One of the dangers of embarking on a worldview discussion, whether around a table or in the great public halls of cyberspace, is that you are tempted to pretend you know a lot more about what you are talking about than you actually do. I now officially live in paranoid fear that people expect that I am well aware of the nuances of *their* religion, philosophy, or favorite theological or philosophical problem. But there are too many philosophies for a philosophy undergrad to grasp (even on a very introductory level), too many knotty theological problems out there for a divinity grad student to have a well-developed opinion on, and too many people in the world for a cyberspace discussion facilitator to have a grasp on their dearly opinions (I’ll try, though). Most people know of human limitations, are generous, and happy to fill me in on what I don’t know, and what they know. This is why I should not be paranoid. Regrettably, paranoia is rarely rational.
My friend Aaron linked an interesting post in the Britannica Blog which gives me some comfort–it’s a discussion, in part, of the quantity of books that are published, and human dishonesty regarding their consumption. You just can’t read every book. Not reading every book does not mean that you are ill-informed, or lax in the search for truth. Deciding what not to read is an important task, along with deciding what to read.
The really interesting thing about this article, though, is the point that some books, very rare ones, are worth reading again and again. The Britannica blogger provocatively asks, “Confronted, as we are, with endless choice and ritual novelty, what does it mean to revisit a book repeatedly over the course of a lifetime?” Perhaps the point isn’t impressing my friends with the quantity of books I read, but the quality of books that can shape who I become.
Last week we talked about how our worldviews shape (or fail to shape) our lives. I ended with a series of questions that, broadly understood, ask either “Is my worldview consistent with reality as people experience it? Can it be verified?” and “Is my worldview rich enough to guide my life in healthy ways?” Books worth re-reading are the kinds of books that can contribute to a robust worldview that can guide one’s life.
So this month’s discussion can start with this question: What books have you read that have changed your life? What did the book make you think/do/feel/imagine in a new way? Are there any books that you re-read over and over again? What brings you back to those books?
It doesn’t have to be profound. Certainly someone can break the ice with an homage to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a confession about the Janette Oke Christian romance novels they read and re-read when they were 11 (and are now ashamed to speak of), or an account of how their collection of Bloom County cartoons that sparked the beginnings of a lifetime of radical politics. Or something like that.
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