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Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist Paperback – April 14, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist is a walking meditation, faithful in its survey of pantheistic thought, yet grounded in its particular place and time. The book begins not with a creed, but with a map of the Nature Conservancy's Gila River Farm in southern New Mexico, where the author lives in a "little yellow house" not far from one of the few healthy rivers remaining in the American Southwest.
Her stories of Spinoza, Whitman, Quakers, and Hindus are interlinked by a refrain that counts blackbirds, flycatchers, grosbeaks, and wrens during bird banding season. Greek philosophers are accompanied by a chorus of sandhill cranes. Roman stoics and modern cell biologists find themselves at home among stories of the author's family, or the river's mosquito fish and loach minnows. "Everything is interwoven," writes the Roman ruler Marcus Aurelius, "and the web is holy."
"I am in love with Marcus Aurelius," admits Russell, two thousand years later, yet she paints her portrait of his brutal time and life with the same faithful linguistic brush, as she paints scenes of Coots pecking their baby nestlings to death. Russell has not written a sentimental book. Those looking for an idealized naturalism will not find easy comfort.
Yet the view from Russell's porch remains reverent. "Standing in the Light" is a Quaker phrase that captures both the immediacy of religious experience and the difficulty of its explication.Read more ›
The book braids an often riveting history of pantheism with memoir and nature writing. Though the latter was enjoyable, I was most intrigued by the stories of history's pantheists and author's own intimate struggle with her spiritual place in this world.
The title might suggest a little fluff. The reality is quite the opposite. Russell is a scholar. A few moments with your nose in the bibliography offers a window into the extent of her journey. And just as the historical facts are well rooted in hard research, Russell's own personal journey rings with authenticity.
The highest praise I can give this book is that unlike many of its ilk, it offers no easy answers (if any answers at all) to our human struggle. It instead illuminates the landscape, offers the wisdom of one life's journey, and leaves us to face the day as we have faced all our others--though perhaps heartened, and with a more informed respect for the slants of light moving us all forward.
Sharman Russell has an amazing ability to weave the past and present together, like Marcus's web interconnected. This book is rich, deep and delightful. I plan to give copies as gifts this year to family and friends who are "seeking" the light in these dark times. Sharman doesn't gives answers, because she knows there are no answers. Spirituality is not a destination. It is a journey, and she bravely shares hers with us.
It was while sitting on her front porch steps in Silver City, New Mexico, she writes in Standing in the Light, that she finally realized what that word--Light--meant. She sets the scene:
In front of me on my porch step was a strip of grass, a sidewalk, a strip of asphalt, more sidewalk, a stone wall, pine trees and, higher above, electrical wires. Cars drove by. A raven gurgled. White clouds floated in the blue sky.
No all-consuming fire. No pillar of cloud. No voice from heaven. Just ordinary life. And then, she continues:
I had my epiphany: "The Light is all this," I said to myself. The Light was the steps, the street, the raven, the sky. The Light was everything, the universe conceived-of-as-a-whole, mysterious and material and right here.
For readers familiar with mystics of any tradition, what Russell is describing is a "unitive experience," a transient certainty that one is part of a great whole. Occurring "out of time and space," the experience nevertheless conveys a sense of holy presence, a sacredness of place right here, right now. But that is only part of the paradox. Life-changing as it is, this mystical awareness is also ineffable; try as she might, the writer can find no words to describe it. And yet, she continues to try.
Part memoir, part spiritual autobiography, part history of philosophy, Standing in the Light might be more aptly subtitled My Life as a Seeker Who Wonders How Pantheism Developed and How It Fits into the Quaker Faith.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What an incredible journey into the life of a Pantheist. And the journey is made easy by virtue of the author's beautiful writing. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Allen Johnson
Sharman Apt Russell has given readers a thorough, almost unrelenting meditation on nature, deity, history, and life. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Apple
"I believe, without a doubt, in an interconnected universe", says Russell. "Any faith I have in a sacred interconnected universe is hard-won". Read morePublished 14 months ago by Jim Watts
I love finding books tucked away in the nook of an old bookstore. And I love taking a chance on a title I'd never even heard of but looks interesting. Read morePublished 21 months ago by HMP Street Dharma
I have read Sharman's other books and loved them. I liked this less, though I love her writing style. It wasn't as revealing of new ideas as I had hoped.Published on July 9, 2014 by Amy Ryberg
A wonderful book, part religious and philosophical history, part biography, part natural history, part spiritual exploration, all woven together in a brilliant tapestry.Published on August 2, 2013 by David Anthony Sam
A very personal story of the search for meaning, but one that is interesting for anyone who's ever been on a similar path.Published on August 14, 2012 by Linda