Monday, October 27, 2008
Books aren't a bad thing
I spent a little time tonight (too much, given deadlines) looking around at some blogs that have a good bit of partisan political comment. I saw one in particular that was full of rants about the election: words heaped upon words, invective, mean-spirited, ill-informed, BIG PRONOUNCEMENTS about the EVIL of one of the candidates.
I looked at the profile of the blogger. Under books per likes to read, the answer was essentially, "I don't read books, except for Clancy and Grisham." It seems that most of per's viewpoints come from bloggers, youtube, television . . . and it didn't really come across that per spent a lot of time balancing per's viewpoint with others. I daresay that each encounter with information was undertaken with a filter the size of an iron skillet, and one with about as much opacity.
Any visitor to this blog knows that I've got problems with books, in that my life is essentially an ongoing tug-of-war with them. But they do teach me a great deal. I daresay that books are largely responsible for my worldview these days, much more than the TV or the Internet or how I was brought up or what a religious body tells me to think.
And the books I read are generally exhaustively researched. They are not screeds. I'd have a lot more fun if they were. A look at the client list shows a hefty number of university and denominational or theological presses. These are not lightweights who can afford to sully a reputation.
My guess is that the person's whose blog I looked at could look at this list and say that I read the output of a bunch of ivory-tower academics and leftist religious institutions.
But you know what? I'd rather read books that ask a lot of questions than just spout out a lot of dogmatic answers. And while the questions might make people uncomfortable (as they do me sometimes), I've learned a lot in my discomfort . . . and I've had to open my mind to do so.
My wife had a conversation a month or two ago with someone who starting talking politics in a place where it probably shouldn't have been brought up. He went on a mild rant about the candidate whom Tere is supporting and said he'd read a lot about that candidate. When asked to name one book he'd read on the topic he was discussing (and he is a bright individual), he couldn't. Tere suggested to him that when he'd read a book, perhaps his viewpoint would be a little more meaningful. And I couldn't agree more.
If the only books you read are potboiler fiction, and you restrict yourself to the input of people who agree with you, and you enter into every encounter with information as a battle to defend the truths you already hold -- and moreover to insult the millions of people who might not happen to agree with you -- AND YOU DO IT IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, please don't be proud or public about your lack of intellectual stimulation.
That is, unless you have a book you want to publish. Then by all means, get in touch with me. I'd be happy to read whatever you have to say -- and I'm housebroken enough not to give you a hard time about it.
The long-established LandonDemand corporate credo has been: "I will work for anyone who does not advocate violence against me or my family directly."
But these days, it might be hard to tell the players without a scorecard.