers know that adults don’t need an excuse to enjoy “picture books”—and both genres (children’s and graphic novels) have been furiously evolving for years. As I’ve watched that evolution, I keep watching for innovative children’s books to recommend to readers. And, this summer, two titles are worth snapping up for your home library.

RED CLOUD’S WAR

By PAUL GOBLE and WISDOM TALES

As a student at the University of Michigan in the early 1970s, I discovered the life of the brilliant Oglala Lakota leader Red Cloud and that contributed directly to my life’s vocation as a journalist connecting people across diverse cultural lines. 100-QA-Native-American-Large-Book-120x180I am proud, today, that we publish 100 Questions, 500 Tribes: A Guide to Native America along with Native American journalists and the Michigan State University School of Journalism.

So, I was pleased to see Indiana-based Wisdom Tales release a gorgeously illustrated picture book on one of the great moments in Red Cloud’s career: the strategic defeat of an encroaching cavalry force in 1866. The new book is called Red Cloud’s War and the battle is best known today as the Fetterman Fight, the cavalry’s worst defeat until the Little Big Horn a decade later.

Wisdom Tales says the book is for kids aged 6 and older—but is aimed at a 5th-to-6th-grade reading level. This truly is a war story, told from the Native American perspective. Many died in the battle—and that bloodbath led to far more horrific violence in the decades that followed. So, this certainly is not a book for preschoolers. In fact, adults who read this book with kids will need to share the larger context—which fortunately is a fairly easy matter now, given all the films and books about American Indian history. (Hint: Click the 500 Nations link, above, and buy a copy of the MSU book, too.)

Red Cloud’s War really is a cross between a graphic novel and a children’s picture book. What makes the account of the conflict so gripping is the style of these illustrations that seem to race and leap back and forth across the pages.

At the end of the book, I appreciated finding a final acknowledgment that Red Cloud ultimately decided to stop fighting—a heart-breaking acknowledgment of the force of U.S. military expansion. He was a courageous, strategic genius. But, he also was a wise and philosophical leader of his people. In recent decades, he has been inducted into the state of Nebraska’s Hall of Fame. He has been honored on a U.S. Postal Service stamp and millions of Americans, like me, have been inspired by his story.

JUST FOR TODAY: SAINT JOHN XXIII

By BIMBA LANDMANN and EERDMANS

Just for Today John XXIII by Bimba Landmann for Eerdmans

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

It’s fair to say that more than a billion people around the world have been inspired by the late Pope John XXIII, who is featured in an equally innovative book from Eerdmans, a publishing house far better known for serious books about theology than for its series of books for young readers.

If you’re Catholic, you know all about St. John XXIII. For non-Catholics, here is his Wikipedia biography. The key thing you need to know: John XXIII trusted that God’s spirit was moving throughout the entire worldwide church. He opened the Second Vatican Council, which revolutionized the world’s largest church. And he is best known for saying he wanted to “throw open the windows of the Church and let the fresh air of the spirit blow through.”

Many Catholics view the new Pope Francis as more akin to the spirit of John XXIII than to either of Francis’s immediate predecessors. After all, it was Francis who insisted that John XXIII would be named a saint, in April 2014, at the same time John Paul II was canonized. Francis didn’t want anyone to mistake the iron-willed John Paul II as the only spiritual guide for the worldwide church. The spirit of John XXIII still is blowing through the Vatican!

What Eerdmans has brought us is a slice of John XXIII’s core spirituality—the text of his famous “daily decalogue.” The Vatican provides the whole text, but in a somewhat different English translation than Eerdmans uses in this picture book, illustrated by Bimba Landmann. I like the reworking of the text in this picture book and I was thrilled to see this lavishly illustrated picture-book design for John XXIII’s meditation.

In the late 1980s, I traveled with the press corps covering John Paul II’s two-week tour of North America and, in that era, the only papal “picture book” was a short-lived series of—you guessed it—comic books. I can’t imagine many American families still have the 1987 John Paul II comic book on their shelves—but I can envision this new Eerdmans book read on a daily basis in many homes.

Whatever your faith, if you find yourself looking for more spiritual meaning in your daily life—buy a copy. Have no children at home? Who cares? You’ll still love this picture book.

(Originally published at www.ReadTheSpirit.com, an online magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

Comments: (0)
Categories: Children and Families

John Waters at RISD on innovation: ‘Read! Read! Read! … Be nosy!’

Moviemaker John Waters graduation speech at RISD video

You can watch the video, below!

A NOTE FROM ReadTheSpirit EDITOR DAVID CRUMM:
WHY are we sharing the video of controversial moviemaker John Waters at the Rhode Island School of Design? First, because National Public Radio says it’s one of the best, short graduation speeches of 2015. Yes, it’s true: John Waters built his career on shocking—intentionally grossing out—audiences. And, he does use a bit of R-rated language toward the end of his talk.

But, he’s also one of our great media sages. He’s an aging and mostly harmless old lion, these days. As he points out in this talk, his musical Hair Spray is performed each year in countless American high schools.

We are sharing this video clip because, if nothing else, John Waters understands the engine of American culture and the need to shove past earlier models and so-called experts to keep innovating!

BEST QUOTES FROM JOHN WATERS’ RISD GRADUATION SPEECH

Because you’re likely to want to quote from this video, we’ve got some of the best lines right here—all set to share on social media, to email to a friend, to print out and hand around:

Pay no mind if you are initially turned down. A career in the arts is like a hitchhiking trip. All you need is one person to say, “Get in!” And, off you go!

Keep up with what’s causing chaos in your own field.

Read! Read! Read! Watch people on the street! Spy! Be nosy! Eavesdrop!

You need to prepare sneak attacks on society.

Listen to your political enemies, especially the smart ones. And then figure out a way to make them laugh. Nobody likes a bore on a soapbox. Humor is always the best defense and weapon. If you can make an idiot laugh, they’ll at least pause and listen before they do something stupid to you.

Refuse to isolate yourself. Separatism is for losers.

The truth of maturity will come to families if every member is patient.

Contemporary art’s job is to wreck what came before.

Go out in the world and @#!$ it up beautifully.

Design clothes so hideous that they can’t be worn ironically. Horrify us with new ideas. Outrage outdated critics. Use technology for transgression not lazy social living. Make me nervous!

And finally count your blessings! It’s time to get busy. It’s your turn to cause trouble. This time in the real world. And this time from the inside.

THE JOHN WATERS VIDEO

Comments: (0)
Categories: Uncategorized

Celebrating Innovation: Wow. That book idea still turns heads.

Gutenberg looks over a proof

Gutenberg’s “book” continues to innovate. (Click the photo to read an earlier column that includes Gutenberg.)

Note from ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm—In 1455, Johannes Gutenberg set the stage for a global revolution by mass producing Bibles with moveable type. After his innovation spread across Europe, Martin Luther was poised to touch off the Reformation in 1517—a revolution fueled by books and pamphlets. Now, half a millennium later, Gutenberg’s little idea still is an amazing innovation!

You may be thinking: Aren’t e-books making print books obsolete? Nope! The June 2015 issue of the magazine from the Indepedent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) analyzes sales trends and says there are clear signs “that the explosive annual growth of e-book sales has stalled.” E-books now account for about 30 percent of books sold in the U.S., IBPA concludes. (NOTE: That’s one reason ReadTheSpirit Books publishes both in print and digital formats, ensuring that entire communities or small groups can enjoy each book.)

So, why is Gutenberg’s product still turning heads? It’s the genius of his innovation:

  • Drop your e-reader in a pool or lake, this summer—and it’s toast! Your paperback? After an accidental dip, lay it out to dry and you’ll be fine!
  • Are you interested in fast access for quick reading when you’ve got a spare moment? You can open your paper book quicker than you can fire up a Kindle.
  • Want to share your reading experience? Just hand a book to a friend. But your e-book? Well …
  • PLUS, writes veteran journalist and media consultant Martin Davis: Real ink-on-paper books may be even more powerful social networking tools than any e-edition. Enjoy Martin’s story …

A Real Book: Why it’s great for Social Reading

By MARTIN DAVIS

Man carrying Bob Alper's book

“Hey, what’s THAT GUY reading this summer!?! What’s that book under his arm?” (Click the photo to find out.)

I lost my iPad last month.

The memory still haunts me. One minute it’s there—with my banking app, my games (yes, I enjoy Candy Crush), and, most important, my magazines, newspapers and books.

I was lost.

Reading on my iPad wasn’t solitary. It was social. I shared titles, passages, anecdotes and gallows humor with friends. We talked about books. We were a community of friends bound by a love of reading.

And now? Well, for a while I knew how the unfortunate Athenian felt back in the day when he was ostracized from the city by the drawing of lots. Like the Athenian cast from his friends, I could die or adjust.

Dying seemed a bit much, though my teenage son didn’t think so: “How do you get by,” he asked, “without a smart phone or tablet?”

I adjusted. I couldn’t afford to replace the iPad, so I went to Barnes and Noble and purchased an honest-to-god, paperback copy of the next book I had planned to read by Patrick Taylor—author of the Irish Country Doctor series—and threw it in my backpack.

The next morning, while standing in the slug line—the Washington, DC, area’s solution to commuting woes—I whipped out my new book and started reading. My fellow commuters were intrigued.

“What are you reading?” one lady asked.

An Irish Doctor in War and at Peace,” I responded.

“I’ve been to Ireland,” she said. And we were off to the proverbial races.

We got in the same car for our hour-long ride north, and talked all the way up.

She had wanted to be a doctor, but couldn’t handle the math. Now she works at a nonprofit in DC in the healthcare industry. We talked about our families, our travels, our work. And we talked about Ireland.

The ride home in the evening was much the same. Different person—same result.

Maybe it was that particular book. Popular writer. Beautiful cover.

So I switched to an edition of The Homeric Hymns, a collection and commentary on obscure Greek poetry about the gods and mortals, written by my former college Greek professor. Surely this wouldn’t be a conversation starter.

But it was. A former Marine who’d spent time in Greece wanted to know more about the gods.

“I lived there for two years,” he said, “but never had time to delve into the rich history. What can you recommend?”

I don’t miss my iPad so much these days.

Sure, I’m not eternally “connected.” But I’ve become more connected over the past month with the people in my immediate community—those I live near and work with—than I have in several years.

I don’t have 500 people watching my every post on a daily basis, these days. But I seem to meet someone new most days because of the simple book that I hold in my hands. A little conversation starter. Something that says to folks, “talk with me.”

All around me, I see images of what I once was. One more of the nameless masses gliding fingers across glass screens to
access virtual worlds that, in day-to-day life, shut-out the people who are most physically immediate.

Sure, one day I’ll replace my iPad (I still love Candy Crush). But when out in public, I’ll reach for my conversation starter first.

Martin Davis is a journalist in Washington, DC. He also is a long-time media consultant , and a freelance writer who lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Comments: (1)
Categories: Uncategorized