jan_can_too (jan_can_too) wrote,

Thoughts from reading

My reading tends to run toward themes, partly because I get interested in something and read a lot about it and partly because one book pretty much inevitably leads to another. Over the last weeks, though, two separate reading threads ended up colliding with interesting results.

One thread came from the prayer side. Centering prayer and prayer for my Meyers-Briggs personality type led to The Cloud of Unknowing and then St. Teresa of Avila and has me presently somewhere in the middle of the collected writings of St. John of the Cross (who, it turns out, is not the guy I thought he was).

The other thread came from, of all places, the money side. As I mentioned earlier, Brent and I are working on some financial independence stuff. Part of that process is about figuring out what is really important and worth the hours of your life you spend to get it. The book mentioned Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning as something useful for the discernment of priorities.

John and Viktor both write an awful lot about suffering and how instructive it can be. The big difference is that John pretty much suggests you go out and find some for your own good and Viktor thinks seeking suffering is pathological, finding the reaction to inevitable suffering to be the point where growth occurs. They agree that spirituality is not found in the condition of the body, but in the shape of the soul, though neither one would probably like to see himself summarized in those terms.

They also have a remarkable agreement about the inscrutability of God. Viktor, concentration camp survivor, says it doesn’t matter why it happened; it is about choosing life, always. St. John says our understanding is far too paltry to conceive of what God is. I love this about them because, after much struggling in my own head trying to make sense out of the nonsense that surrounds doctrinal faith, I gave up, realizing that if God was something I could understand, God was nothing special or worth bothering about.

Both books are tough reading, Viktor because his experiences are so horrific, John because despite his insistence that we can’t understand God continues to spin long rhetorical arguments about How God Works. Definitely worth the life hours the books cost.

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