December 2015: Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande

The December meetings will be at the home of Meredith Hill, 631 Lillian Street (705-748-9592) at 2pm December 10th and tentatively December 24th.

Being Mortal bookcoverOur book for this month is Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should.

Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Gawande reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced. Nursing homes, devoted above all to safety, battle with residents over the food they are allowed to eat and the choices they are allowed to make. Doctors, uncomfortable discussing patients’ anxieties about death, fall back on false hopes and treatments that are actually shortening lives instead of improving them. And families go along with all of it.

Riveting, honest, and humane, Being Mortal shows that the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life — all the way to the very end.

November 2015: The Art of Stillness, by Pico Iyer

This month we will be meeting on the 2nd and 4th Thursday afternoons at 2 pm at the home of Helen Griffen, 1370 Armstrong Drive.

art-of-stillness-9781476784724Our book this month is The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iver.

A follow up to Pico Iyer’s essay “The Joy of Quiet,” The Art of Stillness considers the unexpected adventure of staying put and reveals a counterintuitive truth: The more ways we have to connect, the more we seem desperate to unplug.

Why might a lifelong traveler like Pico Iyer, who has journeyed from Easter Island to Ethiopia, Cuba to Kathmandu, think that sitting quietly in a room might be the ultimate adventure? Because in our madly accelerating world, our lives are crowded, chaotic and noisy. There’s never been a greater need to slow down, tune out and give ourselves permission to be still. . In The Art of Stillness — a TED Books release — Iyer investigate the lives of people who have made a life seeking stillness: from Matthieu Ricard, a Frenchman with a PhD in molecular biology who left a promising scientific career to become a Tibetan monk, to revered singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, who traded the pleasures of the senses for several years of living the near-silent life of meditation as a Zen monk.

Iyer also draws on his own experiences as a travel writer to explore why advances in technology are making us more likely to retreat. He reflects that this is perhaps the reason why many people — even those with no religious commitment — seem to be turning to yoga, or meditation, or seeking silent retreats. These aren’t New Age fads so much as ways to rediscover the wisdom of an earlier age. Growing trends like observing an “Internet Sabbath” — turning off online connections from Friday night to Monday morning — highlight how increasingly desperate many of us are to unplug and bring stillness into our lives.