Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Tea

This past week's ponderings have centered around one of my favorite subjects... Story.

I have spent many hours both reading and writing so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that words have surrounded my thinking just as passenger jets circle O'Hare International awaiting their turn to land.

The miracle of the gift of Story is our ability to take the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet, add a nearly infinite number of combinations... and a sprinkling of imagination... and we have... books.

I recently read about research which shows a correlation between the lack of reading good literature when young, along with the increased use of video games and technology... and the decrease of morality in the men of our culture.  They called it a perpetual adolescence.

Now, I don't believe one is less moral because they watch TV instead of reading or play video games when both are kept in moderation.  There have been far too many Star Wars marathons and LAN parties in my home over the years to put the blame on technology alone.

But I get what they are saying as I remember the reaction brought by good books to both my children.  From Stephanie's love of the Anne books to her tears when an unexpected death occurred in Leon Uris' Exodus sent her into mourning!

Christopher was not into literature at all until his mid-teens when he read The Count of Monte Cristo for our French Literature homeschool class... and he was smitten.  He talked about the book for weeks and weeks and went on to joyfully read other books by Dumas.

He was incensed with the movie version of the above novel as the way they changed the ending (he felt) missed the entire moral lesson of the book (and he is a tekkie type, dyslexic, ADHD guy).

I am one of those bibliophiles who have been known to caress a beautifully bound classic, breath in the aroma of new ink, and gently turn yellowed pages of vintage volumes.

My heart beats a little faster when I turn to page one of a story recommended by a like minded reader and when I revisit the pages of an old friend... it is as if I truly walked the cobbled streets before and I was returning home.

Books change lives and affect history... for better and for worse.  Ideas have consequences and most ideas start with books.  I prefer to ponder today on the good changes books can make.  No story more teaches us the positive affects of reading than Ben Carson's original biography, Gifted Hands.

It is the story of the boy raised in the inner city of Detroit, failing at school and life... whose mother made he and his brother read two books a week and write a report for her (not knowing she could not read at the time).  Dr. Ben Carson is now one of the world's most renown pediatric surgeon and his brother also has had a successful professional career (I think engineering).

My own life was impacted by the Schaeffer's books, Elisabeth Elliot wrote about the impact of reading Amy Carmichael's books, and John Piper was deeply influenced by the writings of Jonathan Edwards.

A couple of years ago I passed on Ravi Zacharias' amazing autobiography Walking East to West to a young Indian friend who shared it with his mother and... as he sat next to me at the wedding rehearsal... said he took it with him after graduating from the University.  I constantly pray the seeds planted by the story of a life saved by Christ will grow within him.

There are morality lessons we learn from the Great Books which past generations knew and present generations lack.  This was the premise of the best selling book called The Closing of the American Mind (by the late Allan Bloom).

In it he wrote about our Universities no longer teaching the Great Books, which gave society a uniform foundation of morality... and the combined knowledge that comes from reading the same books as a culture.

It dispels the idea that it is a good thing if young people are just reading anything and everything instead of reading well.  For we become what we read and a steady diet of that which is not good... or worse trashy and defiling... will produce a generation that is shallow as well as immoral.

As one who is still startled by the quick passage of time, I realize more every day the importance of how I choose to use the finite time God gives me.

I am working on a balance between watching dramas and reading biography... watching lovely reruns of long ago favorite comedies... and reading good novels filled with humor.... watching movies based on Austen and reading Austen, and even the choice between good "Christian" novels and not neglecting His Book!

God has told us His Story through inspired writers of the Torah, the Prophets, the Poets, the Gospels, the Epistles... and everything between the Table of Contents and Maps.  There is a reason the Bible is still the best selling book in the world, the book whose Author is living Word and able to change lives.

Now to end my writing of words and enjoy the reading of words.  :)


Front Porch Grace said...

We do become what we read. I so enjoyed reading your writing on words. I have been so busy with gardening and moving my mom-in-law into our neighborhood (my father-in-law passed away early this spring) that I have had to miss my favorite blogs. But today as my husband travels and it's too hot to do much more in the gardens today (we have been locked in a massive heat wave for two weeks) I have carved out "blog time" reading for myself.

Off to catch up! God bless you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Brenda for writing this! I haven'r read many of the books mentioned and your whole article is so important. Could you tell us where you found the article you first mentioned? The extra though at the end of not just reading but What you read hit home too. The collective list of books we all used to read as a nation and our moral code...all were important thoughts needing to heard all put in one post. I just don't know how to tell you just how important this post is to us everyone ...but it is. I will try to tell many to come and read it.Sarah

Angela said...

I have just gotten a copy of Gifted Hands from the thrift store. Looking forward to reading it!

Echoes From the Hill said...

I think our parents often give us a love of books.
When my brother and I were very young, our father read to every night that he was home. Instead of generic children's books, he read Aesop's Fables, Greek Mythology, and classic chapter books, like Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, etc. He has been gone for over 20 years, but I have those wonderful memories of childhood and his reading to us at bedtime.

matty said...

It is amazing to me how many of my students have not read a book through. Usually we read either "My Antonia!" or "O Pioneers!" depending on the semester. We also read "The Haunting of Hill House" as it is the first psychological thriller novel in American literature. This usually gets them hooked and I can recommend other wonderful books. Because of YOU I have read more books than I can list here, but one of my favorites are the Jan Karon "Mitford" series. I would have never read them if not for you! Thanks! How are you feeling these days??

Anonymous said...

By the time I was homeschooling my youngest I had come across some who felt that reading a whole book, rather than just using the Literature books that companies put out such as Abeka did (and I used them a LOT with the older 2 and this is not necessarily a criticism of them)...but I saw far more benefit to my youngest in reading whole books!! She is way more widely read than her siblings. In fact, with her, it was whole books that made up a great proportion of her high school years. All 3 of them are successful in their chosen professions and all have degrees. But I do recommend homeschoolers focus at least during the high school years on reading whole books, and not just the "blips" afforded in literature books. "The rest of the story" is very important!!

Cheryl (Copperswife) said...

Such wonderful thoughts here on reading, the importance of reading and giving our children a love for reading. Thanks for writing this, Brenda.

Karen Andreola said...

We are on the same page (if you don't mind the pun.) I am so glad I found your bog Brenda.

The Ben Carsen Story has interested me ever since I saw the film on his life - especially the part about his mom insisting that the brothers read rather than just passively watch TV. And isn't it amazing that this is from a mom who secretly couldn't read at all?

I agree with the comment about "whole books" and the affect it has on the student to become one who appreciates books and longs for more.
Karen A.

Anonymous said...

Hello Brenda,

As always, enjoyed reading your post. Also noticed you have a candleholder like one I have in our home. The "stained glass" one in the middle. It is one of my favorite pieces! Did you know that if you place it in front of a solid, light-colored wall, the candlelight will cast the colors on the wall? Beautiful!

From a kindred spirit,

Melissa in SC

Anonymous said...

I heard Ben Carson at a health seminar in Dallas several years ago. I also read his book. His story is amazing.

Anonymous said...

I am on summer vacation right now, and since the weather's hot & I am too wimpy to go outside, I sit in and read and read and READ. Total heaven! I love the discovery of "new to me" books - you are the reason I read all of the Miss Read books a year ago. Those gave me the feeling that the Anne books did, when I first read them.

If you need an Austen fix, Susan Branch's blog has a lovely entry about her recent visit to Chawton House (and earlier ones have Beatrix Potter's home as well).

Connie in San Diego