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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dashboard Reads


Never go anywhere without a book is my motto and I always try to live by it. So much so, that if you open the glove compartment of my car, you will find books simply for the reason that I never know when I will be somewhere and need something to read. Many a time, when my family goes into a store to pick something up, I wait in the parking lot and, because there are books in the glove compartment, I can just open it up, choose one and read contentedly until they get back. There can be any mix of books in there, too. Usually there's poetry, fiction, nonfiction and a compact Bible. 

So what's in the glove compartment at the moment?


First it's The Long Loneliness: An Autobiography by one of my spiritual heroes, Dorothy Day. This is a copy I just found at the last book sale our local library had. I was thrilled to find it. One of the passages that I've read that had an impact on me immediately was this one:

We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other.
We know Him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread,
and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a
crust, where there is companionship.

I just find that passage so beautiful and so Christ-like.


Second, Listening To Your Life: Daily Meditations by Frederick Buechner. 

Buechner is a gifted writer whose way with words dazzles and amazes me. Whether he's writing fiction or theology, he has a profound and extraordinary ability to fill me with awe at not only what he has to say but how he says it. He has a deft skill to see into the heart of the everyday and find something miraculous and wise. Just read this passage where the title of this book came from:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom
and pain of it no less than in the excitement.and gladness: touch, taste, smell your
way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments
are key moments, and life itself is grace.

Frederick Buechner, like any great author, makes me stop, look, and pay attention. 


Third is Selected Poems by William Carlos Williams. True, this was in the console between the two front seats of my car, but that's a minor triviality. Like many, I first became aware of his poetry through "The Red Wheelbarrow." Like many of my favorite poets, Williams is a master of minutiae. He notices the small things that often go unnoticed. It reminds me of one of my favorite films from last year, Paterson by Jim Jarmusch and starring Adam Driver. The film is woven with William Carlos Williams. The main character is a bus driver and secret poet who loves the work of Williams and recites "This Is Just To Say" to his girlfriend. 

One of the poems I love from this collection is entitled "Pastoral":

The little sparrows
hop ingenuously
about the pavement
quarreling
with sharp voices
over those things 
that interest them.
But we who are wiser
shut ourselves in
on either hand
and no one knows
whether we think good
or evil.

Meanwhile,
the old man goes about
gathering dog-lime
walks in the gutter
without looking up
and his tread 
is more majestic than
that of the Episcopal minister
approaching the pulpit
of a Sunday.
These things
astonish me beyond words.

I love those things that "astonish me beyond words." They are holy.


Last is my compact edition of the King James Bible. I also have one that's an NIV edition, but I prefer this King James one published by Thomas Nelson. Unlike my other compact Bible, this edition is beautiful with its soft burgundy and brown cover. Despite its smaller size, I don't have trouble reading the lettering (yes, it's an age thing). When I am waiting in the school car line to drop my younger son off in the morning, I open it and read to him one of the Psalms. It becomes part of our prayer for the day. Then, in the afternoon, when I'm waiting to pick him up from school, I often read a passage before I start praying for others. If we're driving somewhere as a family and we get into a theological discussion, either my wife or my older son, can open it up to find a passage.  When my older son asked me what my favorite verse from the Bible was, I told him, "Micah 6:8." 
"Which one's that?" he asked. 
"Look it up," I told him and he did. 

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

That led to a discussion on what it meant to "act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God." Isn't that enough of a reason to keep books in my car?


So that's what books are in my car, how about yours? 

If you don't keep books in your car, what books do you carry with you in case you need something to read?

1 comment:

  1. I love that WCW poem: I confess the only poems of his I had ever read before are the 2 you mentioned (the wheelbarrow and plum poems). Isn't that last bit "These things/astonish me beyond words" great? The poem would not have been nearly as good without that part.

    That Paterson movie also sounds good. Speaking of movies, have you ever seen "In Her Shoes"? It appears very chick-flick-like at first glance but it is more than that -- and it has several allusions to great poems/poets e.g. Elizabeth Bishop and e.e. cummings.

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