Category General Nonfiction

The Twelve Best Excerpts From “The Best Things Ever Said About God”

God: the literary and conversation topic that just won’t go away.

Even when we’re not talking about God, we are.

Trying to improve, are we? Find greater purpose, figure out our next step, start to give back, leave a legacy?

God, God, God, God, God.

Wherever go matters of ultimate concern, there goes Grappling With God.

Great fiction: all about God, explicitly or not. (Though often about her absence.)

In his introduction to “The Best Things Ever Said About God” (20000, Harper Collins), more or less agnostic attorney-turned-writer Ronald B. Schwartz calls his book:

 “…a miscellany for doubters and believers alike—though at neither extreme—and purged of freeze-dried sermonettes and vainglorious citations to chapter-and-verse proof that God prefers tea to coffee...

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The Tragi-Comedy of “The Big Short”

Seeing the movie adaptation  of “The Big Short” last night transported me back to a decade ago, when I made a regular habit of leaving my road bike in the garage and hopping instead on my upright city bike to cruise my hometown. Cycling is much like walking in giving you slices of life and peeks into windows and garages to take a measure of Americana. The slices just go by faster.

I can distinctly remember the internal commentary going on in my mind at the time as I moseyed in leisurely fashion through typical middle class neighborhoods of well-appointed tract homes, of the three-and-four-bedroom variety, with double garages on relatively small lots. They were workers’ homes, “owned”—at least until the banks stated reclaiming them—by plumbers and teachers and shop owners and radiology techs...

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Onwards to 2016 With “Gratitude” for Oliver Sacks

Every passing year sees the passing of more people from our lives. Whether from death, ruptured or merely faded relationship, or the loss of the person we once knew because dementia has robbed him or her of that cherished personhood, we come to the final days of a year and amid our looks back, as joyous as some of them might be, we are also reminded of loss.

As an additional reminder, news programs highlight the more prominent people who have died, displaying a list of names and faces as the year’s final credits roll.

Among those names this year, and prominent indeed on my list: Oliver Sacks.

Author of startlingly original works such as Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Sacks was a neurologist, professor, writer, thinker, ruminator, and possessor of endless curiosity and a puckish humor...

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One More Mile on “The Road to Character”

My longtime friend Jay Helman had some additional reflections regarding my most recent post on David Brooks’s The Road to Character that I found worthy of note. So I’m turning the first part of this post over to him before winding up with a few thoughts in response. More of a continuing conversational mode that blogs ideally engender, rather than a straight monologue. So pour a cup of coffee and enjoy!

JAY: I have continued to chew on this post which has led me to the realm of sport and, to a lesser extent, film.

Sport began with me thinking about a widely acknowledged great man with whom I had the honor of working briefly in my life. As an 18- and 19-year-old athlete I had the extraordinary opportunity to be part of Coach John Wooden’s UCLA basketball program...

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A Commentary on “The Road to Character” by David Brooks

“I have a natural disposition toward shallowness.” That’s a curious line from someone engaged on an exhaustive quest to plumb the depths of human character in a best-selling book, but it sets a tone for the main themes circulating in New York Times columnist and PBS commentator David Brooks’s most recent work, The Road to Character.

Brooks’s self-effacement (“I’m paid to be a narcissistic blowhard, to volley my opinions, to appear more confident about them than I really am…”) mirrors much of what follows as he takes us on brief biographical tours of various figures he considers moral exemplars through history. His goal is to seek guideposts and commonalities among people of great character, in the hope that he and his readers can be informed, uplifted and inspired to cultivate and improve their own.

It’s an interesting and somewhat disjointed approach...

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