Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bookworm completes summer term; celebrates by reading

The book – the physical paper book – is being circled by a shoal of sharks, with sales down 9 per cent this year alone. It's being chewed by the e-book. It's being gored by the death of the bookshop and the library. And most importantly, the mental space it occupied is being eroded by the thousand Weapons of Mass Distraction that surround us all. It's hard to admit, but we all sense it: it is becoming almost physically harder to read books.
Johann Hari, How to survive the age of distraction
I've just finished a summer term that I had packed with more classes than was wise, and I'm wiped out.
Irish Girl Reading, by Daryl Price

But it's done! And what better way to celebrate the end of a busy academic term than by reading a couple of great books?

Yes, real books. Made of paper.

All three of my classes had electronic textbooks, and while I like certain features (linked glossary lookups, quick searches, live links to related websites, etc.), I'm ready to settle in and read something with pages I can turn.

So a few days ago, when a facebook friend linked to the article quoted above, on the necessity of the paper book (yes, I'm aware of the irony there), I had to read it.

The article continues:

In his gorgeous little book The Lost Art of Reading – Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time *, the critic David Ulin admits to a strange feeling. All his life, he had taken reading as for granted as eating – but then, a few years ago, he "became aware, in an apartment full of books, that I could no longer find within myself the quiet necessary to read".... [H] ere's the function that the book – the paper book that doesn't beep or flash or link or let you watch a thousand videos all at once – does for you that nothing else will. It gives you the capacity for deep, linear concentration. As Ulin puts it: "Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction.... It requires us to pace ourselves. It returns us to a reckoning with time. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each thing in its moment, to let the narrative prevail. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise."
So that's exactly what I'll be doing.

For the next few weeks – aside from an ebook I've committed to reviewing – all the books I read will be the paper-and-ink kind.

So far, I have a short list going, but I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments!

* I think it's funny that this book is available for the Kindle.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

On Pentecost and civil rights

The most decisive impact of Pentecost, where the gift of the Spirit is made clear, is not tongue-speaking but community-formation (oneness).
— Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet, p. 77

Today is Pentecost.

In Christian tradition, this is the day the descent of the Holy Spirit is celebrated, fifty days after Easter. (Pentecosté = fiftieth.)

But Pentecost existed before Easter. The reason Peter and the other disciples were gathered in Jerusalem in the first place was for Shavuot (a.k.a. the Feast of Weeks, a.k.a. Pentecost), which took place seven weeks after the second day of Passover... fifty days after the first day of Passover.

(I love making these connections. I'm such a math/language geek.)

Beginning on Pentecost, God demonstrated His intent to bring people from every tribe and tongue to Himself. He pushed the disciples past their narrow understanding of community, proving His purpose was far bigger than the redemption of a single people group.

Some have observed that the Pentecost story of Acts 2 is the redemption of the Tower of Babel story of Genesis 11 — a divine act of reuniting people who had been divided, or made "other," from one another.

Community.... unity... removal of division...

This year, Pentecost falls on another holiday: Loving Day, a celebration of the 1967 Supreme Court case (Loving v. Virginia) which made it illegal for states to enforce laws banning interracial marriage.

What an interesting parallel.


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Too young

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post on gynecological fistula, a women's health issue specific to very young brides with no access to obstetric care.

Today, NPR featured an interview with Cynthia Gorney and Stephanie Sinclair, the reporter and the photographer behind the June National Geographic piece Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides.

photo: Stephanie Sinclair/National Geographic

Reading the article, listening to the interview, looking at the pictures of little girls with sad eyes... it's heartwrenching.

These are the moments when my desire to respect the practices of other cultures abandons me. At some point, cultural practices become human rights violations.

I'm not sure what I can do about this injustice being perpetrated on my young sisters in other parts of the globe. But I know I can't close my eyes to it anymore.