May 6, 2011

Of Boethius, Kempis, and Reading

Posted in Uncategorized at 09:56 by Miracle

The idea of a Lady Philosophy conversing with a man sentenced to death made this work especially attractive to me, but reading The Consolation of Philosophy recently revealed that it would have left an even greater impact on my life if I were not happy and yet without His Peace. However, I would still willingly prescribe it to those who need much consoling. In Boethius’ dialogue with Lady Philosophy, he questions God’s foreknowledge, free will, the fickleness of fortune, man’s priorities and vanities, and inter alia, Lady Philosophy directs Boethius and the reader to True Happiness and where True Consolation can be found, but it was perhaps because of my already tranquil state that I did not dwell so much on the book’s consoling aspect, but rather on how it somehow spake to me as – guess what? – a lover of books. Odd but true.

“It is not the walls of your library, decked with ivory and glass, that I need, but rather the resting place in your heart, wherein I have not stored books, but I have of old put that which gives value to books, a store of thoughts from books of mine.” – Lady Philosophy

What a meaningful passage for a lover of books who has expanded her wee library with an ample volume of books in 2009! I can always allay that guilty feeling of amassing too many books by telling myself that not only am I doing this for personal growth but also to have consequential treasures to pass on to my progenies. Yes, a bookworm can always find myriads of excuses (words abound in our lives after all), especially now that I am also running a little online bookshop, and that I do not acquire books for the sake of admiring their aesthetic qualities but to actually read them as well, and that I do not spend my money on other vanities. See? So many justifications! Nevertheless, one cannot really escape the fact that the important thing in book-loving is not having so many and reading just about any book, but the wisdom that has been retained, and is alive in one’s heart. What struck me the most in Boethius passage was not simply the mention of the heart, but specifically, “the resting place in the heart”! It leads me to ask, what then is reading, relating with a character, condemning or sympathizing with another, or enjoying words if they have not helped us in achieving a resting place in our hearts wherein we can procure the consolation of wisdom? Are we making the mistake of escaping into merely any book instead of selecting the substantial ones as instruments for building such a resting place in our hearts so that instead of escaping into external and passing enjoyment we may console ourselves from within?

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Compounded with my edition of The Consolation of Philosophy is Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, and surprisingly, it continued to speak to me as a reader:

“Certainly at the day of doom it shall not be asked of us what we have read but what we have done: nor what good we have said but how religiously we have lived.”

“If thou wilt draw profit in reading, read meekly, simply, and truly, not desiring to have a name of knowledge.”

“For high words make not a man holy and righteous…”

“Certainly the meek plough man that serveth God is much better than the proud philosopher that, taking no heed of his own living, considereth the courses of the heavens.”

“Cease from over-great desire of knowledge, for therein shall be found great distraction and deceit.”

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What blessed literary works to launch a new year of more meaningful reading!

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