Literature and the Spiritual LIfe

Paying attention

‘From the simplest lyric to the most complex novel and densest drama, literature is asking us to pay attention. Pay attention to the west wind. Pay attention to the boy on the raft, the lady in the tower, the old man on the train. In sum, pay attention to the world and all that dwells therein and thereby learn at last to pay attention to yourself and all that dwells therein.” Frederick Buechner in Whistling in the Dark. From Synthesis, Today Quote, November 15, 2018,

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We talk so often about being mindful, paying attention to our surroundings, to the people we meet, nature, those we love and those who love us. In true Buechner form, he reminds us of a whole other world that calls us to be mindful. It is the songs we sing, and the books we read, and the plays and movies we see. Whether we realize it or not, all the art and literature forms have a message of staying in the present, paying attention to the present and listening to where God is calling us to be the person we were created to be.

Cham Canon at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Memphis told us at our confirmation classes so many years ago that when we sing hymns, we are saying some of the most profound words we will ever say.

I think of books I could not stop reading as a young girl, Nancy Drew Mysteries. Many years later after I became a pediatric radiologist, I realized, that radiology is detective work, looking for clues for what is missing or what should not be there. Even now later in life, I am attracted to mysteries and clues that God leaves for us as reminders of God’s love.

Perhaps Jo in Little Women also became such a part of my being that I was not afraid later to cross barriers or seek out mentors searching for more answers which usually only led to more questions.

Something speaks from the depth of my being and sets me back on course every time I see Phantom of the Opera. I have seen it so often that I have run out of friends and family who will go with me!

God keeps talking to us through so many people and things, and we should never forget how our literature is another place God may connect to us so clearly.

I am also continually surprised how the message from the same book or song or play may be different for each one of us.