This is October, the two-conference month. I always think that I'm going to get a lot of writing done while Darwin is gone, but I don't. At the end of the day I'm exhausted and find myself falling asleep over my computer, the kitchen a wreck and the rest of the house not much better. God bless all single mothers, and please never let Darwin die so that I have to do this by myself, forever.
In lieu of real writing, I offer you the Immediate Book Meme.
photo by Evan Laurence Bench
There are plenty of memes that want to know all about your book history and your all-time greats and your grand ambitions, but let's focus on something more revealing: the books you're actually reading now, or just read, or are about to read. Let's call it The Immediate Book Meme.
1. What book are you reading now?
The Intelligent Person's Guide to Philosophy, by Roger Scruton.
Scruton is so close -- he's reaching in the right direction, but perhaps he lacks the gift of faith. He senses the transcendent everywhere, but can't seem to pull them together into one Being. His analysis of sex is as good as I've seen from a secular source, but his description of Christian charity is sorely lacking. He turns it into a form of utilitarianism: "Charity hopes to maximize joy and minimize suffering in general, just as each person spontaneously acts to maximize joy and minimize suffering in himself." That's a description of charity I've never seen, though perhaps that's because I've always heard charity analyzed from Christian sources as agape. Also, he discusses Kant's personalist principle without going beyond to Wojtyla's positive formulation: A person is not simply an end, not a means, but one to whom the only appropriate response is love.
The Best of Myles, by Flann O'Brien
This collection of newspaper writings by Myles na gCopaleen (Flann O'Brien) [Brian O'Nolan] is laugh-out-loud funny. I'm only a bit in, but so far his account of the anarchic ventriloquists terrorizing the theaters of Ireland, and the fee structure for distressing a rich person's unread library of newly purchased books, have been the purest comic gold.
Hallowe'en Party, by Agatha Christie
The big girls are on a Poirot kick, so I'm just picking up what's laying around.
2. What book did you just finish?
Maria Chapdelaine by Louis Hémon
I finished this several weeks ago, but for the purposes of writing a post about it, I only just finished it. A beautiful little book which ought to be widely considered a classic, set in remote Canada in the early 20th century. Maria is offered the chance to escape the harsh life of a Canadian pioneer and start an easier life in America, but the decision isn't as easy or as clear-cut as it sounds.
The Clocks, Agatha Christie
The Third Policeman, Flann O'Brien
This is a fascinating book which I was simply not in the right mood to read, and I had to return it to the library partially read. I feel the fault lies with me, but there it is.
3. What do you plan to read next?
La Force Du Silence by Robert Cardinal Sarah, when it is available on Kindle on Nov. 9th. Good thing I brushed up on my French with Maria Chapdelaine. Here is an excellent interview with Cardinal Sarah on the book, and on the essential importance of silence.
“God’s first language is silence.” In commenting on this beautiful, rich insight of Saint John of the Cross, Thomas Keating, in his work Invitation to Love, writes: “Everything else is a poor translation. In order to understand this language, we must learn to be silent and to rest in God.”
It is time to rediscover the true order of priorities. It is time to put God back at the center of our concerns, at the center of our actions and of our life: the only place that He should occupy. Thus, our Christian journey will be able to gravitate around this Rock, take shape in the light of the faith and be nourished in prayer, which is a moment of silent, intimate encounter in which a human being stands face to face with God to adore Him and to express his filial love for Him.
Let us not fool ourselves. This is the truly urgent thing: to rediscover the sense of God. Now the Father allows Himself to be approached only in silence. What the Church needs most today is not an administrative reform, another pastoral program, a structural change. The program already exists: it is the one we have always had, drawn from the Gospel and from living Tradition. It is centered on Christ Himself, whom we must know, love and imitate in order to live in Him and through Him, to transform our world which is being degraded because human beings live as though God did not exist. As a priest, as a pastor, as a Prefect, as a Cardinal, my priority is to say that God alone can satisfy the human heart.
I think that we are the victims of the superficiality, selfishness and worldly spirit that are spread by our media-driven society. We get lost in struggles for influence, in conflicts between persons, in a narcissistic, vain activism. We swell with pride and pretention, prisoners of a will to power. For the sake of titles, professional or ecclesiastical duties, we accept vile compromises. But all that passes away like smoke. In my new book I wanted to invite Christians and people of good will to enter into silence; without it, we are in illusion. The only reality that deserves our attention is God Himself, and God is silent. He waits for our silence to reveal Himself.
Regaining the sense of silence is therefore a priority, an urgent necessity.
Silence is more important than any other human work. Because it expresses God. The true revolution comes from silence; it leads us toward God and toward others so that we can place ourselves humbly at their service.Perhaps more Roger Scruton.
4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?
War and Remembrance, by Herman Wouk. I have a deadline on this -- a November book club that my sister-in-law's family hosts. And I like it a lot. It reads quickly and has a lot of fascinating detail. The book simply got put down in the shuffle and ended up on the wrong dresser, and so I haven't picked it up when I'm looking for reading.
John Adams, David McCollough.
I'm about to bring the troops home on this one and return it to the Little Free Library in the neighborhood. I just can't get around to finishing it. Sorry, John Adams.
5. What book do you keep meaning to start?
Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar by Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass
A friend lent me this collection of essays on courtship and marriage (actually, I saw it on her shelf and said, "Hey, can I borrow this?") and it's been sitting on top of a bookshelf where I don't see it for months. I need to put in on my recently cleared bedside table to it's right to hand.
6. What is your current reading trend?
I don't know that there is one right now.