Friday, June 13, 2014

Rereading Sue Bender

I reviewed Sue Bender's Plain and Simple a few months ago and, while that was my favorite of her three books, decided to read Everyday Sacred: A Woman's Journey Home and Stretching Lessons: The Daring that Starts from Within. All three books essentially explore the questions that Bender spent 20 years exploring: "What really matters? Is there another way to lead a good life?" While Bender learned a great deal from her experiences with the Amish, she struggled to apply the principles of simplicity, finding her life still cluttered with activities and expectations.

In Everyday Sacred, she explores the image of the begging bowl--starting the day with an empty bowl and filling it with the extraordinary "stuff" of everyday life. In Stretching Lessons, she looks at the idea of growing by taking risks--to become as big as we are. Both books have wonderful stories and vignettes, along with reflections that inspire. However, I find that they are better picked up and read in bits and pieces.  At least when I sit down and read a big chunk of these books, I find myself losing patience with Bender--I want to yell, "Just get on with living your life as you want to." I realize this reaction is more about me than about the author, but I think others might feel similarly.

Favorite passages:
On seeing the white paintings of Robert Ryman (from Everyday Sacred):
An "inner light" radiated from the paintings.
The space was silent--with that respectful, muffled silence of a coister. The word purity came to mind.
And immense.
This was the "immensity within ourselves" I had read about and hadn't understood.
"It doesn't always have to be so hard," I heard myself say--the judge nowhere present at that moment. There are other ways of "seeing"--these paintings seemed to say. Other possibilities, infinite possibilities. Mysteries to be uncovered.

From Stretching Lessons:
Some people will never see us--that doesn't mean we're not there.

For years, my deepest wish had been to get away from my world, in which I feel pulled in so many directions, and retreat to a silent space. A place free of distractions, to work nonstop on the zillion of pieces of paper I had collected. A place where someone else would cook dinner.

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