Why we read books

I’ve not been writing reviews recently for a number of reasons, but I keep reading. We’re in Week 20 of the year and I’ve read 19 books. I hope to finish my 20th this week to keep on schedule. But we don’t read books to review them, or to meet a quota, but to learn, to grow, and to deepen our knowledge.

Peggy Noonan (whose book on John Paul II I’m currently reading) spoke at Catholic University’s commencement last week. She puts it this way:

Reading books forces you to imagine, question, ponder, reflect, connect one historical moment with another. Reading books provides a deeper understanding of political figures and events, of the world — of life itself.

Watching a movie about the Cuban Missile Crisis shows you a drama. Reading histories of it presents you with a dilemma.  The book forces you to imagine the color, sound, tone and tension, the logic of events:  It makes your brain do work.

But, oddly, it’s work the brain wants to do.

A movie or documentary is received passively: You sit back, see and hear.  Books demand more and reward more. When you read them your knowledge base deepens and expands.  In time that deepening comes to inform your own work, sometimes in ways of which you’re not fully conscious.

Not to put too fine a point, but your brain gets bigger, stronger. You become smarter and deeper.  That happens with books.

The video of her address is here.

“It’s work the brain wants to do.” Put down your iPhone, your iPad, and your remote control and grab a book. You’ll be better off for it.

The Billable Hour and the death of the soul

toon359Someone has recently penned an obituary for the billable hour. I’m a lawyer, and I cannot tell you how much I wish it were dead, but I have doubts that it will actually die any time soon. Most law firms are stuck in the outdated mentality that they can only bill in this one way. And it is this lack of creativity and foresight that makes the practice of law unbearable for many.

From a theological point of view–yes, we should have a theological view of this as we do with all things–the billable hour creates a perverse incentive for lawyers as human beings.

 In her article, Billable Hours and Ordinary Time (full article PDF here: billable-hours-and-ordinary-time), Cathleen Kaveny provides a damning theological discussion of the billable hour, essentially concluding that it is incompatible with a Catholic view of time and work. Continue reading “The Billable Hour and the death of the soul”

The journey of grace

Thomas Merton said in No Man is an Island that “We ought to stop taking our conscious plans and decisions with such infinite seriousness.” We all have plans in life, and that is admirable. Goals are important. As some say, though, to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. We need to realize that our ways are not always His ways, and to align them more and more with His will as we are able to discern it.

Today marks the beginning of a discernment period, asking God what is next in life. I feel that I am being called to something else, though I do not know what that might be. Only time will tell, but I intend to use that time wisely. To make sure that I am diligent in prayer and study so as to hear the Lord clearly when and where He calls.

It is always a good time to grow closer to God, and I encourage you to put forth additional effort in that regard. Wherever you are in the spiritual life, you can go deeper–you can listen more, respond more willingly, and find more joy. Embrace the uncertainty and let Him guide you.