Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Praise of Books

"Except a living man there is nothing more wonderful than a book! A message from the dead - from human souls we never saw, who lived, perhaps, thousands of miles away. And yet these, in those little sheets of paper, speak to us, arouse us, terrify us, comfort us, open their hearts to us as brothers." --Charles Kingsley

 The numbers are down. We just don't read anymore. A 2007 AP poll indicated that 1 in 4 adults read zero books last year. Zero books in 12 months! Is it becoming a lost art--an activity for the dusty and aged? 

As a backdrop, books are a rich part of our history. Our founding great, John Adams, of a meager upbringing, attended Harvard. It was here that he "discovered books and read forever." In echo, Thomas Jefferson said, "I cannot live without books."

This post is written in praise of books. There are many posts out there of similar tribute. The following are a few ways that reading has benefited my life.

1. Discovery
In abstract terms, reading is a pathway to seeing new patterns of thought, new ideas, and new understanding. There have been countless times that thoughts or feelings that I have lacked ability to express have been articulated by someone else. I simply had to read it. This, in turn, creates a certain kinship with the hand who penned the thought.

Discovery comes when we uncover knowledge and thought that was previously unseen on the surface. A well-written book of any kind is more than storyline or a repeated stream of information; rather, it is a display of principle, a view of ethics and values. What we read fiction or otherwise, leaves impressions on us.

As we continue reading we will continue making connections. These connections can happen in different forms:  (1) Text to self when we connect what we read with our own life experiences, (2) Text to text when we connect what we are currently reading with what we've already read and, (3) Text to world when we connect what we read to trends in the world around us. Especially as we seek truth, there is great joy in making connections in what we read with what we know and what we now better understand.

This I believe: Our reading should not only allow us to absorb the thoughts of others but create new thought within ourselves.

2. Mental Fulfillment

I'll be honest, books can be daunting--especially the ones that contain over an inch of thickness. Finishing a book is a victory for me. Mentally traveling through the pages of a book from start to finish is very healthy. Our minds need use, continued lubricant, and maintenance. Reading is an integral part of keeping the cog wheels turning. If we don't read and write we end up letting TV and media fill the gap. This results in a lot of empty calories. 

This I believe: Reading will keep a mind sharp into the realms of old age.
3. Fueled Creativity

I've always had this feeling that no one has a monopoly on ideas and thought. It's definitely an even playing field. What cannot be duplicated, however, is the unique nature of the ideas that stem from each and every mind. I have my creative angle and you have yours. Reading allows us to fuel our own mind with a sharper sense of what we believe in and what we are passionate about. Asking questions about what we read can lead to new thoughts and new answers. We can be inspired by a character in literature; we can be lifted by a principle for effective living; we can be added upon in what we already know and see.

Reading is a catalyst for better observation and clear and productive thinking. As we read, we obtain; as we obtain, we create!

This I believe: Reading fuels creativity
4.  We are What We Read

In the end, we read what we are drawn to as we are drawn to what we read. Choose wisely from the great minds what you want to obtain and what you want to become. We become what we allow into our minds.

This I believe: We become what we read. Choose wisely!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Being Content

"Plan, Simplify, Be Strong" --Danel W. Bachman

The world we live in is a noisy place. If we are not careful it will lead to a noisy life. Amidst the daily impulses and itches the challenge lies in maintaining our own calmness and contentment. I do not wish to deeply delve into definition here; I simply raise up a reminder of the power of simplicity in our lives. Sometimes we get so uncomfortable in silence. Other times we see no color in the mundane. Perhaps we lose all the flavor of one day because we wonder what tomorrow is going to bring. The question should not be "What's in it for me?" Rather, we should ask: "What can I offer tomorrow?"

There is great wonder in simple accomplishments. If we can conquer the daily doings with enjoyment then we have taken another step toward contentment. The more steps we take toward loving our lives the less we will move toward the noise that redundantly tries to take us away from ourselves. The noise directs us to be shiny and up-to-date; calmness directs us toward sincerity and good nature--a real sense of who we are.

The pinnacle of contentment will bring us to be a greater friend of what is really true and good in life; it allows us to be a light to others instead of a judge. Contentment allows us to go to bed at night knowing that we made today a victory and not an empty yesterday.