Impeachment debate and acquittal.
Kobe helicopter crash.
Iowa caucus (debacle).
State of the Union Address.
These are headlines from the last few days. The volume of significant (and heavy) events invading our head (and heart) space is overwhelming. The news cycle is like a carousel spinning out of control. If our only reading material is the endlessly urgent front page, we are trapped in a myopic moment.
I prefer the enduring over the instant. A bit of marinated wisdom instead of a tweet vomited in a moment of impulse.
Here's an actionable step. Limit the reading of "headlines," the new, urgent, up-to-the-minute. Make space to read what is "old," tested, and true. There is C.S. Lewis's classic quote on reading old books:
It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones."
Many people make resolutions to read 100 new books in the next year. I want to read just a few true ones. I don't want the latest and greatest. I want to digest ideas that have been proven by time. I want to converse with people whose work has outlasted cycles of fad and feel-good.
I will grant a few brainless minutes on social media or Youtube, allowing a little gratuitous sugar in my diet. But I reserve my better time for voices that will leave a genuine, lasting impression.
The Church indeed likes what is old, not because it is old, but rather because it is young." - Thomas Merton
Here are a few "old" things that I've been consuming in the last three weeks.
The Gospel of John. I'm not tired of the Bible yet, and John's account is my latest obsession. (Upon my latest reading, I am astounded that Jesus cares so little for the headlines of the day. Politics, popularity, economy . . . they were all so peripheral to him. He just keeps looking over his shoulder on the way to the cross and says, "Come to me. Follow me. Look to me. Believe in me. Abide in me.")
In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen. A short book on Christian leadership. I read it once a year. The anti-leadership book in a crowded shelf of thousands.
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. Sometimes maddening in his frenetic topic-jumping. Sometimes brilliant in his account of coming to faith.
Dr. Martin Luther King. In the month of February, a good tradition. He always challenges my courage. "There are some things so dear, so precious, so eternally true, that they are worth dying for. And I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live." (Detroit speech)
Whatever you do, don't read my book until you've read at least three classics. It will be another 30 years before I know if my writing is any good.
What are your recommendations?