My sister and I laugh at Mom sometimes; there she is, still reading old issues of Reader's Digest dating before the turn of the new millennium. Certainly, medicine has advanced from whatever the latest trend was. Certainly, our fashion sense has evolved. But yet, she continues to catch up on this publication she enjoys.
Who am I to laugh, really though? Here I am, in 2018 catching up on a book I only recently learned existed. Reading Lolita in Tehran is the wonderful memoir by Azir Nafisi, who risked everything to bring literature to a group of women amidst repressive governmental policies in Iran, also in the years before the turn of the new millennium. If you haven't read the memoir, I would highly recommend it. It both highlights and conveys the power of literature to free minds, to build compassion and understanding, and to connect people at the heart.
I finished reading this book before the turn of the new year, 2019. I usually resolve to read more books in the coming year, and 2018 was no different. I get so overwhelmed by the piles and piles that I want to read. Don't we all? There are so, so many and such little time. Who couldn't make immersion in words a full time job? I remember a friend telling me that as a young child she experienced a harsh clarity when she realized that there would never be enough time to read all the books that she wanted to read in her lifetime.
This all reminds me of a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye that I love, The List:
A man told me he had calculated
the exact number of books
he would be able to read before he died
by figuring the average number
of books he read per month
and his probable earth span,
(averaging how long
his dad and grandpa had lived,
adding on a few years since he
exercised more than they did).
Then he made a list of necessary books,
nonfiction mostly, history, philosophy,
fiction, and poetry from different time periods
so there wouldn't be large gaps in his mind.
He had given up frivolous reading entirely.
There are only so many days.
Oh I felt sad to hear such an organized plan.
What about the books that aren't written yet,
he books his friends might recommend
that aren't on the list,
the yummy magazine that might fall
into his view at a silly moment after all?
What about the mystery search
through delectable library shelves?
I felt the heartbeat of forgotten precious books
calling for his hand.
Let us live into this truth not only with the literature and other words we choose to read this year, but also in our lives. Let us be open to the surprises, to the unexpected lessons, to the newness of each day. As Benedict rallies his monastics, "Each day begin again." L'chaim!
Valerie Luckey, OSB is in the initial monastic program of the Erie Benedicintes and has taken temporary vows with the community as she discerns the possibility of perpetual monastic profession. She shares her "monastic journey" on the community website in her blog, "Walking in the Holy Presence" This particular reflection was written during her monastic novitiate year.
In this new year, what will it take for you to learn new ways to "be open to the surprises, to the unexpected lessons, to the newness of each day?"
Please share your reflections with us here.
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Monks in Our Midst: writings by monks from the 3rd to the 21st centuries.