And Live Rejoicing
And Live Rejoicing: Chapters from a Charmed Life: Personal Encounters with Spiritual Mavericks, Remarkable Seekers, and the World’s Great Religious Leaders
by Huston Smith with Phil Cousineau
Novato, CA: New World Library, 2012
Reviewed by Marcia Wakeland
In this second memoir by the venerable theologian and writer Huston Smith, the subtitle boasts that the book recounts “personal encounters with spiritual mavericks, remarkable seekers, and the world’s great religious leaders.” And this is as apt a summary as any.
And Live Rejoicing: Chapters from a Charmed Life is a book of stories about the long spiritual journey of Smith from his childhood with missionary parents in China to his many travels as a professor and researcher of world religions. He chose the title of this memoir from the song “O Happy Day,” and after his sixty years of roaming the globe, studying and experiencing world religions, his personal philosophy can be summed up in this quote from the book’s prologue: “We are in good hands, and in gratitude for that fact we should do everything we can to maximize our human potential for happiness.” The stories themselves are told in a conversational style as Smith recounts everything from being in Tiananmen Square at the time of the massacre to his introduction to meditation and koans in a Buddhist monastery, his rescue from lions by Masai tribesmen and a discussion about the Big Bang with the Dalai Lama.
Love of the spiritual journey is the DNA of spiritual directors and their spiritual directees, and this book challenges, surprises, entertains, and instructs the reader on the rich, diverse, and myriad ways that the peoples of the earth seek God. Reading a tale recounted with respect and wonder, readers will feel they themselves are on the many around-the-world trips that Huston takes with his wife and children. The book is full of wisdom stories, conversations with the great and small spiritual thinkers of our day, and spiritual practices that challenge us to open our hearts and minds to the many ways to honor and worship the Holy.
When asked by his collaborator, Phil Cousineau, if he could compress all his spiritual and philosophical insights into some advice for those searching for meaning in their lives, Smith said quietly, “Follow the light, wherever it may lead.” Cousineau goes on to state, “I trust you will find some guidance here from a trustworthy guide about how to forge your own well-lived and rejoicing life.”
Marcia Wakeland is a Lutheran pastor and spiritual director in Eagle River, Alaska. She directs an outreach ministry called the Listening Post at the Downtown Transit Center in Anchorage.