Friday, May 12, 2006

a few books i didn't read

one of my perennial frustrations is feeling like i don't read enough. as my household will regretfully confirm i have piles of library books around the place. most come to our home, perch on various surfaces around the bedroom, living room, and kitchen, then after a few weeks of this shuffling return to the library unread. some of the books i manage to 'dip in to' which means i read the first couple of chapters and usually the last chapter. very few of them i read right through and most i barely get past the table of contents.

so, i guess this is a confession post and a desperate attempt to make something of my addiction. here are a few books i have 'dipped in to' in recent weeks...perhaps you will want to read the whole book.

Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage by Heather Rogers i picked this book up because of an interesting conversation i had with my father in law. we were lamenting the loads of trash we had generated at our family reunion and wondered where all our bags of refuse ended up. this book has some fascinating things to say about the history of trash and argues that trash that fills the land (land fills!) became a required part of our lives as the consumer society ramped up late in the 20th century. one horrifying fact the book raises is that massive land fills generate untold amounts of poisonous gas and toxic liquid that wafts and seeps into our air, soil and water. it gets worse. the companies that we pay to take care of our trash only accept liability for damage caused to the environment for 30-40 years. after that (and coincidentally much of the toxic waste from these land fills won't do its worst damage until it's been there 50+ years) no one will be on the hook for cleaning up the mess. and another scary fact, the large 'sealed' land fill sacks that the trash is buried in only have warranties to around 40 years so no-one is sure what we'll do next with all that rubbish. it reminds me of a line from wendell berry who was pondering the way we talk about throwing things away. he reminds us that because we all live on one planet together, there really is no away. trash is a problem that won't go away.

Exploring Reality : The Intertwining of Science and Religion by John Polkinghorne (2005)this book i picked up last week because i felt like i needed to think some more about the holy spirit with pentecost coming soon - or perhaps i thought i might need to feel more about the holy spirit. either way, i needed something about the holy spirit. the essay/chapter i found most helpful was called "Divine Reality: the Trinity." as a physicist and anglican priest polkinghorne writes beautifully about the mystery of the divine community by weaving string theory and the writings of dead theologians. it helped.

Meeting the expectations of the land : essays in sustainable agriculture and stewardship / edited by Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry [and] Bruce Colman. (1984)this one is part of a large pile of books about agrarianism - the philosophy and practice of sustainable agriculture. i'm trying to read bits and pieces to learn how we can, as an urban community, support this movement. one of the chief voices in new agrarianism is wendell berry and his influence in this part of the world can't be overstated. his chapter in this book was a great help as i was thinking about the way contextualized, missional leadership can be informed by the model of a wise farmer.
"the good farmer, like and artist, performs within a pattern; he must do one thing while remembering many others. He must be thoughtful of relationships and connections, always aware of the reciprocity of dependence and influence between part and whole. His work may be physical, but its integrity is made by thought....The good farmer's mind, as i understand it, is in a certain critical sense beyond the reach of textbooks and expert advice. Textbooks and expert advice, that is, can be useful to this mind, but only by means of a translation - difficult but possible, which only this mind can make - from the abstract to the particular" (p.28)


ryan k said...

While we are at it, it may be good to consider some books nobody really needs to read as there are now movies based on the books. For example, a lot of people may not have heard that the Lord of the Rings series is now available in movie form, so there is no need to read Tolkien's musty old books.

Maria Kenney said...

But without that musty old book, we'd forget about dear old Tom Bombadil, and all those great Elvish songs that go on for 3-4 pages.

If I'm confessing my own list, I've had Stark's "The Rise of Christianity" on/underneath the bedside table for probably 2 1/2 years.