Why do I exist? Is this all there is? What is my true nature? What is most important in life? How should I live? These are humanity's oldest spiritual questions. At the year 2000, however, many who ask them are profoundly estranged from religion. To some, religion is belief in the unbelievableincompatible with intelligence and learning. To others, it's just another bureaucratic institutionlegalistic, hypocritical, untrustworthy. Still others have been alienated by their birth traditions, while an increasing number lack any such grounding. What unites this diverse group of skeptical, ambivalent "neoagnostics" is a sense of something deep and vital that eludes the reach of their intellect and education and an inchoate desire for meaning. A halfcentury of the great secular experiment of Einstein, Marx, and Freud has proved that if religionthe record of our struggle to understand existence and behave accordinglyhas grave flaws, so do the materialistic "faiths" that were intended to replace it. After looking for answers in some obvious places, from relationships and accomplishment to art and science, Winifred Gallagher realized that she had not seriously considered religion since childhood's version of Christianity collided with a college education. Asking the question "What if religion could be about something else?" she decided to explore her own heritage, as well as Buddhism, Judaism, and the New Age. She discovered a vat, quiet, "millennial" spiritual revolution that is transforming religion into a process of moving towardand struggling withthe sacred. Transcending denominational boundaries, this new sensibility embraces modern realities from physics to psychiatry, addresses existential questions, values personal experience over institutional authority, draws insights from multiple traditions, welcomes women as clergy and teachers, and expands morality beyond the personal to the systemic, from economics to ecology. A reporter of behavioral science, Winifred Gallagher began her investigation of postmodern religion with research and interviews, but watched it also become a very personal story of epektasisstraining toward mystery. Journalism and journey unfold over time spent in a Zen monastery and a cloistered convent, smallgroup discussions and healing rituals, a Conservative synagogue that shares a Christian church, and the birthplace of the New Age. Written with humor, empathy, and a rigorous curiosity, Working on God breaks new ground in depicting the broadbased spiritual movement that is transforming culture as well as religion.From the Hardcover edition.
In Spiritual Genius, journalist Winifred Gallagher, the acclaimed author of Working on God, asks Rabbi Lawrence Kushner to define holiness. "Standing in the presence of God," he says. "Everyone has it, but some people seem to have more of a knack for accessing it." Like holiness, the gift that Gallagher calls "spiritual genius"--which she defines as "the uniquely human ability to search for and find life's meaning, then express it in our lives as only each of us can"--is one we all possess but don't necessarily recognize.
Whether they are called saints, gurus, tzaddiks, or shamans, there have always been people who possess exceptional insight, altruism, and charisma. In this disarmingly inspirational book, Gallagher investigates what ordinary people trying to live decent, meaningful lives can learn from such extraordinary men and women, who are specially attuned to the deepest truths, and who exemplify-and radiate-spiritual genius.
In a clear-eyed, ecumenical approach that's free of dogma and bias and suffused with profound respect, Winifred Gallagher highlights the common wisdom-and down-to-earth good humor-of these religious leaders, revels in their differences, and identifies the capacity for spiritual genius that all of us share with them. On an island in the Arabian Sea, Gallagher visits Mata Amritanandamayi, regarded by devotees as a Hindu goddess, who transmits divine love through hugs and charities. She travels through Americas inner cities with Tony Campolo, an Evangelical preacher who counsels national leaders and serves the poor. She learns how Riffat Hassan, a Pakistani theologian, uses the Qur'an to defend the rights of her Muslim sisters. She journeys to a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas to understand how an exiled minority has enchanted the world with their deep, resilient spirituality. In these diverse lives, Gallagher argues, we can glimpse our own potential for spiritual genius writ large. Each story testifies to the profound good in the world, even during a troubled time, and to Gallagher's groundbreaking theory of a human capacity for finding life's meaning that is nothing less than genius.
A masterful history of a long underappreciated institution, How the Post Office Created America examines the surprising role of the postal service in our nation’s political, social, economic, and physical development. The founders established the post office before they had even signed the Declaration of Independence, and for a very long time, it was the U.S. government’s largest and most important endeavor--indeed, it was the government for most citizens. This was no conventional mail network but the central nervous system of the new body politic, designed to bind thirteen quarrelsome colonies into the United States by delivering news about public affairs to every citizen--a radical idea that appalled Europe’s great powers. America’s uniquely democratic post powerfully shaped its lively, argumentative culture of uncensored ideas and opinions and made it the world’s information and communications superpower with astonishing speed. Winifred Gallagher presents the history of the post office as America’s own story, told from a fresh perspective over more than two centuries. The mandate to deliver the mail--then “the media”--imposed the federal footprint on vast, often contested parts of the continent and transformed a wilderness into a social landscape of post roads and villages centered on post offices. The post was the catalyst of the nation’s transportation grid, from the stagecoach lines to the airlines, and the lifeline of the great migration from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It enabled America to shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy and to develop the publishing industry, the consumer culture, and the political party system. Still one of the country’s two major civilian employers, the post was the first to hire women, African Americans, and other minorities for positions in public life. Starved by two world wars and the Great Depression, confronted with the country’s increasingly anti-institutional mind-set, and struggling with its doubled mail volume, the post stumbled badly in the turbulent 1960s. Distracted by the ensuing modernization of its traditional services, however, it failed to transition from paper mail to email, which prescient observers saw as its logical next step. Now the post office is at a crossroads. Before deciding its future, Americans should understand what this grand yet overlooked institution has accomplished since 1775 and consider what it should and could contribute in the twenty-first century. Gallagher argues that now, more than ever before, the imperiled post office deserves this effort, because just as the founders anticipated, it created forward-looking, communication-oriented, idea-driven America. From the Hardcover edition.
A revolutionary look at how what we pay attention to determines how we experience life Acclaimed behavioral science writer Winifred Gallagher's Rapt makes the radical argument that much of the quality of your life depends not on fame or fortune, beauty or brains, fate or coincidence, but on what you choose to pay attention to. Rapt introduces a diverse cast of characters, from researchers to artists to ranchers, to illustrate the art of living the interested life. As their stories show, by focusing on the most positive and productive elements of any situation, you can shape your inner experience and expand your world. By learning to focus, you can improve your concentration, broaden your inner horizons, and most important, feel what it means to be fully alive.