All the World's a Classroom
This post was featured in Joseph Nally’s blog last year.
When you open the front cover of a book, you symbolically open a door to your mind. You are letting the author of that book to enter your being and make changes there.
Reading is a form of transaction. You are giving the author—stranger, friend, or foe—a piece of your life, your time, and your thoughts. The author has the opportunity to make claims, explain them, and persuade you to think like he does. In exchange, he is offering you enlightenment, new knowledge, new line of thinking, or perhaps just an opportunity to exercise your brain and refine your thoughts.
Reading is a form of communion. But it is not like any other hangout session as we often have with our friends and acquaintances. Only those in our innermost circle get the license to hearing our deepest thoughts and convictions for an extended amount of time.
In reading, however, you and the author have access to each other’s deep convictions for hours at end. You can’t cut each other’s sentences or rebut thoughts instantly. The luxury of time allows you to understand the other side much more, if you let him finish his thoughts to the end of the book.
Reading changes you. Consciously or not, your mind changes slightly with every book you read. You may conform to the author’s ideas or reject them. In either case your mind will take a different shape than when you first began.
Which is why a Christian should take care when choosing his reading materials, for he may end up conforming to a shape contrary to what he intended. Because of the intimate communion that takes place in reading, the author will always imprint a certain character of himself to the reader.
Yet what better way it is to spend a piece of your life with the Book that contains the Word of life. The Bible, when read with awe and respect, opens up a communion with an Author who transcends matter, time, and space. It is a mind-to-mind communion with God, the Creator of the universe. Who better than Him to transform and change you? Whose ideas are better to agree with? And whose mind is better to mirror than God’s? Any other book, even a Christian one, must needs take a lesser rank.
Visit many good books, but live in the Bible. – Charles Spurgeon
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Every writer, I dare say, is in search for the perfect sentence—words stringed with meaning and laced with beauty. It is a sentence that creates a certain mystical air by words both written and implied.
To a reader, such a sentence arrests the attention and halts, for a moment, the process of reading. To a writer, the same incites jealousy and admiration simultaneously. In either case, a pause is deserved.
Though elusive, the perfect sentence is captured by the most brilliant of writers. James Salter, whom I, regrettably, was unacquainted with before his recent passing, was one. His essay, The Paradise of the Library, is to me an extraordinary piece.
The love of books, the possession of them, can be thought of as an extension of one’s self or being, not separate from a love of life but rather as an extra dimension of it, and even of what comes after. “Paradise is a library,” as Borges said.
Salter’s sentences, which he was known for, like the one above, were…magical. That essay charmed me. What bibliophile could resist giddiness in reading “the promise of solitude and discovery” in books, or the “disinclination to part with a book after it was acquired,” or “reading has the power not only to demolish time and span the ages, but also the capacity to make one feel more human—human meaning at with humanity—and possibly less savage.”
Abraham J. Heschel is another one of my favorites. I could never forget the first time I came across this sentence—I had to stop reading, jaw dropped, literally.
To become aware of the ineffable is to part company with words. The essence, the tangent to the curve of human experience, lies beyond the limits of language. Man Is Not Alone, p. 16
The entire book Man Is Not Alone is filled with stunning and solemn sentences like the one above.
The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living. God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, p. 46
I am, in fact, a happier person because these sentences exist in the world. I am perfectly pleased that part of life’s joy is to take pleasure in other people’s creation. At the same time, I, too, am in search for my own perfect sentence. And if we can all delight in each other’s words, then paradise must be a library.
I belong to a community of faith—the Seventh-day Adventist faith—that is presently having its quinquennial, worldwide conference in San Antonio, TX. I am not in San Antonio, but I too want to celebrate my identity. So here are the reasons on why I love being an Adventist.
I love being an Adventist because it gives me a sense of identity as an individual and as part of a people. It sheds light on who I am in the eyes of God and on humanity in the eyes of God. The elaborate plan of salvation as shown in the sanctuary system tells me the high regard that God puts on human souls, and the length and depth of His efforts to redeem a seemingly hopeless race.
Moreover, being a Seventh-day Adventist tells me where I am in human history and subsequently, my role here on earth. It comes with a high and ambitious mission that requires every talent and dedication.
Sanctity of Time
I love being an Adventist because it teaches me the discipline of quietness and rest. The gift of the Sabbath, the sanctity of time, tells me that humanity is not here just to do, but also to be. More importantly, to be with God. Silence and stillness is not easy to master, especially in a hyperactive world, but the Sabbath comes every week, wooing me to practice and enjoy true rest.
This precious time provides a space for awe, reverence, and wonder in my life. And I have come to believe that a life without wonder is an unhappy one. The moments when I am overwhelmed with beauty and grandeur are most refreshing, and in the Sabbath, a door is opened to access the wonder that is God.
I love being an Adventist because I have many opportunities to be reminded of my relationship with God in tangible ways. The opportunities come whenever I eat (or don’t eat), drink (or don’t drink), and work (or don’t work). I love that a relationship with God is not just a mental assent, but is a day-to-day reality. I learn that any loving relationship has requirements, and the fulfillment of these determines whether a relationship grows or deteriorates.
I love that God has something required of me, among which are to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Him. It elevates my existence and dignity as a human being, knowing that I can do something to please God. He is not indifferent to my works.
Everything I do and don’t do, every initiative and restraint, is an opportunity to say “I love You” and that “You are Lord over me.” It infuses every aspect of life and gives meaning to the daily, sometimes mundane, things.
I love that Adventism demands something of me. A faith that is not worth giving all is not worth having, and a commitment without requirements is questionable. Adventism believes something more in me, calling me to a life that’s not ordinary, and I gladly respond, Yes!
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