Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Blessing of Books

I never know whether I like November or not. On the one hand, although I love winter and I'm looking forward to snow and brittle sunshine, I don't like the sense of the year fading. I don't like the damp, grey days. I don't like the hour going back and the start of long, dark evenings. On the other hand, I like the cosiness of being indoors and the thought of curling up with a good book.

Thinking about how I'm looking forward to cosiness and books set me off on a train of thought that brought back lots of happy memories, like lying on the rug, by the fire, reading 'When We Were Very Young' by AA Milne, with my mother. I'd read a poem and then she'd read one and we'd keep changing off. By the way, I'll mention here, that I'm not going to launch into a tirade about why books are better than electronic means of reading. All sorts of reading is fine. It's simply that I have a lot more experience of reading printed books than anything else.

So, what do I love about books and reading? I love the preliminaries: browsing in a bookstore or library, the feel and the smell of books. I love the promise of dipping into other worlds, learning something new, engaging with lives and events that I would otherwise never have access to. When I get the book home, I even enjoy the stage of osmosis, where it sits on the shelf for an indeterminate length of time and I feel that simply by having it there, some kind of knowledge is seeping into my soul. Once I begin actually reading, I love the fact that I can enter so intimately into other lives, times, ways of being. This is true of all sorts of books, whether fact or fiction.

I read all sorts of books, but here's something key that underlies my love of reading, and it's the fact that reading makes me think. It keeps my mind alive. I don't read the words and believe them because they are there on the page. I mull over them, criticize them, decide if and why I agree. And it's not just about forming opinions and keeping my mind alive. It's about assimilating the world, as I learn about it, into my life of faith and prayer. Reading makes me a more rounded, whole person, more capable of bringing the needs of the world, as it is and not as I'd like it to be, into my heart and prayer.

Karen Rose, OSB

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