Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday Musings: Quiet Joy and New Year's (Reading) Resolutions

... being a post in two parts

Part 1: Quiet Joy

Last week I wrote about my surprising disconnect from the Christmas season this year. Turns out I just had to wait a bit longer.

The joy cameunexpectedly—in a quiet way. First, my friend Stephen shared his article from last January where he quoted from C.S. Lewis' chapter in Mere Christianity on Christian marriage:

This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying that a thing will not really live unless it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do.
Let the thrill go—let it die away—go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow—and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time.
At the time, I only took this passage to mind in the way Stephen originally used it—in regard to fandoms and not killing the joy of partaking in stories by always demanding the first and strongest thrill from every interaction. But God brought it back to my mind later.

Our associate pastor had asked me a few weeks back if I would write and read "a poem or something else" for the Christmas Eve service. I had written up a villanelle on a family trip two weeks ago, but the more I looked at it, the more it felt forced. As though I were trying too hard to get an old thrill instead of allowing the words to say what they wanted. So two days before the service, I reworked it into a "something else".*

This small (or large) act of revisiting a project served to lighten my spirits a great deal. When the service finally came, I found myself thinking back to Lewis' words. "It's the small, quiet joys," I thought, "that keep the thrill alive. Even at Christmas."

And it was a good Christmas after all.

Part 2: New Year's (Reading) Resolutions

One thing that usually happens around here at Christmas is that I get books. This year, despite my best efforts at making a wishlist for our parents that consisted of not so many books, I still wound up with quite a few:

  • Tolkien's Beowulf translation
  • Tolkien's Sigurd and Gudrun adaptation
  • Glamour and Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Letters to Malcolm by C.S. Lewis
  • Christian Mythmakers by Rolland Hein
  • Goldenhand by Garth Nix
  • I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells
  • Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
  • The Celtic Vision by Esther de Waal
  • A Life Observed by Devin Brown
  • The Book of Common Prayer (this edition, to be precise)

And most of these went straight to my bookshelf in our bedroom (also known as the "read this soonish" shelf). Once they did, I realized I had a problem. The shelf, already filled to overflowing, was now almost unmanageable. So I purged the shelf (i.e. I took the books that had moved down my priority list to the library downstairs). In order to keep myself from winding up in the same position next year (and in order to maintain my wife's sanity when it comes to my frequent book-buying urges), I am making a couple of resolutions.

  1. I shall not buy a book (even at a library sale or McKay's) without first having read one I own. [This is a revision of a rule I used a few years back; originally, it was read two to buy one.]
  2. I shall not add a book to the bedroom shelf without first having read a book on the shelf (and removing it).

For the sake of transparency, here's what the bedroom shelf looks like now:

There are also a few books on the shelf that aren't included in the "read it and remove it" clause: the Bible (on the top far right) and the three large books on the bottom left: Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and A Dictionary of Irish Folklore (which is here partly to keep the shelf weighted on the bottom :P).

So what about you all? Any resolutions for the new year, reading or otherwise?

* Here, for those of you who are interested:

Christmas Musings
Above Bethlehem, star and nebula, cloud and angel, from heaven to heaven,
The universe was holding its breath.
An unexpected arrival, long promised
Long looked for, long cherished and feared
The Word had come to conquer death.
Since Seth and before this entry
Had been prepared, prophesied, planned
Still, the universe held its breath.
Angelic glorias and humble praise, difficult journeys and worldly edicts
Preceded His coming.
Temple-dwelling Anna and faithful Simeon gave praise to God
For the end of the night
For the Messiah, this child, the Word made flesh
The Son of Man come to conquer our death.
In the Jordan, with John’s praise and heaven's dove
The voice of the Father announcing His might,
The Word revealed Himself
And the universe withheld a silent breath.
Outside Jerusalem’s walls—continually before Him
Who bears our names on His hands—on the skull-strewn heath
Darkness—with nails and spear—put out the Light of the World.
The Word, crowned with thorns, was conquered by death.
The Son rose with Sunday
And above Jerusalem, star and nebula, cloud and angel, from heaven to heaven
With the joy it had reserved since His birth

The universe shouted for the Word had conquered death.

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