Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Monastic Views on 9/11


The aftermath of 9/11 sparked a cycle of vengeance and hatred. Concerned with the darkening of our world, David Carlson embarked on a project to talk to contemplatives about their perceptions of 9/11 and the aftermath. He hoped to find some light in the darkening world of growing tension between Christians and Muslims. He conducted a series of 30 interviews with monks and nuns and found much more than he expected. The views of those cloistered in religious houses ran a large gamut and gave him much to reflect on.

I loved the first half of the book. The description of the monasteries was beautiful. Being in out of the way places the surroundings are exception. Likewise the monks turned out to be exceptional people. They were as disturbed by the post 9/11 world as everyone else and were struggling with how to place it in a spiritual context.

The middle of the book, however, dragged for me. Instead of the spiritual discussions of the opening interviews, it seemed to me that we were veering into bureaucratic solutions. If I hadn't had a commitment to finish the book, I might have put it down at this point. However, I did finish it and I'm glad I did. The ending of the book, including the author's own dark night of the soul is very moving.

I recommend this book to anyone searching for spiritual understand of the terrible events of 9/ll and the continued terrorism and tension between Muslims and Christians. I particularly recommend the interview with Richard Bresnahan, a potter. His studio is located in conjunction with Saint John's Abbey in Collegevillle, Minnesota. His anger at the terrible events and his love for the beauty of the world are especially moving.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.