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Books: Gilead

January 17, 2010 | Books,Quotes

I’ve recently been told that I don’t deserve what I have.

Standing right behind that, I believe, is a condemnation that I don’t practice religion the way I “should.”

I have heard any number of fine sermons in my life, and I have known any number of deep souls. I am well aware that people find fault, but it seems to me to be presumptuous to judge the authenticity of anyone’s religion, except one’s own. And that is also presumptuous. (p. 173)

This has prompted a lot of self-reflecting and a search for understanding on my part. That search has led me to realize some very important things about the wretchedness of cruelty people visit on each other. It’s so difficult to see the good in others when one only looks for faults.

Let me say first of all that the grace of God is sufficient to any transgression, and that to judge is wrong, the origin and essence of much error and cruelty. (p. 155)

While all this happens, I read a book called Gilead. It’s written by Marilynne Robinson, an Iowa author. In the book, a kind, gentle, old man — a preacher — writes a last letter to his young son. Unintentionally, he also speaks to me when I am in desperate need of kind words.

When I read books is almost as important as what books I read. Reading is not just about content but also context, and it’s not just the context of the words in the books. It’s the context of my life. Seemingly unrelated books I read in sequence often fit together in unforseen ways. I often find myself reading a book at a time when I need those stories or information most because of what’s happening in my life.

It seems to me there is less meanness in atheism, by a good measure. It seems that the spirit of religious self-righteousness this article deplores is precisely the spirit in which it is written. Of course he’s right about many things, one of them being the destructive potency of religious self-righteousness. (p. 146)

And so it is with the old man in Gilead. He’s taking stock, looking back on his own life and looking ahead to his son’s life without him. He’s trying to tell his son what’s important. In doing so, he speaks to several things that have been on my mind lately — understanding the differences of others without mocking or ridiculing the very essence of who they are.

In every important way we are such secrets from each other, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, also a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence. Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable — which, I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy and by which we struggle to live. (p. 197)

Some people believe the only way to hear the voice of God is to sit in a church or cathedral and listen to the voice of someone who preaches.

I hear the voice of God in a brilliant sunrise.

I hear it when I look into the depths of my husband’s or my children’s eyes.

You see how it is godlike to love the being of someone. Your existence is a delight to us. I hope you never have to long for a child as I did, but oh, what a splendid thing it has been that you came finally, and what a blessing to enjoy you now for almost seven years.

And I hear it in the words of books I read.

Posted by Becky @ 12:03 am | 2 Comments  

Books: Gilead

December 23, 2009 | Books,Quotes

I just started reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I think I’m going to like this author. Food for thought already.

There’s a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that. A lot of malice and dread and guilt, and so much loneliness, where you wouldn’t really expect to find it, either.

My point in mentioning this is only to say that people who feel any sort of regret where you are concerned will suppose you are angry, and they will see anger in what you do, even if you’re just quietly going about a life of your own choosing. They make you doubt yourself, which, depending on cases, can be a severe distraction and a waste of time. This is a thing I wish I had understood much earlier than I did.

Posted by Becky @ 10:06 am | 1 Comment  


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