Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You've Got To Read This Book!

       The title of this post is also the title of a book that I picked up in a bookstore a year or two ago.  Of course, I had to open it up -- not so much because I was giving in to curiosity, but mostly because I was hooked by the self-referencing quality of the title.  And since I've read Douglas Hofstadter's magnum opus, Godel Escher Bach,  I've been on the lookout for delightful examples of self-referencing.  Someone out there remembers that "makes Amber laugh" makes Amber laugh, and so on.  Thanks, Bert.

       But I digress.  And when I say "I digress," I digress.

       The real reason you have to read the book is that it contains over fifty short essays written by interesting individuals, some of them moderately well known, about books they have read that especially influenced or entertained them.  Writers like Jack Canfield, Stephen Covey, Bernie Siegel.  Books like A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, The Brothers Karamazov,  The Human Comedy.  Even Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf -- read and commented on by a Holocaust survivor.

       And the real reason I'm writing a post called "You've Got To Read This Book" is not because I really think that you've got to read a book entitled You've Got To Read This Book.  Or even the books that they think you've got to read.

       I want to invite you to think about a book that you have enjoyed -- and tell the rest of us something about that book in the comments section.  What interested you, and why?

       Just a couple of days ago I proposed this to a very small group of old friends.  One of them suggested Death in the Long Grass, by Peter Capstick.  Another one recommended The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman.  Neither of which I have read.  Both of which, I plan to.

       The best books I have read, I stumbled across; or they were suggested to me by friends.  Certainly not because I was following any kind of "reading program," though I'm a fan of Great Books.

       Me?  I'm thinking about Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance -- a great book that I never would have read if it hadn't been recommended to me by a good friend.  Thanks, Steve.  

       Feel free to add your bit in the comments section below.  Suggest a title.  Talk about it.  Or just comment on other peoples' suggestions.  Don't wait for my review of Zen and the Art to appear before you introduce yours.  It was twenty five years, no joke, from the time that Steve recommended it, until the time that I bought the book at a used book sale, so don't be surprised if my comment is delayed a bit. 

       So, whether you're coming to this post in the first five minutes after it appears, or the next five weeks, or after five years (will this blog be here?), dive in.  See you in the comments section.



  1. Ok, I have to confess. Even today..."Makes Amber laugh" makes Amber laugh.

  2. That's fun to know, Spiritwick. And I enjoyed visiting your blog.

  3. Robert,

    I, too, would put "Zen" near the top of my list. The purpose of my commenting is not to review the book for its literary quality, but to make a case that the author's philosophy is on the right track.

    In my limited experience, when you advise Christian, God-fearing people to read "Zen," they say something like, "But why should I read a book on Buddhism?" It seems like a waste of their time to them.

    For people who are used to being told, "You're smart," a kind of dangerous pride and insecurity can develop. You can become overly confident in your own ability to figure things out. This seems especially to happen to people with technical minds because we live in a technical age that rewards such minds. "Smart" people also tend to be drawn to theology that is extremely precise, technical and proclaims certainty--Calvinism and Catholicism come to mind. But I'm getting off track.

  4. Anywho, certainty, smartness, insecurity...

    It's very important for "smart" people, but really all people, to figure out their epistemology, which is a ten-dollar word that means, "How do I know that I know?"

    For a smart person, admitting you don't know something can be very unsettling. "By grab," you say, "I'm smart. Everybody says so. Standardized tests or whatever says so. Why shouldn't I know that I know?" But you have to go there to be true to yourself. You have to go to the wilderness. You have to be the wolf on the outer edges, ready and willing to prey on the weaker intellectual sheep who remain safely within the walls of the Church of Reason. You have to be a Phaedrus (Greek for "wolf").

    The question that you have to answer is, "What is Quality?" We all know that it exists, yet it isn't discernable with our five senses. It can't be proven using the laws of physics or chemistry. Yet we know it's there. Come to think of it, the laws of chemistry and physics have no substance either; you can't prove that they're there either. They came out of somebody's mind, somebody who thought those laws were a Quality way to explain how the universe works. Depending upon whose model of Quality you're using, you can come to some differnt conclusions about the universe.

    Our materialist friends are now up a creek without a paddle. They may say, "Quality is subjective. Everybody makes it up for himself." But what does that do to certainty? Then you can't be certain that anyting is true, but you have to have some certainty, right? The Church of Reason comes crashing down.

    Once you attempt to define Quality, though, and say with certainty what It is, you lose It, because you're imposing your own view of what It is on It in some way or other. One person might look at a motorcyle and say, "This is a beautiful precision machine with many connected and interrelated systems and assemblies that are understandable and fixable." Another might say, "A motorcyle is an example of industrial ugliness. It is impossible to understand and it is dangerous. Stay away from it." Who's right? And how would you know?

    "Zen" ultimately says that Quality is something that exists, but It is before all things and It is the source of all things. You can't define Quality, but It defines you. At the end of the day, what you choose to believe is what seems like Quality to you. You may not call It out, but It's there, beckoning you to see It. It is universal and eternal. Everything is judged by It, whether everything acknowledeges It's existence or not. It is beyond knowing, yet It calls to us to know It. Humans instinctively yearn for It, but man's determination for certainty, for power, for money, for whatever it is, keeps him from knowing It perfectly and sends him all sort of odd ways. We all fall short of It. Some of us actively despise It.

    Does this sound familiar? To me, this book is a resounding defense of a throughly Christian epistemology. Quality is not only a Thing, It is also a Person. This Person existed before all things were made, and by It all was made that has been made. The author of the book comes within inches of saying that he believes in God; instead he says that he believes Quality is what people call "God." He ends the book a Buddhist. I ended the book a better Christian.

    Read this book! And compare the author to our Lord and Saint Paul, two other wolves at the edges of the Church of Reason.

  5. Ben,

    I like your take on Quality. Notice how it corresponds with Lao-Tzu's ideas of the Tao. If I replaced the word Quality with Tao, your post would read:

    "Lao-Tzu ultimately says that Tao is something that exists, but It is before all things and It is the source of all things. You can't define Tao but It defines you. At the end of the day, what you choose to believe is what seems like Tao to you. You may not call It out, but It's there, beckoning you to see It. It is universal and eternal. . . ."

    I hope to do some future post on ZAMM and on the Tao Te Ching, (so get your ideas ready!), but I wanted to post this now.

    Thanks for your input.

  6. I'd like to agree with both of you that Zen was a wonderful read. I read it just a few years ago at your recommendation, Mr. Heid.

    Other influential and entertaining books include 1984 / Animal Farm and Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea.

    Finally, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ was very helpful in high school for expanding my understanding of God's glory and how to, well, see and savor Jesus.

  7. Thanks, cbrown.

    And don't hesitate to give us at least a thumbnail sketch of each of the books you recommended.

    I'd especially like to hear about Zero, and also Seeing and Savoring, since I have not yet read either one.

    Of course, I'd also like your take on the Orwell books. I read both of them when I was in my twenties, and I think that Orwell's dystopic fiction is a more accurate historical commentary and guide to current affairs than most "professional analyses" of the past 60 years since they were written.

  8. "The Jesus Style" by gayle erwin.
    "Tortured for Christ"
    "Jesus Friend to Terrorists" radu valentin

    The Dude: Also, my rug was stolen.
    Younger Cop: The rug was in the car?
    The Dude: No. It was here.
    Younger Cop: [eager] Oh, separate incidents.
    Maude Lebowski: [on answering machine] Jeffrey, this is Maude Lebowski. I need to see you. I'm the one who took your rug.
    Younger Cop: Well. I guess we can close the file on that one.

  9. Dear Anonymous:

    Re TJS: Can you tell us a little bit about Gayle Erwin and the book? I confess I am totally unfamiliar with either.

    Re TFC: . . . and I would also recommend his Prison Meditations, and . . . anything he ever wrote that I have gotten my hands on. Richard Wurmbrand is a true modern saint. I mean that in every sense of the word.

    Re JFTT: Also, could you tell us a little about this one. Yes, I know that 'radu valentin' is a pen-name of St. Richard.

    Thanks for posting; post again.