Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reading

"A couple of quotes from books I read during my years at Regent College, just because it's Thursday and I feel like it.

"There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the Spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent ready a good day? But a life spent reading--that is a good life. A day that closely resembles every other day of the past ten or twenty years does not suggest itself as a good one. But who would not call Pasteur's life a good one, or Thomas Mann's?"  Annie Dillard, The Writing Life.

I love this quote because I have spent so many, many days of my life reading, especially as a child.  Certain adults around me--my grandmother, to be precise--chided my siblings and me for reading when there were other (and in her mind, better) things to do. "Why are you wasting your time reading?" she'd ask, when my sister and I sat in the shade on a hot summer afternoon at our cabin on Whidbey Island, enjoying some lovely story, and the trees above us and the imagination expanding us.  But my grandmother's voice would cut through all that expansive world in which I'd been dwelling, so, with a deep sigh, I'd put down the book and go find something better to do.

But the thing is, there really wasn't anything better.  Not to me.  I might have felt guilty about it, but that 'only reading' made everything else seem like a waste of time until I could get back to my book.  It may have been greed, as Dillard says, but now I believe I wouldn't live any other way, that a life without books would be to 'inhabit tiny worlds', as CS Lewis says.  I could not live there.  I want the larger, good life that shares with what has gone before and enlarges me.

"..But out here in the country you can walk all day and all the next day with an unanswered question in your head: you need never speak until you have made up your mind." CS Lewis, The Pilgrim's Regress.
I like this quote.  I know that Lewis meant it to be about Reason waiting for evidence before voicing an opinion, but taking it out of context I think there is another truth here. Christians often try to speak too quickly, using platitudes to voice what they do not comprehend.  It's like we're afraid to admit we don't understand or have all the answers or even have a single doubt in the smack dab middle of our faith.  And we do. We all do.  Of course we do.  So this sentence speaks to me, and reminds me that it's okay to have questions in my head, to just wait before speaking what I don't know.*  To wait before speaking at all.  This is very important for me to remember because I so easily speak up.  Let me--ME--just walk all day with an unanswered question in my head and not be afraid of question or the silence not speaking brings.

*My all-time favorite note from a professor was written beside this sentence, which was this "...But unlike many who 'just speak up', you usually have something to say!"

Of Being
I know this happiness 
is provisional:

     the looming presences--
     great suffering, great fear--

but ineluctable this shimmering
of wind in the blue leaves:

this flood of stillness
widening the lake of sky:

this need to dance,
this need to kneel: 
         this mystery.

Denise Levertov, The Stream and the Sapphire hat n the midst of crisis, or in that vacuum of waiting for it, where misery becomes normal, but the other shoe will drop and it will hurt again; when for no earthly reason, there is a leaping  within, a sense of presence and joy that I wasn't looking for, or expecting, in that place of gloom, but there it is.  It's a mystery, a sacred moment, even when I'm not aware of God.  But it points to Him. Sometimes it's just the simple pleasure of taking a walk in the rain after being cooped up with a sick child all day that loosens the clench of suffering. Other times it's bigger: the radiance of a sunset of the ocean, or maybe unexpected words of love from my adult children that lead me into this mystery, but whatever does it, it is JOY, the joy of which CS Lewis wrote, that people seek their whole lives, that make life worth living.  Worth all the pain we have.

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