Unheard Melodies

Why do people want to read faster? Not least because life is short: “So many books, so little time,” as the saying goes. We don’t want to miss something special, especially if we miss it because we simply run out of years. This is understandable, and when such thoughts pass through my mind I can feel a brief rush of panic. But— to anticipate a point to be treated later— it’s rather odd that I tend not to feel the same panic at the thought of not having time to reread books that I already love, even though I know that such rereading will surely be pleasurable. The possible pleasure of an unread book weighs more heavily on me than the sure pleasure of one I already know. “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter.”

Alan Jacobs, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, pg. 70-71

Some of us Most of us need to read more than we do. Yet Jacobs warns us with the distinction between reading for the pleasure of it and reading merely to have read. Those massive lists of BOOKS YOU MUST READ BEFORE YOU DIE can actually stifle our appreciation for good books. We’re too busy trying to get to the next volume.

“Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written,” wrote Thoreau, and the statement is perfect because it lets you skim the chaff. (Be warned, ye Twitter users, taking this dictum to heart will inoculate you against that beloved platform of controversy and snark.)

So go a little slower. My parents would occasionally remind me: “slow down, and chew your food— it isn’t going anywhere!”

Lewis on Growing Up

[I]f we are to use the words childish or infantile as terms of disapproval, we must make sure that they refer only to those characteristics of childhood which we become better and happier by outgrowing; not to those which every sane man would keep if he could and which some are fortunate for keeping.

On the bodily level this is sufficiently obvious. We are glad to have outgrown the muscular weakness of childhood; but we envy those who retain its energy, its well-thatched scalp, its easily won sleeps, and its power of rapid recuperation. But surely the same is true on another level? The sooner we cease to be as fickle, as boastful, as jealous, as cruel, as ignorant, and as easily frightened as most children are, the better for us and for our neighbours.

But who in his senses would not keep, if he could, that tireless curiosity, that intensity of imagination, that facility of suspending disbelief, that unspoiled appetite, that readiness to wonder, to pity, and to admire? The process of growing up is to be valued for what we gain, not for what we lose. Not to acquire a taste for the realistic is childish in the bad sense; to have lost the taste for marvels and adventures is no more a matter for congratulation than losing our teeth, our hair, our palate, and finally, our hopes. Why do we hear so much about the defects of immaturity and so little about those of senility?

C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism

The Sampler (May 2020)

Here’s the Sampler for the month. Don’t worry, I avoided any political babble and COVID-19. For productive, interesting, and valuable content, take a look.

Articles

In writing, the race is not to the swift but to the clear. Clear writing requires clear thinking. This is one reason Rachel and I decided to school our children at home. We all need to write better than we do, and we write more often than we realize. Texts, emails, presentations, thank you cards, and notes for the next meeting all involve writing! We’re all writers, and a little effort goes a long way. Perhaps this is why the New York Times has an article in their “Smarter Living” column entitled:  How to Edit Your Own Writing. It’s quite good.

David Mathis (I’m reading a lot of his articles lately) gives a Christian Hedonist’s take on a theology of exercise:  “How might it change your exercise routine if you did not exercise for mere weight loss, or long-term health, or improved physical appearance, but you did it to enjoy God more?” Mathis shows capable Christian writing on a subject that has intrigued me for years.

Useful

In spite of the cash I spent on Logos Bible Software, I still almost always use Blueletterbible.org when I’m looking up a word or reference in Scripture. It’s free and remarkably easy to use.

Books!

My parents have been passionate about organic and sustainable farming for years. I’m usually skeptical, as wary of the organic industry as the ‘Big Agriculture’ its trying to displace. However, it’s hard to argue with fresh eggs and the satisfaction of eating meat and vegetables you nurtured from start to finish. In the interest of being open minded, I read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food last month. I enjoyed reading Pollan’s insistence that we make food and nutrition much too complicated. He’s able to argue the nutrition science, if that’s your thing, but he prefers to summarize his book in seven words: Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants. I lost three pounds just reading that. Dad, next up is The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

In Defense of Food

Be Still My Beating Heart!

Finally, Matthew Crawford has a new book coming out in June! Why We Drive: Toward a Philosophy of the Open Road

Why We Drive

P.S. Send me any goodies you come across in your travels of the wasteland that is the internet. You can also leave some recommendations in the comments thread.

~BL

 

 

 

It is for your life- John Wesley on Reading

John Wesley read loads of books riding horseback. 250,000 miles.* Imagine the hours spent in solitary (and bumpy) reading and prayer. My back hurts just thinking about it.

Why all the effort? Wesley explained in a letter to a pastor why he should be reading more and how he could do it:

What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading.

I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps by neglecting it you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought.

Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it any more than a thorough Christian. O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterwards be pleasant.

Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way: else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross, and be a Christian altogether. Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you, and in particular Yours, &c.

~ John Wesley in a letter to John Tremboth, August 17th, 1760

Wesley explains why he should read- who wants to be pretty and superficial? He also shows how to get there- meditation and daily prayer.

Your reading will stick with you if you think and pray over it. Sticky reading reciprocally makes you a better reader and a clear-headed thinker. Do that twenty minutes every day for three years and you’ll be a different person. Reading is the gateway to mental depth and focus that we all wish for in our age of distraction. Read to learn, read to think, read to pray- it is for your life!

*Oakes, Edward T. (2004). “John Wesley: A Biography”. First Things.

BL