Pithy quotes from our current reading which give us pause to reflect

I have to do it piecemeal, so I haven’t gotten a takeaway box yet. ; - ) (And I likely won’t finish tonight.)

Bummer. Destroy the moldy books. They will bring destruction any paper they come in contact with. And you can spread the microbes yourself, if you handle the books uncarefully.

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I’ve not read nearly as many as I wish I had time, brain and eye-power to do. Contemporary Art was outstanding. I was grateful, though for a background in much of the theory that comes up and an Mrs. in econ, both of which were very helpful. Very Short Introduction does not mean beginner level. Let’s see, Children’s Literature and Augustine I’ve read or mostly. I have a few others in print, but the format is so murderously small, I should probably just give them away.

From these that I HAVE (partially) read, the thought of me attempting any of the titles on hard sciences is laughable. Maybe biology-related topics I could do, but since these are not beginner level introductions, but rather introductions to academic study, these would be beyond me. I have a couple kids’ books on physics I should start with. And perhaps end with. Additionally, to really grasp the texts, would requre the entire refresher and extension of a good math education that ended in 1987. It just seems unrealistic as a parent without a staff.

I have Kobo Aura One (discontinued) that’s about 5 years old. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to get, but I really needed something that would allow seriously large print that you can’t find in paper. I chose this one particularly because of the relatively large screen size (7 11/16" with my desk ruler) and epub format. I have a subscription to Bookshare that provides many common file formats that print-impaired readers need, including epub. It doesn’t deal with .mobi.
When I bought the reader, I didn’t realize what great features the built in Overdrive and Pocket would be. I use Pocket all the time and have it sync across my desktop, ipad, phone and Kobo.

The single thing I dislike the most about my Kobo is how sluggish the OS is (or maybe has become). It boots slowly, and moving between books is slow going. My Kindle is much peppier. As a church librarian, I worked with the library’s Kindles often, and they maintained their vim and vigor over the years. I think Amazon has just done a better job with the software side of things.
The second thing I dislike is how fritzy the underlining capability has become. It’s unreliable.

I recently got a Kindle mostly for the screen reader feature. I use Voice Dream on my ipad and Dolphin easy reader on my phone. I’m used to using a computerized voice (always makes me feel like I’m listening to NOAA Weather Radio with my dad) and can speed it up a bit, when careful listening is not necessary.
That being said, having developed my brain’s information gathering abilities in a visual/print mode, developing the listening skills for serious information gathering has been more than challenging. I think I need to develop these skills much like I developed print literacy skills, because there are distinct and challenging differences.

Lastly, for now at least, last summer I downloaded Calibre software for converting ebooks for my daughter from her Bookshare account to .mobi to use on her Kindle we got her for camp. An ipad is way too dear to send off into the woods with a bunch of kids. I’ve been playing around a bit with Calibre lately, and it’s going to be an important tool with 3 different ereader brands in our house. The GUI is not pretty, but the software does some really nice things and gives you as much control over the conversion process and editing as you want. Or you can simply use it as your ebook library management software.

Read on.


I really appreciate getting this detailed feedback. I’ve been thinking about getting an e reader for a while now but worry it will be difficult for my arthritic hands to manage, especially in bed. Like you I appreciate large typ when it is available. So much more comfortable. So light weigh with variable type size and I’m hoping it will be possible select/copy quotes for posting here. From all the ones you’re familiar with is there one you’d recommend above the others?

That’s going on my list. It’s a subject I’m not familiar with and I think it’ll be fascinating.

Thank you as well for the detailed report on your experience with e-readers.

The audiobook versions for VSI on the sciences have been helpful to me in gaining a flight level view of the subject. I find that if I’m physically occupied and listening I absorb bits and pieces of valuable information. Most of what’s said escapes me though, but there is still an intuitive grasp of the field. The books on Judaism and Islam were good in that way. At the very least, there is a better appreciation for the complexity, history, and nuance of the subject if it should come up in everyday conversation.

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I am occassionally/frequently reminded of this gem, while roaming the discussions. In fact, I could swear I hear echos of it now and again:

“Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.”


Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.

Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,

And lay them prone upon the earth and cease

To ponder on themselves, the while they stare

At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere

In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese

Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release

From dusty bondage into luminous air.

O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day,

When first the shaft into his vision shone

Of light anatomized! Euclid alone

Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they

Who, though once only and then but far away,

Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.

From: "Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare." by Edna… | Poetry Foundation

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So is this something that should be adorning my geometry classroom wall? I probably only understand a fraction of it - if that at all. I mean - if we’re here talking about the beauty of mathematics (geometrically conceived), yeah - I’m all over that. But with some poetry or art, I feel like a five year old running around in the Louvre (or the kitchen pantry - my low brow mind might find pretty much equal appreciations at any of those levels). Mostly, though, I don’t even know what I’m looking at, much less know how to critique it.


Absolutely, turn it into a poster and put it on your classroom wall. This is a perfect opportunity to foster cross-curricular learning. Your humanities-bound students will bless you for your empathy.
I’ve been acquainted with this poem for about 30 years, so I’ve had a bit of time to work on unraveling it for myself. This article may be of use.

Your comments remind me of the college year I spent in Munich, where my dorm mates and their friends were all physicists, mathematicians, med students and a few engineers. Not only was I a foreigner, which seemed hilariously to give me some sort of mystique I never earned, but I was a language and lit major. The guilty consciences that were unburdened to me for not having read this or that novel/poem/play—it was painful. “Dear friend, you understand things I’m not worthy to approach. My stuff is easy (once I can finally find the verb in this sentence, that is). And you read Heidiger in your free time. And Feynman for fun (You must be joking had just come out). What can I possibly say against you?”

One of my friends was studying Teilchenphysik (particle physics). “Teilchen” is comprised of “Teil” = piece, and “Chen” = a deminutive form that makes everything small as well as cute. So, Physics of Teeny, Tiny Pieces.

With all these beautiful, lovely words, how can we ever stop talking?

Running through the museum is a wonderful way to learn the wonder of the art. Gather first and then contemplate long and slow. We all ran up and down the medieval staircase at the Detroit Institute of Arts when we were little, because it was utterly enchanting. We still do as adults, but slower. And we have all the drama in our heads as we soak in our favorite pieces of art. THat kid is building a scaffolding on which to anchor delight and wisdom. Run on.


Lucky you. What a great feeling but one that rarely lasts. I probably feel that way more around ancient wisdom traditions, on the outside looking through the glass case at intriguing and wonderful things. (Certainly the last line in this poem about the loud tred of a large sandal gave me a little start.). The continents of human endeavor are too vast for any to cross them all. I’m always grateful when those more immersed in one distant from me can communicate some insights and a sense of what is like where they are, doing what they do. The generosity in that regard of those here in the hard sciences is much appreciated. And while there are many fine communicators here, no one is more fluid or honest than you Merv.

Wow @Kendel, you must really have felt like a stranger in a strange land. In that group of students. How gracious of you. I didn’t get to Cal until my early thirties. What I lacked in all-nighter power I made for with seriousness of intent. But my working class roots always made me question if I belonged there and that led to an ungracious moment I still regret. In a badminton class a young Asian engineering student asked me how I was able to major in philosophy. Assuming the worse, I answered that this what I want to understand now but if I found I required some vocational finishing later I would come back for it. He was immediately apologetic and made it clear that it was the freedom to make that choice that amazed him, not the impracticality. My defensiveness and lack of charity in that moment still make me wince and hope never to repeat it. We did talk more and I got a sense of what it must be like to be from a family where education is supported, expected and required. My wife’s youngest cousin is a wonderful musician whose father required him to study engineering. We’re all at the same schools but immersed always in our own worlds.


Honestly, it was the other way around. They were really a wonderful lot of gracious, fun, brilliant people, who not only welcomed me at the table, but expected I participate. They carried on conversations that included areas I could develop in and challenged me in productive ways. Some of the most powerful learning that year took place at the common table, eating together, and tearing up the Süddeutche Zeitung and old IKEA catalog to use for origami, and listening to them discuss, while I knitted.


It’s wonderfully surreal to see the breath and scope of philosophical and religious traditions, to see their interconnectedness and irreconcilable differences, and while it would be a herculean (Keener like) task, to cross them all, one might reasonable take a guided tour and decide on a move or gladly return home.

And yet, the inner intentions of a new friend or life long brother are as far as that between uncountable numbers.


Well this this top 20 books in the last 20 years list you shared, really earned its salt. Figuring a list that cited Haidt’s and McGilchrist’s books as well as Gilead which so many here loved was worth a try. It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel that really pulled me in so I put holds on two from this list, the one with Maytrees in the title and Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. Started reading latter one and it feels promising.

There were two author messages that precede it’s start which seemed note worthy. The first, ACKNOWLEDGMENTS, was fun in a coincidental way. It ends with “Carole McCurdy copy edited the manuscript; I am grateful for her vigilance and her gift for marginal conversation.”

Then there is this:

Persons attempting to find “text” in this book will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find “subtext” in it will be banished; persons attempting to explain, interpret, explicate, analyze, deconstruct, or otherwise “understand” it will be exiled to a desert island in the company of only other explainers.


Well, I can’t say I wasn’t warned.


I did finally finish it the other evening and was glad I did. Smith’s remarks about our creatureliness and what makes us human and that our finitude is a gift were good, especially the latter and his development of it. I had certainly not thought of it that way before.

That our finitude makes us dependent is “scandalous in a society that prizes autonomy and independence… but that story is wearing out.”

And words to this effect (not necessarily an exact quote, but fairly close):

And then showing how God encompasses it all was right on too, with his references to the novel Zero K and the possibly impaired boy exulting in an unusual display of the sun and sunlight in “fjords of Manhattan”, resulting in “howls of awe and exhilaration more suitable than words. What would we lose if we edited that boy out of existence. In what way is he the palimpsest* of what we were made for, a testimony of our nature as creatures – made to worship, to delight in awe, to care and be cared for and to be loved by a God with scars.” The fatherhood of God and our being childlike before him was certainly not diminished by his words, nor Jesus as our friend and brother.

“It’s why I’m a Calvinist!”, if I heard correctly – I didn’t have a problem with it. It was just a throwaway line about universal sin, not that it is any thing to be casual about. But Calvinist or otherwise, most Christians would concur that universal sin is a thing.


*A new word to me (says a guy with senior memory ; - ).

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My curiosity is piqued!
Oh, the reading in this group is going to kill me! A gang of book-recommendation-thugs. You are all maybe even worse than librarians! (I say this all with GREAT admiration for you, as I am panting just trying to read the most relevant background posts to catch up with conversations I’m trying to participate in.)
My sagging nightstand, my over-full Kobo, Kindle and Ipad! My lousy, distracting vision! My too slow reading!
I must prioritize.
It’s hard.


The palimpsest. I’m glad you reminded me of that part. Thank you for going back over it.

While most Christians would agree that universal sin is a real thing, they probably wouldn’t agree they deserve to go to hell.

I’ve had a suspicion people thinking they are not the bad is why there is so much disagreement about the atonement.

The atonement is a subject I’ve mostly taken for granted, and am hesitant to dig farther into. But it’s tempting with the discussion swirling around it here.

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When talking about morality and sin, people rarely seem to consider what sin against God might entail – thinking and saying wrong things about God and rejecting his authority certainly qualify. We dare not presume what justice for lèse-majesté, “to do wrong to majesty”, might entail (one might expect some serious repercussions if they called a queen a whore to her face). That’s something that Job did not do amidst his many sufferings:

In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.
Job 1:22

(I’m not sure I’m not okay with conditional immortality though, aka annihilationism.)

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This is from Loren Haarsma’s book When Did Sin Begin?, where he has a really refreshing discussion about entropy. This is one of those topics that comes up in YEC conversations I’ve overheard in the church foyer between services – you know the discussions that revolve around the need for the basic laws of nature to have been different before the Fall in order to accommodate the views of YEC.

Haarsma’s discussion is a breath of fresh air:

At first impression, the second law of thermodynamics sounds like a bad thing. It implies that closed natural systems (and the universe as a whole) are always changing from order to disorder. But the second law of thermodynamics is an inevitable statistical result of the fact that there are many particles moving and interacting with one another.
Haarsma, Loren. When Did Sin Begin? (p. 66). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The second law of thermodynamics plays a vital role in many natural processes that we would call good. When heat spontaneously flows from a hot object to a cold object, entropy increases. When a flower opens and its scent diffuses into the air so that the whole area is perfumed and bees can be guided to the blossom, entropy increases. When our sun converts nuclear energy into sunlight, entropy increases. When ice melts, entropy increases. When winds blow and rain falls, entropy increases. When oxygen passes from our lungs into our bloodstreams, entropy increases. When we see and hear things and store memories in our brains, entropy increases. The second law of thermodynamics appears to be part of God’s good creation and God’s original intention for the world.

Haarsma, Loren. When Did Sin Begin? (pp. 66-67). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The second law of thermodynamics tells us that this whole universe is also finite in time, just like all of God’s creatures. But God promises that the end of life in this universe, or the end of this universe itself, is not the end for us. A new creation awaits.

Haarsma, Loren. When Did Sin Begin? (p. 67). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

So far, I’ve enjoyed the book. The reading level is appropriate for high-school students through maybe undergrads. Haarsma does a very good job of making the concepts accessible to American’s with a typical science education, who are easily duped by groups like AIG. If the pastoral staff would tolerate such material in a church library, this would be a very good candidate. I think it could be a good book to share with YEC friends, who feel cornered theologically, even if they present themselves as relying on the “scientific” evidence presented by you-know-who.


My first quote from a book in a while comes from the third chapter of Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow. I will try to transcribe it using my new Gayes folding keyboard synced by bluetooth to my iPhone. (Thank you @Kendel.)

And so I came along in time to know the end of the age of steamboating. I would learn later that there had been other ages of the river that I had arrived too late to know but that I could read about and learn to imagine. There was at first the age when no people were here, and I have sometimes felt at night that absence grow present in my mind, that long silence in which no human name was spoken or given, and the nameless river made no sound of any human tongue. And then there was the Indian age when names were called that have never been spoken in the present language of Port William. Then came the short ages of us white people, the ages of the dugout, the flatboat, the keelboat, the log raft, the steamboat. And I have lived on now into the age of the diesel towboat and recreational boating and water skiing. And yet it is hard to look at the river in its calm, just after daylight or just before dark, and believe that history has happened to it. The river, the river itself, leaves marks but bears none. It is only the water flowing in the path that other water has worn.

Or is that other water really “other”, or is it the same water always running, flowing always toward the gathering of all waters, and always rising and returning again, and again flowing? I knew this river first when I was a little boy, and I know it now when I am an old man once again living beside it … and almost seventy years! … and always when i have watched it I have been entranced and mystified. What is it? Is it the worn trough of itself that is a feature of the land and is marked on maps, or is it the water flowing? Or is it the land itself that over time is shaped by the flowing water, and it caught by no map?

The surface of the quieted river as I thought in those old days at Squire’s Landing, as I think now, is like a window looking into another world that is like this one except that it is quiet. Its quietness makes it seem perfect. The ripples are like the slats of a blind or a shutter through which we we see imperfectly what is perfect. Though that other world can be seen only momentarily, it looks everlasting. As the ripples become more agitated, the window darkens and the other world is hidden. As I did not know then but know now, the surface of the water is like a living soul, which is easy to disturb, is often disturbed, but, growing calm, shows what it was, is, and will be.

I find this nicely suggestive of things the author has cautioned none should try explaining. I will heed that caution but confess that water is my favorite metaphor for life and what is sacred. I would love to have included the two preceding paragraphs but was not sure how well I’d take to typing on a 3/4 sized key board. Beats the snot out of texting on my phone. Maybe I’ll come back and add the two preceding paragraphs later. Oh and the bolding of the last sentence is my idea since I like it so much.

*Edited to add the two preceding paragraphs for those who liked the last paragraph, @Kendel @Christy @jpm and @Mervin_Bitikofer, and perhaps yet to be noticed @Jay313 and @Laura.


To the degree that the second law seems to point to the eventual heat death of our universe it is interesting how aspects of the same law account for needful conditions of life. I have no idea why this idea brings this thought to mind but here it is so I may as well share it. While many might title the story of the creation of our selves, our world and everything else “God Executes His Perfect Plan”, I would prefer the title “God Miraculously Finds A Way”. The first title suggests it was a trivial thing from the divine perspective, that no challenges were met or needed to be overcome.


You’re welcome, Mark. Anything to facilitate the sharing of beautiful quotes like this new one of yours. As a Michigander, water is my blood. This speaks deeply to me.
(As well as the Dune conversation, that sort of petered out. I think people of water must all read Dune differently than people of planes and mountains and cities.)

Related to your keyboard, this is one of my favorite mental images of working at “my library.” Maybe 6 or so years ago, a student from nearby MSU made his way to the state library, looking for articles about the campaign before the 1916 presidential election. He looked really guilty for having asked such an absurdly impossible question. “Have you ever used a printed index?” Astonishment that any such thing existed. Shook his head. (State libraries keep such anachronisms, because we already own them, and they fit our budgets, unlike most comprehensive research databases.) “We’ve got the Reader’s Guide that covers a lot of popular magazines at the time, and we have a lot of those. If we don’t have them we can get them for you. Would you like me to show you how to use the Reader’s Guide?” “That would be great”
We grabbed a few massive volumes, and he worked on a few, while I worked on a few, marking pages with pertinent keywords.

When I took him the volumes I had marked for him, he was at a table in the cavernous, glass atrium, surrounded by antiquated indexes, typing notes like mad onto his phone, using an external keyboard. It was a beautiful sight.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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