Tag Archives: Books

Thoughts for Thursday

“Just a Bit of Coloured Paper?”

I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, “I’ve no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God. I’ve felt Him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!”

Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, them map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.

-C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity

Books You Should Read

How many of these have you read?  What about these?  What would you add?

George Saunders and Love

In the tradition of great writers giving graduation speeches, a speech by George Saunders has been going around. It includes a lot of good advice, which boils down to “err on the side of kindness.” It’s lovely and affecting.

I’d like to highlight a couple of paragraphs that I think are helpful to any young adult trying to figure things out. First this:  

“If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers.  We have to do that, to be our best selves.”

This is something I’ve had to learn, and I don’t think I’m alone. Not too seriously, of course, but you are an adult now, and maybe it’s time to stop making all those self-deprecating jokes that hide your insecurities, to stop laughing off all your faults as quirks, and to just do better, because you know you can do better. To some this comes naturally. To others it takes some work.

This is the second thing:

“As you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love.  YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE.”

Which sounds to me a bit like John the Baptist out in the desert shouting “He must increase and I must decrease.” He being Christ, or God, or Love, and I being all the stuff that gets in the way of Love – selfishness and pettiness and anger and hate.

Err on the side of kindness, friends. It’s good advice. Or put another way, Love one another. Do it now. 

God in Proof?

This is a book trailer (they have those now) for Nathan Schneider’s new book, God in Proof. I took a class in college on the philosophy of religion, and found all of the proofs presented thought provoking (though not entirely convincing on their own).

In this Huffington Post piece, Schneider writes, “Despite today’s unending debates about whether God exists or not, few of the classic proofs were meant to convince anyone one way or another. More often, they served to pose more interesting questions.” I think that’s a helpful way to think about proofs of God. I’m looking forward to reading the book.

Reading, Empathy, Religion

I came across this quote earlier today from a short article about Neil Gaiman:

“Fiction is dangerous, Gaiman explained, because ‘it lets you into others’ heads, it gives you empathy, and it shows you that the world doesn’t have to be like the one you live in.’ That imaginative leap into other minds and other worlds is surely the reason many of us read fiction.”

Over at the Christian Century, Enuma Okoro is a little worried about the lack of reading in our culture, and what this could mean for us spiritually. I’m not particularly worried, but I like this:

“It is essential that we read literature without Christian affiliation. Reading in this way invites us into multiple rooms in the mansion of the human condition. It reminds us that regardless of race or religion, social and economic circumstances we share a common humanity stemming from one creator.”

Reading can be a way into other lives. Reading can expand our empathy and our understanding of this world and ourselves. Which sounds like a spiritual experience to me.