Journey of Inquiry

  • Books on My Shelf 2013

Words are only words.  Stories, just stories.  Books, mere books.  But if a book, an author, has touched your soul even once, you understand the depth of connection possible between writer and reader.  You have had a glimpse of time contained, of spiritual energy used to create and share art.  And you have accessed information that can take you beyond self — the egocentric nature of human existence.  That’s a form of freedom.  A way to learn more about empathy, compassion, and the journey of inquiry we were born to complete.

  • Books that speak to us (often in ways we can’t even identify clearly) allow us to develop a more expansive view of the world.  They also allow us to explore, more deeply, what lies within, and yet, beyond.

Now, through December, I’ll be sharing some thoughts about books — some are on my shelf, in waiting.  Some I’ve read once, maybe twice.  And some offered life-changing ideas by allowing me into an author’s world in a memorable way.  As a writer, I find that too often people think of the world of books as the world of publishing.  But the two worlds are not created equal.  Far from it.

One is about creative inspiration; one is about economics, marketing, packaging, spinning, and publishing books that appeal to mainstream, mass markets that easily gain the attention of media giants.  A generalization, yes.  There are exceptions to everything.

Some publishers are a bit inspired, truly; some authors are content to go for big markets, big publishers, and worry less about creating “art.”

Everything is on a continuum … everything is relative.  But I’m sure you get my point.

The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts.
~ John Greenleaf Whittier

  • Today’s selection from my bookshelf is: This I Believe — The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women.  

My bookmark is on page 175.  It’s an essay by Gregory Orr called “The Making of Poems”.

He begins: “I believe in poetry as a way of surviving emotional chaos, spiritual confusion, and traumatic events that come with being alive.”

He goes on to explain how he was responsible for the death of his younger brother.  A hunting accident when Gregory was 12.  “In a single moment, my world changed forever.”

  • Has your life ever changed forever in a single moment?  Does this author make you feel “less alone,” if you have?

Orr also writes: “In the aftermath, no one in my shattered family could speak to me about my brother’s death, and their silence left me alone with all my agonizing emotions.  And under those emotions, something even more terrible: a knowledge that all the easy meanings I had lived by until then had been suddenly and utterly abolished.”

All the easy meanings … that phrase resonates deeply with me.

Of course going beyond easy meanings is the beginning of  spiritual liberation, but I’m pretty sure a 12-year-old didn’t understand that.  Not many adults understand that.

  • Do you know anyone who lives by those “easy meanings,” as though they meant something real?  It’s a sad, frightening thing to watch, and some would say, simply part of the human condition at this point in history.

If you’d like to read more by Gregory Orr, his memoir is called: The Blessing.  He’s also written many books of poetry, and when Holt published this collection of essays in 2007, Orr was (and still is) a professor of English Literature at the University of Virginia.  His memoir was selected by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the 50 best nonfiction books of 2002.

You cannot open a book without learning something.  ~ Confucius

I hope you will also explore your bookshelf during this 3-month series in SunnyRoomStudio.  Close your eyes and select a book, open it to any page.  Find a passage, even a brief phrase, that says something unforgettable; something that touches your soul.  Share that passage with someone.  Share it here, as a comment.

  • The business of publishing is one thing; the art of writing and reading is quite another.

Avoid the drama created by the publishing industry … it is only a distraction from what’s important about books and authors.  I, for one, have always valued the gift of books, as: companions, sources of inspiration and connection, a way to discover the vast world beyond self.

When I hear someone say, “I don’t read,” I wonder what they do that is so much more important.  Is there no need to learn and explore, no need to grow in the personal and spiritual sense?  No need to venture into the unknown.

Let books (in whatever format) become part of your “journey of inquiry” … what do you want to know more about?  What will take you beyond a superficial existence … beyond “all the easy meanings” in life?

The answer might be on your bookshelf.

Every book is a quotation; and every house is a quotation out of all forests, and mines,
and stone quarries; and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thanks for visiting SunnyRoomStudio: a creative, sunny space for kindred spirits.
If you are looking for book suggestions, I maintain an informal list here in SRS.
See top menu or click here.

See you again next Friday morning, October 18th.  Have a good week!

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