Foreword This Week
October 21, 2020
Feeling Anxious? Life Lessons from a Witch, Poet, Pastor, Astrologer, and Self-Care Specialist
When the world has us on edge, there’s nothing more comforting than to hear from someone who never loses their cool—a sage-like figure with just the right life experience and perspective to help us realize the sky isn’t falling.
With the election looming, we decided to ask a couple questions to a broad spectrum of authors from past editions of Foreword This Week. Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy.
A great many US citizens are fearful that the upcoming election will tear us apart as a nation. Can you offer words of advice, hope, or encouragement to help us all get through the next few days and weeks?
Theresa Cheung, The Astrology Fix: A Modern Guide to Cosmic Self Care
Like the mice busy building their nests in Of Mice and Men unaware a plough is closing in there are some things in life over which you have no control. So rather than living in fear over something you can’t control you can focus your attention on what you CAN control. Doing this tones down the fear. You can control how you react. You can choose to vote from your heart. You can choose to speak and act with integrity. You can choose to do the next right thing. You can choose to take care of yourself and others and to think carefully how your actions impact others. You can choose to emerge from whatever the election brings with inner strength because you know that you listened to your conscience and did the right thing.
When the present becomes too painful, I always find it heartening to immerse myself in writings of or about the past. As someone passionate about history, I take great solace in the fact that we humans have survived horrific traumas before and can absolutely do so again.
It’s been helpful for me to consider most of the social ills that are assailing us as symptoms of a more comprehensive global disease. Focusing on only one of them keeps us from seeing the broader picture. The unprecedented level of rancor that characterizes the political landscape, the reckoning with racism, changes to the climate, and the COVID-19 pandemic, along with a massive refugee crisis, are among the indicators that the world is sick. A line from the psalter captures this reality: “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter.” It’s impossible to know if or how any of these things will resolve, but history suggests that some things need to get worse before people are motivated to do the hard work of making them better. Moreover, the Scriptures reveal a God who is quite good at bringing order out of chaos. Doing our part to cooperate with re-ordering the world around the values of justice, kindness, care of creation, and love of neighbor is the urgent task before us.
Americans on both sides of the political divide have lost the ability to agree on a set of facts, find common ground, and treat each other respectfully. How might this acrimony be overcome?
Jennifer Louden, Why Bother?: Discover the Desire for What’s Next
I think about this so much. I imagine a couple of billionaires funding a nonpartisan effort modeled after Story Corp that’s all about enlisting people to find common ground through sharing stories. And I also imagine dropping leaflets from planes like they did in WWII with facts about, say, the climate emergency. Which wouldn’t work but it makes me smile.
Theresa Cheung, The Astrology Fix
Empathy is the superpower that can overcome the current acrimony. Empathy is not agreeing it is simply understanding where someone else is coming from. Harmoniously agreeing to disagree. The potential for empathy is within us all. It is in our DNA and necessary for our evolution because communities that take care of each other tend to thrive. Sadly, in recent years there’s been a serious empathy deficit in the US. Being unwilling to understand a differing viewpoint suggests that many Americans don’t have empathy and understanding for and of themselves either, as the way we treat others reflects how we treat ourselves. So some basic self-care and self-discovery is advised. Astrology can really help here as it’s a self help tool dedicated to helping you understand yourself better so you can fulfill your infinite potential. It’s also a great tool to help you understand others better too.
Closing minds to differing viewpoints limits growth and stunts creative potential. America has always been a beacon of empathy, hope, and creativity. The Statue of Liberty remains a potent symbol of America’s light. The world is praying intensely for America to come home to her birthright and light up and connect the world again.
If you were granted one wish for the United States in 2021 and beyond, what would it be?
Kristen Sollee, Witch Hunt
I would wish for a renewed sense of reverence for the quest for knowledge, which bestows the seeker with the vital gift of an open mind and a willingness to examine one’s own biases and beliefs.
Eric Peterson, Letters to a Young Pastor
That this perilous season in our life together would become the impetus for a fresh awakening to the reality of God. That’s the great potential hidden in this moment. That’s my earnest prayer.
A Special Last Word to Librarians from Carol Lynn Pearson, I’ll Walk with You
Today, we evaluate not only words but behavior. As we face this vitally important election, what do the thousands of volumes on your shelves, the biographies, tell us about leadership? The following poem I wrote from a Christian context, but leaders in every religion and leaders in no religion show us the same thing: a great leader serves in humility—like Confucius, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and so many more.
HE WHO WOULD BE CHIEF AMONG YOU
And he rose from supper
poured water in a basin
and washed the disciples’ feet.
hardened by the heat of a desert sun
comfortable with cutting trees
and turning them to tables
in Joseph’s shop—
that with a wave could stop
the troubled sea
could touch a leper clean,
or triumphantly turn death away
from the loved daughter on Jairus’ couch—
that could gesture the heavens open—
poured water in a basin
and washed the disciples’ feet.
The lesson lies unlearned
but to a few
who trust the paradox
and hear the call:
“He who would be chief among you,
let him be the servant of all.“
Featured Reviews of the Week
The Outlook for Earthlings, by Joan Frank (Regal House Publishing): “Frank’s novel explores the excuses women make to explain the men in their lives; impressions that confirm and sometimes betray truths; and a mystifying friendship between women whose mindsets seem opposed, but who, beneath their pettier judgments, feel attached to one another.” Review by Karen Rigby.
The Savior of 6th Street, by Orlando Ortega-Medina (Cloud Lodge Books): “The Savior of 6th Street is Orlando Ortega-Medina’s lucid and engrossing new novel about a man who grows up in Los Angeles’s dark, 1980s underworld.” Review by Kristen Rabe.
Like a Boy but Not a Boy: Navigating Life, Mental Health, and Parenthood Outside the Gender Binary, by andrea bennet (Arsenal Pulp Press): “In addition to their occasional critical analyses of gender roles and embodiment, the pieces are tender, witty, and reflective. Not only has bennett studied queer and feminist theory, they have lived a queer life, and their essays are both credible and compelling because of this.” Review by Karla Strand.
The Memory Monster, by Yishai Sarid; Yardenne Greenspan, translator (Restless Books): “In Yishai Sarid’s dark, thoughtful novel, a Holocaust historian struggles with the weight of his profession. … [The Memory Monster] pulls no punches in its exploration of the responsibility—and the cost—of holding vigil over the past.” Review by Eileen Gonzalez.
Picture Books/Juvenile Fiction
“Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses: How James Kelly’s Nose Saved the New York City Subway, by Beth Anderson; Jenn Harney, illustrator (Calkins Creek): “In this true story, James, an Irish immigrant in the early 1900s, makes a name for himself by detecting hazardous leaks and preventing scores of explosions, all through keen observations, an overactive sense of smell, and a strong work ethic. Glowing fluorescent colors pop in the dimly lit labyrinth as ‘Smelly’ Kelly comes to the rescue, again and again.” Review by Pallas Gates McCorquodale.