“We read to know we are not alone,” C. S. Lewis declared, and how right he was. When I read, to quote the Eric Liddell character in Chariots of Fire: “I feel God’s pleasure.”
As you may have recognized, the title for my series is an adaptation of that famous line from the movie Sixth Sense, where the young boy, Cole Sear (great pun on the last name) admits “I see dead people.” I thought the title an apt conjuring, because of how I read dead people, essentially, for a living, and, more essentially, for pleasure (although fortunately, the two blend for me). So I also live amidst the ever-present history of ideas, as every discerning reader does.
We have all enjoyed a good story, or simply had a single line hit home and move us in some profound way. These words from other voices, most long gone on this earth, shape us and continue to live in us, through us, long into the future. Reading can lead us into new ways of truly seeing.
Have you also had the uncanny experience of reading something exactly when you needed to read it? Either some phrase or scene or character or line of poetry that has spoken personally and directly to you, at that specific time in your life?
The effect is like you’ve been spoken at, directly, through the ages, through the pages – as though your heart has been read, your mind laid bare, to a complete stranger. Someone else has already felt the same way you do, had the same questions, endured the same sufferings, celebrated the same joys.
Reading as an act in and of itself, separate from even the content, has always fascinated me. It is at once highly private and highly social. You are alone, turning the page (or tapping it, perhaps, as is increasingly likely), isolated in your concentration and immersed in your own imagination. And yet you are in conversation with others, not just the author him or himself, but with projected characters, and /or countless ideas of other minds that thread throughout the ages, coming to rest in a few marks on the page in front of you. You enter another world completely, and yet it is an inner world that challenges and reshapes the “you” as you are reading it.
No wonder God came as Word and as Flesh and moves among us as Spirit. I see these three forces at work, I feel this trinity of presence at play, in the reading process itself, in the act of discovering more about who I am as I move out of myself into story.
In this upcoming series, I would like to examine a handful of examples from literary greats, and consider how they challenge and inform our faith walk. The list need not be limited to Christian writers, or overtly Christian topics. I have found that to be irrelevant in the long run, as everything I have ever read, and continue to read, regardless of cultural or spiritual context or background, still speaks to me in some way of the human condition, our need for redemption, and most powerfully, the glory of God.
I have a few of my own authors in mind to start, but if you have an author in particular that you’d like for me to consider in the series, I’d welcome any suggestions.
Editorial Note on the Series: Thanks for bearing with me as I fight out from under the constant “morning” sickness and return to the screen. I will try, in good faith, to post the rest of this series on Tuesdays and Fridays. Thanks for joining us! For brevity’s sake, my focus on each author necessitates a painfully small taste of his or her grandeur. My aim is to examine one thought nugget, and unpack it in discussion with my readers. Some of these ideas are part of my percolation process for an upcoming book, so I will keep you posted! In the meantime, I do hope the series brings you a remembered joy of past authors, a welcome taste of new ones, and deep renewal in your life in the word.
OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES
#2 The Bible: the Most Creative Piece of Creative Non-Fiction I Have Ever Read
#8 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Our Struggle with God (Part I)
Thanks for reading “I Read Dead People”