Turning circles: An account of reading

Unlike Marilynne Robinson I did not read books as a child.  Between learning to read (which I do not remember) and actually reading for enjoyment (which happened sometime around 16 years of age) I can remember reading one book.  I am sure if I forced myself, I could remember more (and dammit I just have, but I digress).  I remember reading one book and it was somewhere around grade 7.  It was a long book with a short title; Stephen King’s It.  I remember a spider.  I remember one girl with several boys (and there being ‘a scene of sexuality’).  But mostly I remember a spider, a big one, I think.  In any event I did not read much.  I remember hearing about and knowing kids that would  read books at any and every opportunity.  I did not envy them or despise them, I just didn’t care.

I was not a reader then but I am a reader now.  If I was asked to characterize one element of continuity before and after that shift I would say it was the element of exploration.  I would guess that most people consider themselves as having an exploring spirit (with varying degrees of prominence and forms).  I don’t think I am unique in having a sense of exploration only that it strikes me as what facilitated my openness to reading.  I should note that one of the books that I can identify as marking a shift towards becoming a reader is Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.

And that was it.  I fell almost intuitively into stories and content that were not finished, that did not actually end.  In theology it was mysticism and not systematics.  In literature it was Doestoevsky and not Dickens.  In psychology it was the unconscious and not behaviour.  These books left me turning inward and outward, sometimes into knots, sometimes it just left of exhausted in face of the expanse.  There was a time I would have articulated this preference as judgment (clearly I have taken the high road!).  I say it now only as confession.  I have been drawn to works that explore what interests me and what interests me is the process of human experience and meaning.  And in the last almost 20 years I have simply wanted to forge ahead not worrying about data collection or classification.  I simply wanted to stay on the trail of someone or something, and the pace felt feverish at times and I was always running on a shoestring of resources.

In any event I thought that I would pause at least for a moment and align the authors and texts that have been my most valued guides or at least my most rewarding terrain.  I hope to give a simple overlay of these works with my life.  I don’t know if this will yield any insights but even in the midst of invigorating pursuits it might be prudent to gain bearings enough to ensure I am not turning circles in a forest.  Though if this is the case and my circles are expanding I could claim no better advance than through such thoroughness.

What comes will be simply an account of recollection.  I will trust that what left an impact is what was most impacting.  I could be wrong about that, but I will start from here.


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