Monday, September 5, 2011

Different Eyes

Some time ago I downloaded and installed Kindle for PC on my computer. Since then I have done a lot of surfing for free ebooks.  I have downloaded a lot of books that I'm looking forward to reading. Most of them are books that I've had an interest in for many years but couldn't justify spending the money. I was more than pleased to find so much available at no cost.

Among the books I downloaded was Somerset Maugham's  Of Human Bondage. It is a very lengthy novel that I had to read for my grade XII English class. I remember devouring that book back then (40 years ago) and I have reflected on that story a number of times throughout my life's journey.

I have been looking for Of Human Bondage in the 'Classic Literature' shelves of bookstores for many years and was never able to find it. I recently found the book on in the free kindle books. I downloaded that immediately. It is now one of the 4 or 5 books that I'm currently reading. My purpose in reading this book now is to rediscover the story, determine if my dim memory of the life journey of the main character is correct, and try to figure out what it was in that story that  has stuck with me in my own journey.

While browsing I also came across an author that I remember from my early adolescence. These books were adventure stories that a number of my relatives in Germany sent me for birthdays and as Christmas gifts. I had given these books away to the sons of a friend years ago. Out of curiousity, I downloaded these books too. I have started reading the first one of these books that I received as a 12 or 13 year old boy. I wondered if I still could read and comprehend German like I was able to many years ago. ( I am so far). I am also curious to figure out what it was in these stories that captivated my imagination so many years ago.

Reading books that I haven't seen in 40+ years is a very interesting exercise. I'm discovering things that I hadn't noticed before. It's as if I'm using different eyes.

I'm reading differently. Forty years ago I tore through the books to learn how the story ended. Now I employ the critical thinking skills I have learned. In both the books I mentioned I now have the patience to absorb the descriptive passages. In Of Human Bondage I now notice the small details that shape the growth of the principle character, details that I don't recall reading before.

In the German adventure story I am struck by two things.

Firstly, some of the descriptive passages are hilarious. I don't remember the presence of so much humour when I read the book as a boy. I read a couple of descriptive passages to Heidi and we were both highly amused. Secondly, I discovered an underlying thread that I completely missed  when I was younger. Underneath all the activity and adventure of the story line I find a discussion of what it means to be a Christian. There is a dialogue about ethics, integrity, love and acceptance. One very minor character who only makes a very brief appearance confesses guilt, remorse, repentance and  God's grace and forgiveness. Then there is an example of one man of faith making the ultimate sacrifice by giving his life so another man can live. The author can in no way be described as a writer of 'christian' fiction. This thread does not dominate the story, it is just a subtle little thread. I found this thread especially intriguing because the author was fired from several jobs because of theft. He spent 71/2 years imprisoned for fraud and embezzlement. His criminal career took place prior his becoming an author. I'm curious to learn where, when, and how things changed for this man.

The reading for content and significance that I do now is so different from the speed reading I did when I was younger.

The most important place I notice this difference is when I read Scripture. I am far more deliberate and attentive when I read now. I take time to contemplate the significance and implications of what I'm reading. I'm catching details I never have before. Reading with different eyes is enriching my experience and learning.

I'll have to pay attention to note what else I'm seeing and understanding differently.

Maybe the different eyes are a sign that I'm growing in maturity and wisdom? I hope that is the case.

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