Longtime Buddhist journalist Katy Butler, author of “A Life Too Long,” began sitting at the San Francisco Zen Center three decades ago. A Tricycle contributing editor, she is best known for articles analyzing the misuse of sexuality and power in American Buddhist communities. “Some people think that Buddhism and journalism must be at odds, but neither one is satisfied with sentimental evasions, wishful thinking, or easy answers,” she says. “Both are penetrating practices requiring critical thinking—and so is living an ordinary life. When my father entered his final decline and medicine’s default response was to keep him alive indefinitely, I could not rest until I understood why.” The result was an article for The New York Times magazine and then a book, Knocking on Heaven’s Door, to be published by Scribner in September 2013.
“Shepherding my father and mother through their final declines, and saying no to their doctors when necessary, was a spiritual ordeal, an increasingly common one for which we have no name,” Butler points out. “At the time, I thought caregiving was taking me away from my ‘real work.’ But it turned out to be my real work, and it deepened my capacity to express love in word and deed.”
Butler has written for The New York Times and The New Yorker, and her essays have been reprinted in The Best Buddhist Writing, The Best American Essays, and The Best American Science Writing. A former finalist for a National Magazine Award and winner of the 2011 Science in Society prize from the National Association of Science Writers, she lives in northern California.
Eugene Richards, whose work accompanies “A Life Too Long,” is a photographer, writer, and filmmaker best known for his writing and photographic essays on drug addiction, poverty in America, breast cancer, and emergency medicine. He is the author of 15 books, including The Blue Room (2008), photographs of discarded and abandoned houses in rural America; A Procession of Them (2008), which confronts the plight of the institutionalized mentally disabled; and War Is Personal (2010), documenting in words and pictures the human consequences of the Iraq war.
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