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Kevin Hile
Cosmo and Me
Jim Willis, author
Theologian, educator, musician, and retired minister Jim Willis takes readers on a personal journey from the 1950s to the present day, relating stories of his life in concert with his observations of a changing America. His personal religious and spiritual growth offers many parallels with the changes experienced in American society as he seeks spiritual balance and peace of mind while entertaining readers with stories of his professional and personal life along the way.
Willis has lived many lives through the years, as pastor, jazz musician, teacher and writer. In Cosmo and Me, he shares the quest he has been on the whole time—for the Holy Grail, to “experience God,” and what he found. As he is chronologically one of the first Baby Boomers, Willis’s story parallels much of contemporary America’s story, from his time as a youth helping build an early shopping mall to his avoidance of Vietnam through a teaching job to entering the 1980s and a midlife crisis even as the country seems to be going through its own crisis. In his retirement, Willis moved to the wilderness of South Carolina and found what he was looking for—God—in nature.

Willis has faced a lot of pain and beauty in his life, from beloved teachers lost to suicide to the beauty of nature experienced with close friends to a very full career in and out of religious institutions. In Cosmo and Me, he shares the “flowers” of these experiences, including some bold conclusions. While the level of personal disclosure is often high, Willis doesn’t dig too deeply here into some practicalities of his search for God, such as its impact on his children and wives, though he does include several photos which help put faces to the stories that he tells.

Willis closes the stories of his life with a deeply thought out “theory” of just who God is, what the universe is and who people are —even though he warns that these passages may seem to be “a sudden turn to religion or philosophy,” they cohere well with the rest of the text by fleshing out what has been made implicit earlier. However a reader may feel about the specifics of Willis’s spiritual theory, it is well worth considering as hard-won the wisdom of a true seeker. Readers willing to appreciate the experiences of the past will learn much from Willis’s story and spiritual insight.

Takeaway: A seeker’s engaging quest for God over the course of an American life.

Comparable Titles: Ervin Laszlo’s Science and the Akashic Field, Itzhak Beery’s Shamanic Healing.

Production grades
Cover: B-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: B+