What to read? … what to read?

In light of the onslaught of book banning going on lately following the manufactured dilemma of “CRT,” there’s a meme going around by Stephen King about what to read:

Surprise! it’s the books that are getting banned.

The quote reads: “When books are run out of school classrooms and libraries, I’m never much disturbed. Not as a citizen, not as a writer, not even as a which I used to be. What I tell kids is, don’t get mad, get even. Don’t spend time waving signs or carrying petitions around the neighborhood. Instead, run, don’t walk, to the nearest non-school library or the local bookstore and get whatever it was that they banned. Read whatever they’re trying to keep out of your eyes and your brain, because that’s exactly what you need to know.”

Man, that is excellent. Read the stuff they don’t want you to.

Banning books ≠ cancel culture. Amirite?

I would add to the quote: Read the stuff that you’ve worked actively or passively to keep off your list. You know what I’m talking about. You really like one topic from points of view that support the views you already adore when there are umpteen different views on the same topic. This is risky, because it challenges perceptions.

What I found as a Christian was that all other views that were antagonistic to mine were forced into a limited perspective of the world. If science contradicted my Christian views, I used Christianity to justify some disregard of that view so that my set beliefs held firm rather than agree that the opposition held value.

My wife LOVES estate sales. She feeds her dopamine addiction of buying stuff, both valuable and garbage I wish she’d leave at the estate. Or stuff she buys, but then tires of and gives to the nearest Goodwill. But one estate sale she found this past weekend peaked my interest so I decided to go with her. The house decor and layout was amazing.

When we walked in the front door of the house , we walked from the entry into the library/study. Someone who lived there was a doctor. Of what? I don’t know. The shelves were filled with medical books. Surrounded by a cross spectrum of interests: books about local fare, photography, Christianity, religions, Marxism, Catholicism, psychology, intellectualism, novels, biographies, histories, etc. It was as if the person wanted to expose him or herself to every kind of information, not limited to a pursuit of one course of one particular part of knowledge. He or she could have filled the room with their life’s work. But it appeared that their life’s work was only one of his interests.

It was the most diverse personal libraries I’d ever been into. It was inspiring.

I left there with several books: A photography book or two. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. Religion in America by Winthrop S. Hudson. Various short stories and three novels by Ernest Hemingway, including A Farewell to Arms & The Sun Also Rises. Marx for Beginners by Rius. Intellectuals by Paul Johnson. The Civil War by Robert Paul Jordan. Among others. Some of these I’ll read. Some skim.

Lately, as soon as my time gets stagnant and I dawdle aimlessly on the internet, I try to catch myself and reach for any number of books I’m reading. One of the best things I got from my dad is a love for books. But time doesn’t doesn’t always allow me to read. I take that back. Bad habits toward social media and internet addictions prevent me from book reading. But I’m actively trying to change that.

I’m halfway through Them, by Joyce Carol Oates, but I’ve backburned it for now. I lost a bit of interest when I was distracted by other books.

One book I’m almost finished with, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life by James Hollis, PH. D. is a exploration in how people tend to become the person they were bred to be, but when they reach middle age, there’s a chance that they examine their life, and think, “This isn’t what I wanted; it’s what the people around me wanted. I wanted to be someone/somewhere else.”

The book leads me to believe I went through a midlife crises in my 20s. I was unhappy with part of the map that was given to me and what others expected my life to be, so I rebelled. I mean, tore up parts of the map and started drawing a different one. I didn’t leap from home to marriage, so I had time to peer backward while looking forward. I’m continuously going through these introspective moments understanding that different map cannot be fully an original one. It must stand on the shoulders of the giants who preceded me. And the more shoulders I can learn about, the more directions one can go. The fuller the brain, the more chances you give it to go any direction possible. To declare one right path is to limit the mind. A limited mind is not advantageous to me, because it shuts off possibilities to other insights to creativity, productivity, happiness, joy, sorrow, grappling with life, etc.

Maybe because I didn’t follow the script of having children, needing a specific salaried job to support them which let me have more time to myself to be introspective and question the past. I value that time. I value that ability to not follow the prescribed trajectory in exchange for one flailing around in search for any knowledge, not just one kind.

What I’m learning now is that I could never tear up the script. The information given to children is incredibly invaluable for navigating the world. It, too, is a shoulder to stand on. Just not the only shoulder.

My favorite book I’m reading right now is Tara Westover’s Educated. It’s the story of how a woman born into a radical Mormon family overcame obstacles of religiously-induced, willful ignorance to the highest levels of education this country offers. I relish in her stories and how they seem to mirror my past at times. She made decisions based the authority of the adults in the room, and not a variety of information coming from a diversity of sources. The biggest similarity between us is that our educators warned that the more secular the source, the more dangerous it is. You hear things like, “Evolution is evil. Believe me I know.” Instead of finding out for oneself, the self finds itself repeating without exploration. Families put a lot of pressure, more than they think, to become someone we might not be. The longer a person waits to explore other avenues, the harder it is to get away. Tara’s brother’s and sisters got stuck doing what their bipolar disordered father pushed on them. She, somehow, wrenched herself free.

It’s not just DNA that parents give their children. It’s an entire head full of information. The hope is that, like DNA, there aren’t many derivatives. That information carbon copies. When it doesn’t imprint exactly, it can become problematic.

Anyway, I love that there’s a dialogue of raised voices around what to read. Because the moment I’m told not to read something, that’s the book I’m reaching for. I wish more people could think like that. But the God of Ignorance is more powerful than any deity real or invented. He shall be praised. And he shall reign, until the equal distribution of knowledge flows like the waters of Niagara Falls.

I leave you with this incredibly insightful illustration:

2 thoughts on “What to read? … what to read?

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