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October Reader's Den: "Buddhaland Brooklyn" by Richard C. Morais - Week 4

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Welcome back to the October 2013 edition of the Reader's Den!

For week 4, we read pages 138-197 (chapters 9-12), of Buddhaland Brooklyn by Richard C. Morais, a continuation of this year's New York theme. It is not too late to join the discussion!

Remember that you can catch up with us and comment on any of posts at anytime in the future. If you need a copy of the book, then you can reserve one through the NYPL catalog. The book is available in both print and electronic formats. If you already have a copy, then feel free to join the discussion. There are a few questions at the end of this post, but, as always, feel free to discuss any points that came to mind as you read the book.

"It is impossible to know, when tensions mount between competing tectonic plates, what final tipping point creates the quake's cataclysmic fissure ripping through the earth's crust, sending whatever was molten and down below spewing up to the surface. In my case it wasn't one thing, but a series of pressures bearing in on me from different places".

Group Theatre, Digital ID th-17643 , New York Public LibraryOda's mental state continues to become more fragile. In this section of the book, his state of mind vacilates between periods of overwhelming pleasure, intense malaise, and feined indifference regarding his inability to cope. The extremes threaten to push him to his breaking point.

Oda faces mounting stress from both his priestly duties and interpersonal relationships. He moves into his new leadership position and takes charge of the temple construction. It is also during this time that Oda begins to make himself more available and open to his congregation as well as his neighbors. He learns to enjoy their company and finds ways to connect with them on more personal level. Oda is surprised to find that the believers emotional lives are not so different from his own. Though they appear haughty and confident on the outside, he learns that they often hide the emotional pain caused by life's traumas. This revelation aids him in accepting their perceived shortcomings and brings him a renewed sense of purpose as their spiritual leader. To remedy the situation, he leaves behind his attitude of condescension and superiority. He approaches his work with renewed vigor and purpose. Oda attends numerous social gatherings, visits the believer's homes to consecrate their altars, and makes a great effort to be more personable. Though he often expresses pleasure as a result of his positive interaction with others, he is also mentally and physically exhausted for days afterward.

Bennett Durand. 231 Washington Ave., 3rd floor, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. May 7, 1978., Digital ID 1563671 , New York Public LibraryOda's personal life also undergoes drastic change, and he is forced to confront his long-buried feelings concerning his family. Teh believers and his neighbors include him in the everyday intimacies of everyday family life. However, Oda only has a low threshold for emotional availability; his habit for solitude does not ever truely dissipate. When Mrs. Colonese, Mr. Giuseppe's mother, dies, Oda witnesses the family's mourning process but does not participate. Similarly, when Oda visits Michael in the psychiatric facility, he remains distant and uncomfortable in the face of intense emotions. His relationship with Ms. Jennifer  shifts as she becomes more than his assistant, and the two connect on several levels. How much longer will Oda be able to maintain the delicate balancing act of providing emotional support to the believers yet ignoring his own emotional needs? The stifling heaviness closes in on him more with each attempt to turn away from his emotions. 

Week 4 Questions:

  1. The relationship between Ms. Jennifer and Oda develops on several levels. Did Oda and/or Ms. Jennifer take advantage of their closeness? Is their relationship healthy and sustainable under these conditions? Would their relationship be sustainable under any other conditions given both of their backgrounds? Discuss.
  2. In reference to the quote at the beginning of this post:"It is impossible to know, when tensions mount between competing tectonic plates, what final tipping point creates the quake's cataclysmic fissure ripping through the earth's crust, sending whatever was molten and down below spewing up to the surface. In my case it wasn't one thing, but a series of pressures bearing in on me from different places."  What are Oda's "tectonic plates"? And in your opinion, what was his "final tipping point"? Or has he even reached that point yet?
  3. How does Oda's apparent lack of willingness to allow himself to feel hinder his effectiveness as a priest? Or does it? How does it affect his quality of life? Is he really living to his full potential? Has he pushed his emotions aside for so long that he is incapable of rediscovering them? Discuss.

Feel free to comment on any other points of interest or to pose your own questions.

Revisit past weeks to see what you missed or to continue the discussion.

There is one more week left in October 2013! Next week, we will finish the book (pages 198-240; chapters 13-15).

If you missed any previous Reader's Den discussions it is not too late to join in on those discussions now.

I look forward to your comments and insights.

Happy reading!

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