Cloth $30
176 pages, 7" x 10", Introduction, heavily illustrated, notes, recommended resources

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Meditations in Monochrome

Bazyn, Ken

Here you’ll find a weekly devotional for Christian disciples of all stripes, but with a different twist—it is a series of brief spiritual ruminations accompanied by black-and-white photographs, so you can meditate on the verbal and the visual at the same time—synesthesia! The more senses entangled up in a memory, the more likely we will make it our own. Each week you’ll encounter a Scripture reading, a recommended hymn, a lead-in quotation, probing comments on the selected theme, and a closing prayer. These all work together to create an “ambience” which promotes spiritual growth.

A question may be raised, a concrete exercise suggested, a new set of priorities called for, or some unusual juxtaposition offered. Among the topics considered are “Baptizing What’s Pagan,” “The Virtue of Humor,” “Speed, Our Master?” “Imagining Eternity,” “Lions vs. Doves,” “Despising What We Do Not Understand,” “A Dream Diary,” “Fed on Sweets Too Long,” and “Giant of a Double-Nature.” The discussions are not meant to be exhaustive, but represent a potpourri of vital concepts.

Material has been culled from world literature and major church figures, whether Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant as well as a variety of disciplines (e.g., sociology, psychology, anthropology, physics). You’ll discover an entry from Sei Shonagon’s pillow book along with an exercise for carrying out a self-inventory; a description of how the Aztecs conducted warfare near Isaiah’s views on idolatry; the science of the butterfly effect compared to Brother Lawrence's approach to spirituality; a quotation from Booker T. Washington coupled with ancient Palestinian fishing techniques. Theology, literature, ethics, and spirituality are interwoven together as in Scripture itself. Each piece is held together loosely, as in a kaleidoscope rather than a focused beam, allowing room for serendipity. The diversity of authors widens the reader's horizon as to who are the true spirit-bearers.

The photographs range from the pensive to the humorous, manikins to real people, flora to fauna, street scenes to pastorals, contrasty shadows to high noon brightness. Monochrome is out of sync with today’s technicolor extravaganzas, so the images allow the reader to pause and reflect. If taken too literally, they may seem narrow or eccentric, but understood with a degree of latitude, can set the mind spinning. There is no required sequence in reading the book; the topics are arranged alphabetically by their headings. Each photo can stand alone, so readers may immediately grasp any passage they happen upon. These verbal-visual interminglings are meant to lead the reader to mini-epiphanies.

Ken Bazyn is long-time editorial director of Religious Book Club. He has written The Seven Perennial Sins and Their Offspring and edited two anthologies: The Best of Paul Tournier and You and Yours. He has published articles in 40 periodicals from Commonweal to Dialog; too, his photographs have appeared in 45 magazines. His most recent book is Gospel Midrashim: Poems on the Life of Jesus.