Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

tedchiang    Stories to make you think…..   *****

After viewing the film, Arrival, I wanted to read the short story on which it was based. This led me to discover Ted Chiang. This collection of short stories is well written, thought provoking, and in true sci-fi fashion, deals with today’s social issues in a futuristic setting.

Story of Your Life was the catalyst for the film, and as I expected, gave me a better understanding of the message buried in the movie under the “added” Hollywood touches.

Two of the short stories deal with religion. Tower of Babylon is an interesting and unique view of what it might have been like to build the tower of Babel. Hell Is the Absence of God is a theological diatribe on what it may mean to be separated from God, and as such seemed out of place in this fiction collection.

I found the most interesting story to be Liking What You See: A Documentary. The story deals with beauty and how it affects our thinking and actions. Set in a future where it is possible to turn off the ability to distinguish beauty, Chiang imagines how that would make life different.

These stories are not only entertaining but as I mentioned, are thought provoking.

This one gets five stars.

Letters To A Young Muslim by Omar Saif Ghobash

letters  A book by any other name would still be a must read….   *****

This book could as easily have been titled, with a few adjustments, “Letters To A Young Christian”, or even “Letters To A Young Person”.  While the focus is on what it means to be a Muslim, the advice given is advice all of us should listen to.

Ghobash documents his coming of age, and how he began to question the things around him. Rather than succumbing to what he was hearing from “the establishment”, he opened himself to other ideas and took on a larger world view of not only Islam, but of life.

The letters help to correct the misconceptions many have of the Muslim community.  The stereotypical Muslim is no more accurate than fundamentalist Christians representing Christianity. Ghobash’s discussion on the role of women in society is a good example of this. His thoughts on how Muslims view the divisions within their community, and how they view the West, are eye opening.

While promoting education, discussion, sharing ideas, listening to others, respecting others, questioning, as ideals for a young Muslim, these are the things all of us could aspire to. I did find it interesting that Ghobash states the reason Muslims do not honor the Bible is because of the inaccuracies in it. For him, the Quran is the sacred, infallible text. Scholarship  questions that bias.

This book was a surprise in that it contains so much great advice on life, not just religion. I am going to reread it, more slowly the second time, and ruminate over the thoughts presented.

This one gets five stars, and is a must read.


Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation

GutReactionReviews Book of Revelation

Straddling the Fence.   ****

This was a hard book to rate, debating between four and three stars. Pagels has written a good explanation of what the book of revelation represents but as some reviewers have said does not go as deep as she could have. At the same time I am not sure she has explained in language plain enough for the layman to fully grasp her ideas. Her discussion of church history is well done and reminded me of how little we think of the context in which early Christianity developed. Anyone who has read the apostolic fathers can appreciate her research and insight.

The only sticking point for me was when she discusses the use of Revelations in the late 19th century and includes Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons in her list of Christians.

The best part of Pagel’s writing is her discussion of the “other” writings that have been mostly ignored by traditional Christianity. Her last sentence speaks volumes to the fallacy of right wing fundamentalism–“and unlike those who insist that they have all the answers they’ll ever need, these sources invite us to recognize our own truths, to find our own voice, and to seek revelation not only past, but ongoing. ”

As Einstein said, “question everything”. Hopefully this book will spur readers to dig deeper into a book of scripture that has been misused, misunderstood, and misinterpreted by many.