So, above you see me, Case, with my wife Deb, visiting Oxford UK. My background is in teaching history, mediation in church situations, and mental health outreach — all in Canada. Now retired from these pursuits, I have time to read lots of books. Deb has bought or borrowed for me many of the volumes I have read, and it was my interest in sharing some of the best stuff that Bookends was begun in February of 2016. The blog’s tag line kind of sums it up: When a book ends, time to share my thoughts.
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For more “About” information, see the article below, taken from “Blogs, books, blarney,” published here as a blog on May 5, 2016. Or check out a bit of my family history in the articles “Underground in the war — parts 1 and 2” filed under UK/European History.
This blog site is called Bookends because it’s about thoughts that have come to me after a book, or part of a book, has been read. Of course, I could just start writing each blog post without any book, and some readers might prefer if I just expressed my own feelings and opinions. There is a place for that, for sure, and I do read and like some other blogs in which the writers do exactly that, and that’s fine. But I’ve chosen to publish things a little differently, and here is why.
The best thing about books is that they take time to read. That means I won’t get through one in just a day, let alone a few minutes. Its content will stay will me for several days, allowing the thoughts and descriptions to percolate and settle and be reviewed. And I am in control of the process: I can pick up the book, flip through the pages or read beginning to end, and put it down as often as I like or need to. But what I like most about books is that, in most cases, the writers have worked hard at putting words on the page. Some of them have spent years in writing just one volume, researching, rearranging, editing and being edited, and in the end have a really creative and enjoyable product.
Now, a very practical and active person may say, “So what? It’s real life, its joys and its problems, that I care about!” And I would reply, “That’s good, and do you care enough to get it right? Is it important not to be tossed about by every wind of doctrine or every pang and pulse of feeling? Is it worth our while to get some insight into our lives instead of being influenced by an off-the-cuff remark or some gossipy myth?
When I take some time, by means of a book, to think matters through a bit more than I otherwise might, some good things happen. One of these is that I enter into someone else’s world for a while and learn a bit of how he or she experiences and understands life, and how she views the world she lives in. That’s sort of a conversation, a kind of communication. Sometimes I start by not liking the writer’s outlook at all and think it’s all blarney, but instead of throwing the book away, I plug away at reading more, and then usually find myself learning something from the writer and appreciating his personal struggles.
My aim, therefore, through reading books, is to learn more about other people, past or present, and in the process learn more about myself. And that may be pleasant or it can be downright frightening, but I do find it worthwhile. I think this is something called discernment, seeing the truth behind the appearances, going beyond immediate impressions or apparent blarney, and getting a longer view that may show how things look from a different angle. It is something that leads me from point A where I am critical of various people and blame them for troubles in my life, toward the direction of point Z where I no longer criticize people but instead critique certain ideas, delusions, systems, and the evils that life is heir to.
I have always been a “front-line” kind of guy who enjoyed working directly with people, as opposed to being a keen academic who reads mostly for intellectual stimulation. But I have learned to become a life-long student of life, and rather than blog you over the head with my own strong reactions, I much prefer to write only after someone has helped me think it through a bit more.