Books Can Speak
Here's what I read this morning in Thomas Merton's book Thoughts in Solitude (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1958):
Reading ought to be an act of homage to the God of all truth. We open our hearts to words that reflect the reality He has created or the greater Reality which He is. . . .
Books can speak to us like God, like men or like the noise of the city we live in. They speak to us like God when they bring us light and peace and fill us with silence. They speak to us like God when we desire never to leave them. They speak to us like men when we desire to hear them again. They speak to us like the noise of the city when they hold us captive by a weariness that tells us nothing, give us no peace, and no support, nothing to remember, and yet will not let us escape.
As an editor, I find this very inspiring. It reminds me of why I care about books of spirituality. There are many writers that can "hold us captive" but tell us nothing. And while such writing can beautiful, memorable and evocative, it doesn't lead to human growth. Indeed it can leave us with the sense of unrest described here.
But how wonderful to be reminded of our calling to read books that draw us into God's presence.
Posted by Cindy Bunch
at February 1, 2008 7:23 AM
Ah, but is not perplexity also a road to growth? To say that the books that fill you with light and certainty are the right ones is to ignore the wisdom that can be contained in a truly challenging book that makes you face up to something you didn't want to know and don't quite know how to answer, yet.
In the noise of the city is suffering and pain and difficult choices which we ought not to ignore but rather try to learn from.
Some books draw us into His presence---so true. Those are books that I like to read over and over again.
But some books help me to understand other humans and their suffering. These help to fill me with thankfulness that I know the God of all Comfort. It also causes me to be more patient with others and helps me to listen more carefully to the burdens of others.
Great comments! Yes, sometimes we need the challenges of different perspectives. It's a balancing act. For myself, I am inspired by the calling to make the type of book Merton describes. That's why I found his statements so meaningful. However, I would never call for an isolationism of the sort that shuts out the world. I believe we are called to live in the world.