I admit, it has been a while since I posted. Since April in fact, and now it is August. Perhaps I was waiting for the alliteration. Perhaps it has been summer.
In any case, while I have been silent I have still been reading, and some of my perusings I thought were worth sharing. They have a general tilt toward art, philosophy and trying to bone up my fiction reading.
Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being by Zack Eswine
This is probably my favorite book I’ve read so far this year. The title may strike you as odd, but it is justified in the content of Eswine’s writing, the humanness that he expresses and calls us to, and questions such as “How did Jesus see children?” and “How did Jesus see women?” He deals with common misconceptions we have about ourselves, such as being able to fix-it-all or be everywhere-for-all. This book is poetic, personal, theological.
Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff by Stephen Altrogge
A small simple book, this was nevertheless very helpful and motivating to me and was filled with reminders of the possibility of creating in all kinds of circumstances from accounting to food to songwriting. A couple things that stood out to me were Altrogge’s point that we are often infatuated with the idea of [fill-in-the-blank artistic endeavor] more than we are willing to actually work at it, and (I’m paraphrasing) that we wait for the muse to arrive rather than catching the muse by the tail. In other words, we have an idea of creativity as something that either certain people just have, or as a fit that just descends on us rather than something active that we engage in and work hard at. Also, I have a new mantra that I think I somehow got from this book: when I am doing repetitive and mundane things such as showering and laundry I remind myself that I am holding back the forces of chaos.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I read this in advance of the movie coming out, but have now not yet seen said movie. Fitzgerald’s writing is really quite lovely, and left me with a sad sense of trying to catch happiness.
Solomon Among the Postmoderns by Peter Leithart
Speaking of catching happiness, one of the strengths of this book is Leithart’s translation of Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes as “vapor of vapors” and our activities as trying to “shepherd the wind.” Leithart was also helpful in describing the failures of modernism to which postmodernism has reacted (i.e. an assumption that everything can be brought under our control and managed neatly) and pointing out that rather than relativistic, postmodernists would claim more of a agnostic stance in regards to our ability to know truth. At the same time, he shows how ultimately Solomon saw all the problems that postmodernism does, but arrived at a hopeful place of entrusting ourselves to God.
The Night Trilogy by Elie Wiesel
This broke my heart. I don’t know how else to respond to reality of the terrible things that were done to Wiesel, his family, and all of the Jews in WWII.
Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts by Hilary Brand and Adrienne Chaplin
I really appreciated this book. The authors walked a careful but beautiful line of both affirming art and the artist and not elevating them beyond what they can handle. They started with a survey of the postmodern conception of art, which is somewhat that anything goes, and borrowing a bit from here and there, old and new (don’t you see this in everything on pinterest?) Art can be seen in both secular and Christian circles as alternately one of the highest and most spiritual things a person can engage in and something rather superfluous and cheap. Instead these authors suggest we should engage in art with integrity, doing it with love, and recognizing it’s place among human pursuits. There were a lot of other things I found helpful, “signposts” that I will go back to.