Book Review

 Daniel Redwood, D.C.

Earth and All the Stars: Reconnecting with Nature through Hymns, Stories, Poems, and Prayers from the World’s Great Religions and Cultures

Edited by Anne Rowthorn. New World Library. 2000. 311 pages. Paperbackby Gary E.R. Schwartz, Ph.D. and Linda G.S. Russek, Ph.D.
Hampton Roads Publishing. 1999. 276 pages
by James Gordon, M.D., and Sharon Curtin

Perseus Publishing. 2000. 303 pages.

Earth and All The Stars is an ecumenical anthology with the potential to become a widely used sourcebook for progressive worship and celebration. With hundreds of selections from wisdom traditions spanning thousands of years on all continents, this book draws deep from the wellspring of shared human values. It offers a reminder that love for the earth and all that lives upon it, the seas and all they harbor in their depths, and the sky with its infinite distance, is our common birthright and the foundation of all the meaning with which we imbue our lives.

The book begins, appropriately, with a compendium of creation stories—Native American, Indian, Sikh, Islamic, Filipino, Hebrew, and many more. But creation here includes more than ancient myth (beautiful and meaningful though that is); we begin anew each day, reinventing the world through our perceptions and the actions.

This spirit of reinvention and clear seeing is conveyed in poems like one by Moyra Caldecott, first used in Coventry Cathedral in England for a Creation Festival liturgy: “The circles are still widening—still evolving the mighty concept—the magnificent Idea/ Six days/Seven…/a million years,/ a thousand million…/ the count is nothing/ the Being—All./ Praise be to our great God/ and the Word that resonates/in our hearts still./ May we not separate ourselves in arrogance/ from the Great Work/ for we know the sound of the Word/ but not its full meaning.”

Daniel Redwood practices chiropractic and acupuncture in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He is the author of A Time to Heal: How to Reap the Benefits of Holistic Health and Contemporary Chiropractic. A collection of his writing is available at©2000 by Daniel Redwood


Mara and Dann

by Doris Lessing. Harper Collins.

This is an evocative adventure set a few thousand years in the future, written by one of the great novelists of the 20th century. Now in her 80s, Doris Lessing spins a tale with the best of them, and in recent years has developed a yen for stories about the future. A decade or so ago, I read several books from her powerful interplanetary Canopus in Argos series, including the astonishing Shikasta.

In Mara and Dann, Lessing returns to Earth, setting this story in her native Africa. The two protagonists, brother and sister, are whisked away from their parents home when they are five (Mara) and three (Dann). Africa (now called Ifrik) is undergoing desertification at an alarming pace. Lands that in recent times grew food have become a dustbowl. Dry riverbeds are subject to occasional killer floods, while the north of the continent is a tundra. The Middle (Mediterranean) Sea to the North is long dry, and Europe is covered with centuries-deep ice.

For years, Mara and Dann’s mission is survival. We travel with them through societies of nomads and cities filled with people in denial of impending disasters. Mara and Dann’s abrupt loss of their childhood is followed by years of learning the myriad ways of many peoples. Throughout, their true identities remain secret (from those they meet and from Lessing’s readers), for reasons unfathomable until late in the story.

Among the most powerful sections for me was Lessing’s in-depth description of the physiological changes Mara and Dann endure as they traverse hundreds of miles over a period of months, with little food and only a bare minimum of water to sustain themselves. The drying out of the various bodily tissues, the slow weakening of kidney function and the ensuing process of self-poisoning are frighteningly believable, and lend an air of “the end times” to the story.

I’ll keep Mara and Dann’s secrets to myself, along with most details of Lessing’s vision of the future. The many surprises are part of what makes the book work so well. Suffice it to say that you won’t be bored, and you’ll likely come away feeling that nothing is more precious than hope.