I am lazy by nature, or, if not by nature, habit. You are too.
It’s easier to listen to Coldplay than to Bach, it takes less effort to watch an episode of Seinfeld than to read a chapter of Chesterton; and it will be easier to be entertained by Superman: Man of Steel than almost anything written by Shakespeare.
This past week I decided to do something about my laziness. I resolved to watch fewer hours of television and to read many more books, and not just any books; good books!
Wine, Cheese, & Chesterton
Last night I bought a good bottle of wine (yes, I know, it’s easier to appreciate a cold beer) and read Chesterton’s Orthodoxy to my wife. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading G. K. Chesterton, you must! Take, for example, the following paragraph (I’m tempted to quote the entire book!):
“[T]his book…recounts my elephantine adventures in pursuit of the obvious. No one can think my case more ludicrous than I think it myself; no reader can accuse me here of trying to make a fool of him: I am the fool of this story, and no rebel shall hurl me from my throne.
I freely confess all the idiotic ambitions of the end of the nineteenth century. I did, like all other solemn little boys, try to be in advance of the age. Like them I tried to be some ten minutes in advance of the truth. And I found that I was eighteen hundred years behind it.
I did strain my voice with a painfully juvenile exaggeration in uttering my truths. And I was punished in the fittest and funniest way, for I have kept my truths: but I have discovered, not that they were not truths, but simply that they were not mine.
When I fancied that I stood alone I was really in the ridiculous position of being backed up by all Christendom. It may be, Heaven forgive me, that I did try to be original; but I only succeeded in inventing all by myself an inferior copy of the existing traditions of civilized religion…I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.”
After I laid down the book (Okay, the tablet), I experienced a subconscious, inward motion towards the remote and a momentary thrill that, if it could be put into words, may sound like: Oh, my kingdom for just one episode of The Big Bang Theory!
I’m afraid I have conditioned myself to find relaxation (or is that vegetation?) in unsophisticated forms of entertainment. I fought off the urge and went to bed. Thank you Jesus!
Study! Study! Study!
I’m almost certain that most of us are more sophisticated that we give ourselves credit for. We can read and understand papal encyclicals, we just don’t want to put in the effort.
This coming new year, my resolution is to retrain, rehabilitate, re-whatever, my palate for truth goodness and beauty, instead of conditioning it to enjoy half truths told with zing, immorality with a good script and art that barely exceeds the work(?) of John Cage.
Now, you might be tempted to think that all this talk of study and encyclicals is secondary; after all, can’t we be just as holy without it? And aren’t we called first and foremost to love?
Apologist, Frank Sheed has the answer. He was told more often than he could recall that:
Some old Irishman saying his rosary is holier than you are with all that study of yours!
Sheed responds, “I daresay he is. For his own sake, I hope he is. But if the only evidence is that he knows less theology than I, then it is evidence that would convince neither him nor me.
It would not convince him, because all those rosary-loving, tabernacle-loving Irishmen I have ever known…were avid for more knowledge of the faith. It does not convince me, because while it is obvious that an ignorant man can be virtuous, it is equally obvious that ignorance is not a virtue; men have been martyred who could not have stated a doctrine of the Church correctly, and martyrdom is the supreme proof of love.
Yet with more knowledge of God they would have loved him more still.”
St. Jose Maria Escriva drives my point home:
You pray, you deny yourself, you work in a thousand apostolic activities, but you don’t study. You are useless then unless you change. Study–professional training of whatever type it be–is a grave obligation for us. – The Way, 334
If you are looking to spend a little more time reading good Christian books, I would suggest the following three in this order:
2. Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton (You can find this for free on most tablets).
May our Lord, the way, the truth, and the life, grace us with a hunger for that truth which is ultimately found and satisfied in himself.