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The Best Spiritual Writing of 2010

A collection of essays that examine all manner of things spiritual.

The Best Spiritual Writing of 2010
Edited by Philip Zaleski
Penguin Books
251 pp., $16

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It is hard to choose the “best” of any type of writing, but spiritual writing poses a particular kind of challenge: There’s so much to choose from and the range of topics is so varied. In The Best Spiritual Writing of 2010, editor Philip Zaleski’s choices are so all over the map – from the importance of beards to the dangers of the Internet – that no theme emerges. No reader can read these pieces and conclude: This is spiritual writing.

But those who embrace variety will find plenty to sink their teeth into.

In “The God of the Desert,” (first published in Harper’s Magazine), Richard Rodriguez travels to Israel in search of – well, God and a lot of things. “I have come to the Holy Land because the God of the Jews, the God of the Christians, the God of the Muslims – a common God – revealed Himself in the desert.” Rodriguez, with the help of some guides, visits aspects of the desert: the busy streets of Jerusalem, a Greek Orthodox monastery outside Bethlehem, a cave in Qumran in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered 60 years ago by a Bedouin chasing a lost goat.

But Rodriguez fails to find the old Jerusalem, “the city of ossuaries,” he came seeking. “The city that exists is superimposed in some meaty way over the bone city I long to enter. The streets are choked and impassible with life; the air stifling, the merchandise appalling.” The entire essay is a wonderful meditation on the paradox of being a tourist 2,000 years too late.

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