Reading can be Difficult
Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
I spent much of last week moving my books from my office at the Staff College to my new one across town. Mind you, these are not my only books, just the ones I have in my office because I have no room for them at home. But as I moved them I was again reminded just how important that they are to me.
No matter where I am I live my life surrounded by books. I prefer real books, I love turning pages, marking my place, and picking up where I left off. Of course I also use my Kindle app on my iPad mini and I have quite a few books on it. It’s handy for when I travel and sometimes the prices cannot be beat for hard to find or out of print books.
I usually am reading three to six books any given time, usually with one or more of my Papillon puppies, usually Izzy, but sometimes Minnie or our youngest, Pierre, at my side. Groucho Marx one remarked “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” I am sure that is a true statement but having never attempted to read a book inside a dog I can only base my knowledge on the observation of Vetrinarian science and Groucho Marx, but That being said there are some times when the pups can make trying to read a challenge, but I digress…
Honestly I cannot imagine life without books or my dogs, both have been a source of solace to me. I find that books allow my imagination to grow independent of the needless urgency of cable news and the mindlessness of much of what we call entertainment. Barbara Tuchman wrote:
“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”
This is important as books do more for us, our culture, and our knowledge than any number of films, television shows, or news specials. A good author can paint the pictures of people, places, and events so well that when you actually go there, as if by a sixth sense you know where you are going and you can see the events transpire before your eyes. I hope that what I write may be so well written that no pictures are necessary to convey images that I present. There are those that say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I would say that sometimes a well written sentence or paragraph is worth more than a million pictures.
Back in 1996 I led a number of history tours to Wittenberg, Mainz, Worms, and Heidelberg to study Martin Luther and the Reformation in Germany. This was before there was much on the internet and before most people had reliable access to it, so all there were were books. As we walked through Wittenberg it came alive, and as I described the events at each place I had a number of people ask how many times I had been there. My comment to each was that though it was my first time there I had read so much that I could see the events and the places in my mind’s eye long before I ever walked the narrow street from the Schlosskirche to the Luther Oak. I had the same kind of experience at Marburg Castle where Luther held his futile discussions with Swiss Reformation leader Ullrich Zwingli, as well as many other historical sites, including Gettysburg with which I am so familiar. The work of so many historians to paint portraits with their words makes it so easy to visualize people, places, and events by just closing ones eyes and opening ones imagination. I think that sometimes our nearly limitless amounts of pictures and videos serves to limit our imagination.
Judy and I have been watching Ken Burns Civil War this weekend, of course with Minnie, Izzy, and Pierre all about us; but what has struck me were the descriptions of the conflict by those who witnessed it. The written descriptions of leaders, soldiers, slaves, battles, and what were then technological marvels by those who were there are more than amazing, especially since photography was in infancy during the war and film or video not yet imagined.
So for now I will say have a good day, and if you can please take the time to turn off the television, stop surfing the internet, and pick up a good book.