Sunday, October 25, 2015

Reading Makes A Whole Person

Many are the sounds we hear: rustling of leaves, birds, insects, music, sound of people playing Baduk (Go), and many other sounds but nothing compares "to the sound of a person reading a book". Quoting a poem from the past and the different sounds heard, and at times only seen, a Benedictine  priest writing in With Bible wants us to follow him in this meditation.

People know the joy of walking, and it is not always  to arrive at some point. The walking in itself has meaning and its own end. A wise man once said that  'Road' and 'Way' doesn't have the same meaning; reading is not always used as a tool for knowledge and information, and  'interest' has no limit. 

One of the greatest pleasures in life, for the writer, and for which he is  grateful, is to run across some worthwhile  reading material. "Is it not  a pleasure to study, and to practice what you have learned?" (Confucius)

He brings us back to the days when reading was not done in  silence as we do today but it was voicing each word, and listening with the ear and the whole body. The reading material would often be a sheepskin, a codex, and the scent would enter the nose. The finger would follow the words in the sentence, and the upper part of the body would sway slightly while reading. All the senses were used it was  an action of the whole person and not only of the eyes and the mind. It was work.

This was the way the monks of the past did the Lectio Divina. The East was not  different;  he remembers his grandfather who when writing a letter or reading the newspapers would be voicing very quietly all the words. They were remembering with the muscles of the body and making what they read a part of themselves.

They were also forming a community: relating with  one another in the process. The ability to read and understand was increasing. The monasteries were schools where people were learning to read well. They were making books, and the books were making the person.  Happily we find this  in many places of our present society. 

We have moved from the oral, to the written to the digital culture: from reading  to the seeing where the screen becomes the book. We think that we are in control but the images are working on our feelings, desires and judgments. They produce or transform our desires. Financial cliques and  the mass media make public opinion and  often fabricate it. Where God was thought to be we have the financial logic, politics, education and morality, where the false and true are often interchanged.

We need a reading and thinking citizenry. Not thinking like we live but living like we think. Readers will be counter cultural. In the past with the reading of Scripture, we had the making of prophets; he hopes that we will feel the responsibility of this calling and not leave it to the false prophets of our society.

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