Working until 8PM is not always conducive to participating in the range of events that occur between the 5 o'clock and 8 o'clock hours. Events I typically miss include book signings, church dinners, early concerts, trivia night, and happy hour, . So while I get to sleep in every day, I miss a lot of the good stuff that goes on in Austin, including the Austin Area Interreligious Ministries Spirituality Book Club that I have always wanted to go to, and finally got the chance this past Monday!
If you haven't heard of AAIM and believe in any sort of divine presence, whether as an abstract, theoretical concept, or a blue man with lots of faces, you should consider their mission statement and visiting their website: "Think globally, grow personally / AAIM unites faith and cultural communities to foster respect, partnership and transformation in service of the common good." Congregations of all faiths and beliefs participate in AAIM events, lectures, and holiday celebrations, and the book club on Monday was a great example of that: thirty-seven people from a wide spectrum of religious backgrounds (some of them straight and narrow, others meandering, and everything in between), gathered on the top floor of Book People at 7PM to talk about the Bhagavad Gita with three representatives from the Austin Hindu Temple.
I've read the small book three times between high school and undergraduate school, but that was several years ago, so I was sadly rusty on my memories of the book's substance, aside from the notes I'd penciled in the margins of my copy during a professor's lecture. The basic "plot" of the book is this: there is a Hindu warrior about to go into battle, when Krishna, the avatar of a Hindu god, appears beside him and gives him a semi-lengthy talking to about life and how to best live it. Gandhi was a fan. Most of the questions and discussion centered on the concept of Karma Yoga, or the result of a person's actions, and the necessity of balancing action, inaction, and knowledge. I personally related this to my slothfulness/inaction at getting out of bed in the morning - a few good prostrations with gratitude to the Earth after the alarm sounds might get the blood flowing.
The Gita scholar who led the discussion was Dr. Madhi P. Godsay, and if you have any questions about the Gita or Hinduism, I highly recommend contacting him. His email is: firstname.lastname@example.org. The pastor of my church, Greg McDonell, facilitates the book club and to reach him or get on the AAIM book club email list: email@example.com.
The next book club meeting will be February 8th, and the book selection is What's Right with Islam is What's Right for America.
Pastor Greg sent this clip from Karen Armstrong's forward: "Imam Rauf's book has a positive message. It helps Muslims and Western peoples see a way out of the present impasse, in which atrocity leads to retaliation, attack to counterattack, to preemptive strike and a new spate of terror. If we are to break out of this vicious cycle, we must learn not simply to tolerate but to appreciate one another........The blazing towers of the World Trade center symbolize, perhaps, our collective failure to pass this test. This book shows that the only possible way forward is by the assiduous cultivation of mutual respect. It should be read, but then - even more important - it should be acted upon."
Also, this just in from Pastor Greg: "I am so excited to report that good friend and founder of the Institute for Interfaith Dialog (www.interfaithdialog.org), Gunar Arslan, Ph.D, will be joining us for our discussion on Feb. 8th. I am also in hopes that some of our Muslim neighbors will join us as well."
I doubt I will have that Monday evening off, so please someone go and then report back to me on your thoughts and incites gained from the discussion!
Speaking of mutual respect and karma yoga and loving our neighbors, here is a list compiled by CNN of ways to help Haitians and all affected by yesterday's earthquake: Impact Your World.
If you haven't entered the contest for my bird and jewelry lover's necklace giveaway and want to participate, do so by leaving a comment here!