Thursday, March 13, 2008

4. Read good books, a little at a time.

Update: see below for Carla's thoughts!

Greetings, again!

Today's poster is on the West Coast, a few hours behind us, so I'll open this thread up for discussion.

I see two very important things here: first, the charge is to read "good" books. What do you consider a good book? I think we would all agree that some of the best literature is not overtly Christian, so what's the criteria for you to pick up a book and read? For me, it's not especially well-defined, but I would say that I generally wait until several people I know and trust have recommended it. I have read (and watched) plenty of things that I wish I hadn't. I try to be more cautious now.

The second thing is the exhortation to read "a little at a time." I am really bad at this. I have been known to stay up all night or neglect any number of responsibilities because I am trying to finish a book -- and I think that no matter how "good" it is, it shouldn't come at the expense of our responsibilities!

Here are some thoughts from our sister Carla:

When I first read my maxim I had to laugh because I feel like that is what I do...with any reading. For reading happens when I go to bed and it usually is a little at a time, a few sentences...maybe a page or two and then I’m asleep! So I thought to myself – wow...I’m already following my maxim!

But, as I thought of this a little more I realize that I don’t usually understand and take everything in on the first read. For me, it takes some soaking in, like a good long bath. And perhaps that is what slow reading is for me – the washing over my mind and thoughts, again and again, as it wipes away the dust of the day.

My soul, too, needs the same care with reading...to say the words out loud, slowly...and then to stop and let the soaking begin. I’m wanting to do this and to do it more often. So, I’m going to make a small change in my daily routine during this Lent. To stop one hour earlier one evening and do some slow reading.

4 comments:

meg said...

Wow, that's a tough one for me. I don't like hearing that I need to read my books more slowly.

But I suppose it's about temperance. Moderation in all things, even in reading good books. What a shame!

As far as what a good book is, I'd say it's a book that touches me deeply in some way and teaches me something. I don't have time to waste on books that don't help me grow.

That said, I echo what you said, Emily, not all "good" books are overtly Christian. Books that are not intended to be Christian can have a deep impact on our spirituality all the same.

Susan said...

Interestingly enough (I think this might have been when we were in Cleveland, my kids were really little and I was very sleep deprived) I confessed to a priest that I wasn't reading anything religious, or the bible - that all that seemed to hold my attention was Reader's Digest - I was reading maybe a story a night. The Priest's response was that that wasn't bad reading. . .
I think what you read (ie. waht is a good book) and how much time is appropriate for you to invest in reading can widely vary thoughout your lifetime.

Carla said...

As I saw the meditation from Carla Brunstead, it occurred to me that there are two of us Carla's on the west coast, and both of us are in fact in Santa Barbara, and we are best of friends! So...in case you might be wanting to distinguish us from each other, I'll add my last name to my comments from now on. :-)
Thanks, Carla Harris!

Debra Mattingly AACPL said...

I'm a little behind in this maxim reading. So I'm doing this little bit of reading Saturday morning. I love to read; I read alot; I don't always read 'good' books; but I do agree that God can use stories to teach us things and they don't have to always be 'Christian' stories. I much prefer stories / fiction to nonfiction but am trying this Lent to read more Orthodox nonfiction. Nonfiction is hard for me to get 'into.' My problem sometimes is that I get "into the book" so deep that nothing else gets done around the house that should be done until I finish the book. So I need to work on the 'a little at a time' part.

The Forty Maxims

  • 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
  • 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
  • 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
  • 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
  • 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
  • 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  • 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  • 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  • 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
  • 10. Be faithful in little things.
  • 11. Do your work, then forget it.
  • 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  • 13. Face reality.
  • 14. Be grateful.
  • 15. Be cheerful.
  • 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  • 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • 18. Listen when people talk to you.
  • 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  • 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  • 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  • 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
  • 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
  • 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  • 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
  • 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  • 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  • 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  • 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  • 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
  • 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  • 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  • 33. Be strict with yourself.
  • 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
  • 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
  • 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  • 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
  • 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
  • 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  • 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.