'A difficult pleasure'
We read deeply for varied reasons, most of them familiar: that we cannot know enough people profoundly enough, that we need to know ourselves better; that we require knowledge, not just of self and others, but of the way things are. Yet the strongest, most authentic motive for deep reading…is the search for a difficult pleasure. Reinke quoting Harold Bloom (104).
In the final chapter in his theology of reading Reinke outlines two types of imagination- primary and secondary: “The primary sense of imagination (seeing in our minds what we’ve seen before) is a skill that we probably share with other creatures. The secondary sense of imagination (seeing in our minds what we’ve never experienced) is a distinctly human skill.” (82) Reinke argues in this chapter that we need this second type of imagination for “our pursuit of godliness” (82), looking primarily at the use of our secondary imagination in understanding the book of Revelation.
Reinke talks honestly of his previous neglect of “cultivating” his imagination. Do we perhaps shy away from reading Revelation or other “difficult” passages in the Bible (like Daniel 7)? Do we look merely to propositional statements or straightforward history for our understanding of God and His world? I am enjoying reading to my children A Dangerous Journey, which is a picturebook edition of Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, mainly because the allegory provides rich imaginative fodder. Reinke provokes with, “The lesson I have learned is that a failure to cultivate the imagination leads to an unintended neglect of the imaginative literature of Scripture, and this in turn leads to some degree of spiritual atrophy. “(89)
This theology for reading and, in particular, his argument on reading which involves the imagination segues neatly into the practical guide on reading which forms the second part of the book. Reinke is really here just opening up for the reader his thinking and approach to reading, offering it as a starting point for their own approach. The two things that I really benefitted from in this section were his explicit accounting of his priorities for reading and thinking about reading in terms of stewarding his time wisely.
I have a sense of my priorities for reading but haven't really taken time to put them onto paper. Aside from the Bible my reading priorities are: spiritual matters, general non-fiction- topic or interest (e.g. parenting, theory of photography), and reading for pleasure. I will generally be reading three books (or so) at any one time, from each of these categories. During semester time a fourth (and generally more pressing) priority of reading for study appears and will dominate how much time I spend reading books in my other priorities.
So, school is back (in NSW, at least) and so homework time begins again. Why not, as a way to start the year, make a list of your reading priorities? Set some goals (and maybe some parameters). Write them down and start compiling a list of books that you would like to read. Why not use the EQUIP book club (books coming up) list located just underneath this blog as a starting point?
Reading, deep reading is a difficult pleasure. Generally I have found that the more I read (particularly, but not only, books on spiritual matters) the more excited and inspired I have been to read the Bible. I catch the author's enthusiasm for Scripture, or an idea will spark and lead me back to the Bible and it is like those first fat drops of rain or rumble in the distance that tells me a summer storm is coming. And it is delightful. As I turn to Scripture and stand with my feet in the prickly grass and feel the heat rise about me, as the earth is washed cool by the rain, I am refreshed.