Tuesday, May 11, 2010
The spiritual practice of reading
"In accumulating property for ourselves or our posterity, in founding a family or a state, or acquiring fame even, we are mortal; but in dealing with truth we are immortal, and need fear no change or accident. The oldest Egyptian or Hindu philosopher raised a corner of the veil from the statue of divinity; and still the trembling robe remains raised, and I gaze upon as fresh a glory as he did, since it was I in him that was then so bold, and it is he in me that now reviews the vision. No dust has settled on that robe; no time has elapsed since that divinity was revealed. That time which we really improve, or which is improvable, is neither past, present, not future."
Henry David Thoreau, Reading
I started reading a little book entitled The Widsom Of Thoreau and I have been blown away by some of what I have been reading.
Thoreau was a naturalist in the modern tradition and we, supposedly, have moved on to the postmodern notion of there being no truth, but I understand what Thoreau is getting at when he points out that reading the "truth" in the classics is as fresh today as the day it was written.
Of course, the recognition of that "truth" seems to be in relatively short supply. The "truth" is understandable only to those who comprehend what is written and this takes a training, Thoreau writes, as vigorous as any athlete.
"To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object. Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written."
I enjoy reading and it is almost, if not, a spiritual practice. The thoughts and ideas of wise and reflective people lift my spirits immensely.
Unitarian Universalism is a thoughtful religion which seeks the truth in a free and responsible way. I would guess that one of the most important spiritual practices of Unitarian Universalists is reading.
There are so much nonsensical and trivial books being published these days that it is hard to winnow the grain from the chaff. This is another reason that a good book is so precious and while not necessarily a commercial success is a treasure.
I comment on books I have really liked on this blog. I hope that you will share not only your favorite books but a comment about why that book spoke truth to you whether it is fiction or nonfiction.