The concrete and excellent impact which “books” have had on my life…

If you think that reading books just closes you off from the world, making you impractical and impersonal, you should consider what effect interactive, thoroughly involved and participatory reading has had in my life.

1- it introduced me to Spiritual inwardness and much wisdom

2- it helped guide me through no small depression and into action and purposeful life

3- in particular, it led me to volunteer several times and later work two summers at a Summer Camp for people with Special Needs, Camp Barnabas. This was no small feat for a shy, sheltered young man who knew at the time nothing about caring for others or about people with special needs. This in turn led me to be a team leader / staff supervisor at a small Summed Camp in New Mexico (which I thoroughly surprised myself by making not a terrible job of). And these experiences have certainly taught me a variety of excellent skills both practical and people-based (and self-based, like fear-management, which started in many ways with C. S. Lewis and led to volunteering at Barnabas, then working on their team that was in charge of the Rockwall, zipline, and ropes course, and so on — this was supplemented by Kierkegaard, Donald Miller, Dostoyevsky, Pascal…). Come to think of it, the inward life that books taught me, or that I embraced and learned through books, perhaps I ought to say, also provided me with the courage to pursue the possibility of the great, outrageous, living beauty who is my wife now. (Much of this also involved a long-time conversation with God, but the role of “books” generally is undeniable in all my major life decisions, which I value very much and do not believe have been foolish, at least in God’s eyes.)

4- it has helped make dull moments and dull jobs more meaningful or at any rate less dull; by 1st helping me to understand how mundane things tie into the big picture of the universe, humanity, and God in a way that is meaningful to me. Work and the very fabric of this world, however mundane, are holy and good and your conscious perspective about them affects your ability to be bored or exultant. Or 2nd by giving me plenty to think about, poetry and philosophy to learn and recite and dwell on, even while, or perhaps especially while, at work.

5- it has helped me connect with people who have similar thoughts and feelings, even though they may never have seemed to in the first place or never had the same way of thinking about it; it has helped me connect with people who are different from me.

I could go on. “Books” will not close you off to the world anymore than anything else, and, if you let them, if you work with them, they can help you make your life into something practical, beautiful, thoughtful, helpful, and Godly.

(My father and others also helped immensely with all of this, but this post is specifically about the influence of “books,” read with thorough involvement, like I said. If you don’t believe me, it’s your loss.)

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“Whose Rage Might Be Bottomless”

Ryan Ellington

Rembrandt_Christ_and_the_Woman_Taken_in_Adultery Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery by Rembrandt

All who held stones,
heavy, thirsty after blood,
felt well that it was time to depart–
dropped what treasure lay
sinister in their grip.
Ashamed at what?
God knows.
Set forth to where?
Even God knoweth not.

Moved incurably by one statement
no one should even make sense of:
“He who is sinless among you,
let him be the first to throw a stone upon her,”
a non-sequitur, to be honest.
Is she less guilty if the high priest has a penchant for buggery?

But all the men with their girded up loins
knelt low, from humility or necessity,
(who knows? What even became of them?)
picking up their cloaks to return to their wives
till only one remained,
one without sin
whose rage might be bottomless,
as far as she knows,
that temptress, or devil, or victim, or kid.

There…

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