Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

The Clean Sea Breeze of the Centuries

Perhaps my favorite Preface of all time is that by C. S. Lewis for On the Incarnation by Athanasius. Here’s an example, on why we should read old books:

“Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.”

Categories
Every Thumb's Width

One Friend at a Time

“I can only handle one friend at a time.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that. Not all friendships are equal, not all require the same amount of attention or effort or time, but the nature of friendship does not limit anyone to only mono-friendship any more than the nature of a flower limits how many can make a bouquet.

My point is not about friendship, but about reading, and fiction especially. In the podcast I mentioned yesterday, the Admiral said he tries to only be reading two books at a time. I frequently hear people say that they can only handle reading one book at a time. It may be true for the moment, but also not necessary.

It is possible to increase your capacity to hold on to multiple story lines. I read two to four pages of The Pilgrim’s Progress to my kids during breakfast on Sunday mornings. I read one to two hours of The Fellowship of the Ring to Mo and the kids on Sunday afternoons (often with a Mariner’s game playing on the TV on mute). I was reading The Last of the Lost Boys some evenings for the kids (until we finished that a week ago). And I was plodding through Moby Dick on my own for 10 minutes a day while running on my treadmill.

I never confused Ishmael for Sam, or Sam (Miracle) for Sam (Gamgee) for that matter. I did not forget that Hopeful and Christian were not on a ship, or that Ahab’s journey was aimed away from the Celestial City.

Do you need to read more than one book at a time? No. Does each book require the same amount of attention and effort? Of course not. Can you hold on to a plethora of plots and characters at the same time? Maybe not as easily at first, but you definitely can increase your capacity if you want to and get to work.

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

The Leader’s Bookshelf

I listened to this Art of Manliness podcast on The Leader’s Bookshelf. The host was interviewing Admiral James Stavridis, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (that really is some title) who had surveyed a number of generals and admirals to find out their recommendations for books on leadership and then written about the top 50 results.

Earlier this year my friend Jonathan recommended the episode to some school parents since their students were assigned to read Killer Angels, a historical fiction piece about the Civil War. In the top 50 there is a surprising amount of fiction and, less surprising, a lot of history. In the interview itself there are some easy tips for reading more, such as carrying/reading Kindle copies and using small segments of time rather than waiting for big blocks. The episode isn’t groundbreaking, but it is worth a listen for the reminders/encouragement.

Categories
Enjoying the Process

Today on the Treadmill

About five years ago I started reading Kindle books on my iPad while running on my treadmill. I know some people think that sounds like hell, or at least vanity for hamsters, but I really enjoy it.

It was also around that time that I began hearing about “plodding,” which is a kind of discipline with little bundles of minutes sustained over numerous days. Plodding is not natural to me. I don’t prefer it. But I have been practicing it and learning to appreciate the slight edge.

Sometimes I plod by reading while running. The earlier days of the week I read whatever commentaries are appropriate for the next passage I’m teaching. When that reading is done I move on to whatever is next, which may be a book for Omnibus or a book that I’m reading with another group.

I just finished an hour on the treadmill today reading six books for ten minutes each. Here’s my annotated list.

  1. Antifragile. This is my second time through the book, now reading it with the elders at our church. Interestingly enough, the section I read today talks about how boring people who surround themselves with books may become.
  2. On Writing. Most of the lists of “favorite books on writing” I’ve read include this one. I’m not sure what I was expecting, apparently something else. But today I read King recount news of his first book getting a paperback contract. My whole face was a smile.
  3. Moby Dick. We started this in Omnibus earlier in the year. I couldn’t keep up with the pace then, so I’m on my own. I finished chapter 99 of 135 today.
  4. Citizen Soldiers. This is another Omnibus leftover. I have really enjoyed this account of the WWII European Theater, and really want to finish it before we visit Normandy beach on a Europe trip later this summer.
  5. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I mentioned that our school board agreed to read this together over the next seven months. I started with The Lion again today, and was encouraged by this line in the dedication: “some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” Yes!
  6. 12 Rules for Life. Since watching this video a few months ago, Peterson’s name has come up more and more in our circles/house. Mo has even started listening to his podcast, and, since I prefer reading to listening, I thought this would be interesting. And of course it will be instructive to compare a pagan’s thoughts on handling chaos to a puritan’s

There is nothing special about ten minutes per book, and I don’t always follow that breakdown. But it was a thought-provoking variety today for sure.

Categories
The End of Many Books

The Vanishing American Adult

by Ben Sasse

Reread this again with the ECS Board. Fantastic all the way through.


This book is fantastic in almost every way. If the Senator would have used BC and AD instead of BCE and CE, and not capitulated on the age of the earth, then it would have been amazing. As it is, I still give it five stars, will be giving copies of it away as gifts, and encouraging everyone I know to read it. Really, really, good all the way to the end.

5 of 5 stars

Categories
Enjoying the Process

Board Lit

I love our school board. While so many books and articles about productivity lament the bane of meetings, I always look forward to our time together. (I have the same attitude about our church’s elder board meetings). We do have enough minutia to discuss, but since we’re still in the early institution stage we’re always happy to connect the details back to big ideas.

We also are always reading and discussing something together. Last night we finished The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse. It is almost perfect reading for those connected to classical Christian education, and Mr. Sasse quotes Dorothy Sayers in his chapter on education. Really good stuff.

Then we talked through our options for a next book. There were a number of options, and all of them had appeal. But it was suggested that maybe we try another novel, having read That Hideous Strength previously, the only fiction book in a overall diet of non-fiction. We’ve decided; motioned, seconded, and approved (or something less formal than that).

We are going to read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series together. We’ll tackle one book per monthly meeting, so we should finish seven months from now (unless we need to table our book discussion due to a high amount of other business any given night).

This is fabulous. Some of the guys have read all of the series, but a while ago, and others have read only a little bit or none at all. But this is not a waste of precious admin, decision-making time, this is exactly the sort of thing we want for our students to practice. I thank God for more opportunities to grow, and to do it on behalf of the next generation.