December 2019

‘Read, watch, listen’: TGO’s top picks for the Christmas season

Roll on the Christmas season! For our last Edition of 2019, TGO has gathered recommendations from some of our readers and writers on what to read, to watch, and to listen to during the festive season. There is something for everyone.

Read on for a list of recommendations that are sure to nourish your mind and spirit.

Recommended by Marie Milne

Read: In the Shelter – Finding a home in the world by Pádriag Ó Tuama.

Watch: The Eulogy (in cinemas).

Listen: The Glad Tomorrow (CD) by Katie Noonan & Australian String Quartet.

Australian singer-songwriter Katie Noonan’s latest album The Glad Tomorrow immerses the listener in a marriage of voice and instruments that is truly sublime, while providing a bridge of cultural, historical and spiritual significance. Inspired by the evocative words of Indigenous poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Noonan’s hope for the project was to provide a musical conduit for many others to discover the work of this creative visionary and to embrace her dream of equality for all. In a convergence of talent that is quite exceptional, ten of Australia’s finest classical composers brought the poet’s words to life – producing compositions that evoke the original lyric’s sense of fragility and power, of light and of darkness. The innate musicality of the Australian String Quartet and Katie’s ethereal vocals echo the cries of pain and hope in every nuanced phrase, while Oodgeroo’s great-granddaughter Kaleenah Edwards’ recitation of each poem in the Jandai language (translated by Oodgeroo’s grandson) gives this album an authenticity that magnifies its genius.
This is an album of inestimable beauty in which the past holds hands with the present, so as to point a way to a hope-filled future. “To our fathers’ father / The pain, the sorrow; / To our children’s children / the glad tomorrow.” A Song of Hope – Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Recommended by Sally Neaves

Read: Consciousness V Catastrophe by Gillian Ross.

Gillian Ross, evolutionary spirituality teacher and author of popular ABC meditation and yoga recordings, has created a comprehensive guide on the next phase of human evolution.
Dedicated to “all those souls who are listening to the cry of Earth and discovering the path of Sacred Activism”, Consciousness V Catastrophe is based on the premise that at this time in history “consciousness finds itself in a race against catastrophe”. If we are to address the fundamental causes of the planetary crisis upon us (namely our separateness from each other, from nature, from our own inner wisdom and spiritual nourishment), we first need to take a “giant evolutionary step into a new way of seeing and feeling and being”.
Through mapping the diverse insights from the mystical tradition of all faiths, the universe story, human development theorists, systems thinkers, proponents of spiral dynamics, and more, Ross arrives at a unitive thread – an essential call for our times: we humans must awaken, individually and collectively, to the next threshold of consciousness that awaits us. Ross then goes on to give us the tools to make a start.

Watch: The Hidden Promise of Our Dark Age | Bioneers by Joanna Macy (Youtube).

Listen: Thresholds (podcast).

Recommended by Natalie Acton

Read: How Powerful We Are, Behind the Scenes with one of Australia’s Leading Activists by Sally Rugg.

Watch: The Heights (ABC iView).

Listen: Dolly Parton’s America (podcast).

Journalist, Jad Abumrad observed that at a time when America has never seemed more divided, there was a place where people from all diverse strands of American life seem to unify: a Dolly Parton concert. In the nine part series, Jad examines why Dolly Parton’s music resonates so strongly with people of differing political persuasions, race, sexual orientation and social status. The podcast considers themes such as feminism, the capacity of music to give voice to the experience of women, the origin and impact of stereotypes, the power of forgiveness, and the universal concepts of the longing for home and freedom. As a person who grew up listening to country music, I have always enjoyed the music of Dolly Parton. This podcast was completely engaging as it navigated the history of country music, the American South, and considered the contrasts that exist at the very heart of what it is to be – or to be captured by – the person and music of Dolly.

Recommended by Pam Grey SGS

Read: Wabi Sabi, written by Mark Reibstein and illustrated by Ed Young. Suitable for adults and children.

Watch: As it is in Heaven (DVD). Swedish with English subtitles.

Listen: #ChilledPiano (CD), Music Lab Collective.

Listening to the music from this double CD is like riding a wave to shore, floating on a cloud, watching the night sky filled with fireworks, and then finding yourself gently humming to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. This collection of music stirs both memory and imagination and perhaps a tear or two. It features both contemporary and classical cover arrangements of popular music featuring Saint Saens, Secret Garden, Pachelbel, McCartney, Katy Perry, Cold Play, Bach, Yiruma, Grieg, Olafur Arnalds and others. The music is great for long journeys and will ensure that you arrive feeling quite jaunty!

Recommended by Elizabeth Brennan SGS

Read: The Unmourned by Meg and Tom Keneally, Book Two, The Monserrat Series.

For some years I have journeyed in, through and around the historical sites and stories of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct. What an absolute joy it has been to discover that Meg and Tom Keneally have launched a crime series interweaving historical facts with imaginative and engaging crime fiction. The Unmourned tells the story of a gentleman convict detective and his delightfully astute housekeeper, an illiterate Irish woman and the brains behind the investigation, as they uncover the truth about the murder of Robert Church – the cruel, carnal superintendent, the ‘monster’ of the Parramatta Female Factory.
The detailed research by the authors gives the reader an insight into the life of the Female Factory and the social and political forces at play in colonial times. Cited in this novel is the suffering of the convict women, whose children were taken away from their mothers and placed in orphan schools from an early age.
Historically many young mothers – incarcerated for minor crimes, deprived of their children, underfed, subjected to harsh physical work – are broken by the system; some of these women we meet in this story.
Once you have begun, this is a story you cannot put aside. Meg and Tom Keneally have committed themselves to twelve books in this series. Be prepared for a terrific read.

Watch: Patrick Melrose (ABC iView).

Listen: Socrates Garden composed by Australian Graeme Koehne and performed by the Skride Quartet (heard on Radio National, soon to be released).

Recommended by Evan Ellis

Read: Leaders Eat Last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t by Simon Sinek

Watch: Our Planet, David Attenborough (Netflix)

Listen: This American Life (podcast)

This American Life is something of an institution when it comes to podcasts. A weekly public radio show that first aired in 1995, it has grown into a broadcasting behemoth; 2.2million people tune in each week on radio, while another 2.5million people download it as a podcast.

The format is simple. Each week host Ira Glass introduces the theme of the show: Halloween, coincidences, summer camp, etc. She then explores it through a series of ‘acts’ – whether they be stories, poetry, investigative pieces, or snippets of stand-up comedy.

In September 2016 they ran an episode called “One last thing before I go”. It centred around saying goodbyes. The first act takes us to Otsuchi, Japan, which was practically wiped out in the 2011 tsunami that ravaged Fukushima. A young man who lost his cousin installs a disconnected telephone booth on a cliff, creating a space where he can talk to his cousin and air his grief. The next 22 minutes is a profound meditation on grief, loss and the relationship between the living and the dead, as people from the Otsuchi and neighbouring towns make the pilgrimage to the telephone booth to call their dead wives, husbands, children, and loved ones.

Recommended by Gabrielle Sinclair

Read: How to Live: What the Rule of Benedict teaches us about happiness, meaning and community by Judith Valente

Anticipating Judith’s visit to Australia in 2020, I was keen to finish my copy of How to Live – which I was gifted earlier in the year – and it did not disappoint. Judith, a self-confessed workaholic, struggles, like many of us, to curate regular prayer time and space for reflection in the busyness of life. Her writing navigates with ease and beauty The Rule of St. Benedict and brings into sharp focus the finer details of how one may actually ‘live’ the ancient wisdom in this particular chaotic moment in time.

Whether The Rule is as familiar as the back of your hand or you are a relative newcomer, How to Live provides an opportunity for renewal. Reflection questions are tucked at the end of each chapter encouraging the reader to ponder their own experience, strengths and shortcomings. Imbued with the hearty no-nonsense gravitas of Benedict, Judith weaves humour, life experience and her humble offerings into her new book. A thoroughly enjoyable light read and an invitation to dig deeper.

Watch: Mindhunter (Netflix) or Derry Girls (Netflix)

Listen: Another Name for Everything (podcast)

Recommended by Nichol Plumbe

Read: ‘The Ocean is broken’ (Sydney Morning Herald).

Photo: Brian Yurasits | Unsplash

In 2003, Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen was interviewed about the devastation he encountered in the Pacific, while sailing from Melbourne to Osaka. Ivan had made this same journey and sailed the exact same route in 2003 and in this interview he detailed the haunting contrasts and changes that had occurred in the short 10-year-period.

He spoke of the distressing absence of life at sea: “There were no fish, no birds, in fact, there was hardly a sign of life.” He spoke of boat crews overfishing the waters: “They just trawled that reef day and night and stripped it of every living thing.” And he spoke of the overwhelming abundance of garbage in the ocean: “I could see that the debris isn’t just on the surface, it’s all the way down… It was like sailing through a garbage tip.”

This article has stayed with me and haunted me. It is unbelievable the difference those ten years made. What is perhaps more frightening is the question, how do our oceans look now, another six years on?

Watch: Secret Life of 4-Year-Olds (10play).

Listen: Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia (podcast).

Recommended by Monica Dutton

Read: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.

Some stories stay with you long after you have finished reading them. They somehow shake you up, seep into your soul and become a part of how you view the world. Richard Flanagan’s Man Booker Prize winner Narrow Road to the Deep North is one such novel. The story traces the life of fictional Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans from his early life in Tasmania, through the horrors of his time on the Burma Railway to his later life in Sydney. The tragic loss of his one true love leads to a series of unfulfilling relationships and ultimate despair. While being lauded for his bravery and virtue, Dorrigo struggles to come to terms with the notoriety, feeling at once inadequate and fraudulent. The story moves fluidly across decades, locations and perspectives, providing a complex and mesmerising narrative. Flanagan’s literary skill is extraordinary. His quiet and understated subtlety is both powerful and haunting. An absolutely captivating novel in which love, life, death, light and darkness are explored with unrivalled passion, skill and ingenuity.

Watch: Total Control (ABC iView).

Listen: Helen Garner at 75: still asking, what powers the human heart? (ABC Conversations).

The Good Oil

‘The Good Oil’, the free, monthly e-journal of the Good Samaritan Sisters, publishes news, feature and opinion articles and reflective content which aims to nourish the spirit, stimulate thinking and encourage reflection and dialogue about contemporary issues from a Good Samaritan perspective.

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