Wednesday, February 8, 2012

On reading and books

In January 2008 I determined to do more reading.  It wasn’t exactly a resolution, although I suppose the idea was taken for that reason.  I just felt that as I reviewed the last few years, my former habit of reading had fallen off quite a bit, so I made a renewed effort to read again.  I also had to finally acknowledge the need for reading glasses.  It was funny how that happened.  I was sitting up in bed reading and my glasses slid down my nose by accident... and the letters leapt off the page!   Wow!  They were clear and big!  Then it dawns on me - this is the reading glasses phenomenon.  For a guy who has had glasses since I was two years old this was a surprise.  How did I get glasses in the first place you ask?  My Mother told the story like this:  As a toddler I would get hurt and when I went to look for Mom, crying, I would actually walk right into a wall or door post looking for her! 
But what a change all this reading has led to in my day to day thinking!  I completed at least 9 books in 2008, and have several others in process right now.  I have gotten in the habit of reading many different books at a time.  Right now I am reading numerous different books, from several different genres.  In addition to that I have read (not skimmed) numerous pamphlets and internet blogs. 

Ever ask how much or little we read today?  I did a quick Google search on this, “are we reading more or less today” and got more than 4 billion hits (in 2009 I got 34 million hits).   It’s a huge topic that even doctoral dissertations are being written on!  The ongoing debate is whether we are reading less, or whether we are simply moving our reading to the screen, which is harder to quantify. One of the main subjects was the difference in reading a paper object and reading the screen.  I have personally felt that I get more out of an internet blog that is physically printed, so when I see something of length written on the internet that I want to truly understand, I print it out.  Something about the words staying put on the page that’s soothing to the eye, I guess.  I have been reading with the Kindle app though and that seems easy enough.

Recently I have been cleaning out my office at work and part of that endeavor had me throwing away books.  Before you all start rumors that I might like a good old fashioned book burning! (Also, many of those [in Ephesus] who had practiced magic, brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver; Acts 19:18-19) Let me allay your fears - I work as an Information Technology professional by trade.  Over the years I would buy technical books on the details of some now bygone computer system or language.  So I was throwing away about 30 books on the likes of UNIX system Administration, and NT Administration, etc.  As I was tossing them into the dumpster (a paper only dumpster - for all you who like to recycle) I recalled that I have done this numerous times over my 15 year career in IT.  I am not even sure I will ever buy another IT related book again.  Why bother!

Think about all the truly junk reading we do today…  Reading bills, junk mail and much of the internet posts, which have no more value than trivial pursuit.  Not everything is worthy of reading.  One thing I have noticed about serious reading… It’s hard work!  Letting a good writer direct you (and I am not that writer!) to his mind on a subject, takes concentration.  Much of today’s written word is written in such a way as to require little of the reader, except his imagination.  To read C.S Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien, requires a lot of work, and sadly many are not interested in it.  (see http://www.amazon.com/Experiment-Criticism-Canto-C-Lewis/dp/0521422817 for a good read on this subject)

So what are you reading these days, and why?  Ask yourself why you read what you read.  Perhaps you don't read at all.  Why not?  Afraid to be challenged, or just lazy?  In Ecclesiastes 12:12b we read, "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh."  Ought we to abandon the practice?  If what you are reading is valueless, perhaps.  But not all reading is without good purpose.  Without the written Word, where would we be?  We would not even really know about the love of God in Christ.  "And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." (John 21:25) 

One might try to argue the point of using oral tradition - but we have all played 'telephone' as children and know that won't work.  How do we know what we read is true and worthy of our trust?  Look at the books of today... When someone writes something outrageous everyone challenges him about it.  Look up the reviews on "She said Yes" (http://www.amazon.com/She-Said-Yes-Unlikely-Martyrdom/dp/0874869870/ref=cm_rdp_product) for a modern example. 

Think about "The DaVinci Code" written by Dan Brown.  This book is a fiction piece and many have reviewed it, because it contains content of a historical nature which is not true to the actual history.  How do we know that?  Just as there are those today able to refute the errors in Bernall's book, the ideas Brown is espousing were refuted long ago by those living at the time (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inaccuracies_in_The_Da_Vinci_Code). 

As for me, I am reading.   I have read several books on Christian Theology, Politics, History, some historical fiction, and of course, the Bible.  I challenge you to open a few books this year.  They will change your mind, and challenge your thinking.  You might even grow from the experience!
 

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