641: More fresh ideas blossoming from ancient eras, super heroes and old age

his week, we’re celebrating fresh ideas—some of them quite unusual. On Monday, we told you about Brian McClure, a children’s book and a Universal Flag. On Wednesday, we plan to celebrate “Nothing” for a day.
    TODAY, we’ve got three cool books that you’re unlikely to discover on your own—unless someone like ReadTheSpirit points the way …

I. “2000 Years of Mayan Literature”

    If all you know about the Mayans are a couple of crazy references in the disaster movie, “2012,” then you’ve got a vast and wondrous civilization to discover! The prediction of a global ending date in 2012 is, quite simply, a crazy claim attributed by the scriptwriters of “2012” to an amazing civilization in the Americas thousands of years before Columbus showed up.
    In fact, translator and anthropologist Dr. Dennis Tedlock, points out that Mayans were writing down continuous historical records as early as 397 BCE. They were particularly adept at language, math, spirituality and, yes, they did work out calendars that played a key role in that culture. (But, come to think of it—don’t our calendars play crucial roles today, as well?)
    The Mayans also spun their lore around intriguing figures, who you’ll meet in this book, with names like “Sun-Eyed Snake Jaguar.” That figure still is visible on inscriptions today. Of course, there was that cataclysmic confrontation with European culture that nearly destroyed Mayan literary forms—but did not, in the end, thanks to courageous and secretive Mayans who preserved remnants of their literary arts.
    Tedlock’s book is not a page-turning adventure story. It’s a university-press book that took years to produce. It’s a detailed, illustrated guidebook introducing Mayan forms of illustrative writing to modern readers. Tedlock translates ancient inscriptions and a few important texts from more recent centuries as well. If you’re drawn to global cultures, languages and mythology, this is a cool book to explore.
    CLICK HERE to order a copy of “2000 Years of Mayan Literature” by Dennis Tedlock from Amazon.

II. “OUR HERO: Superman on Earth”

     It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s the red-yellow-and-blue rocket fuel that has driven most of the Top-20 grossing movies of all time to global success! Of course, we’re talking here about comic-book superheroes collectively. And, specifically the American archetype is Superman.
    The visitor from Krypton is the focus of the latest volume in Yale University Press’ “Icons of America” series. If you haven’t discovered this rich collection of books, go to a library next time you’ve got a couple of free hours and—enjoy! Previous volumes invite readers to think in fresh ways about: Fred Astaire, the American hamburger, the Empire State Building, “Gone with the Wind” and one-room schoolhouses, among the dozen earlier titles.
    Tom DeHaven, whose alter ego is as an English professor by day, wrote this book-length meditation on Superman. DeHaven is a perfect choice after writing an earlier novel about the early Superman as well as other comic-related books. As he points out in this new book, DeHaven was all over the news media a few years ago when “Superman Returns” was released in movie theaters—as a go-to guy to answer journalists’ questions about Superman.
    ReadTheSpirit has a fair number of readers who are true fans of comics and graphic novels—and, trust me if you’re in that camp of readers, this guy’s the real deal. Yes, DeHaven has logged his time, over the years, standing outside of comic stories in the early morning waiting for the doors to open and certain key issues to be released.
    This book, like others in this Yale series, invites us to read along and “think through” this caped superhero’s enduring role in our culture. A cool experience, indeed!   
    Click here to order “Our Hero: Superman on Earth (Icons of America)” by Tom DeHaven from Amazon.

III. “Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms”

     For all the thousands of books about aging—usually regarded as a problem to solved—there are precious few writers exploring the spiritual gifts of aging. One of those rare and important writers is Missy Buchanan and her newest offering, published by Upper Room Books, is well worth buying. (I wrote as much for the opening pages of Missy’s  new book, so I’ve known about this book from its early stages as a manuscript.)
    Why dwell on aging? Let’s face it: As a nation, we are aging! As much as our Baby Boom generation wants to envision our lives as an endless, youthful adventure—the deep truths of global religious traditions involve aging. Many of our greatest ancient stories don’t make sense without an understanding of maturity and advanced years.
    What Missy points out, over and over again in this new book, is that the ancient Psalmists often were touching on these truths. For this new book, she has written her own contemporary Psalm-like meditations—each one connected with a relevant Psalm from the Bible. And here’s evidence that Missy and her publishers both are thinking wisely about these themes: The book is printed in large type. It’s great if you’re a family member caring for someone who is older—and it’s also a great gift for an older person you love.
    Click Here to order, “Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms,” by Missy Buchanan in Enlarged Print from Amazon.


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