So right now I am reading two different books, which is not that unusual for me.  Sometimes I read up to four different books concurrently.  One of the books I am about to finish is Pascal’s Pensees.  I’ve been working on this treatise for a long time.  My joy that I am nearing completion is great; although I will be a bit sad.  My morning 5-6 pages of Pascal have served as a daily ‘rebuke’ from the great thinker.  The other book I am reading is one I started last night and will probably finish today.  It is a book of quotations from Ernest Hemingway about writing.

My problem is, these two people, both whom I hope to learn from, could not be more opposite.  I was wondering what a conversation between the two might look like.

            Hemingway:  You have to know the real world in order to write the real world.  Everything else is just fakery

            Pascal:  But the world is filled with such darkness.  How can you trust your eyes to truly know the real world? 

            Hemingway:  That is symbolic garbage.  There is no symbolism, there are only real things.  

            Pascal:  Yes, real things like mathematics, God, Christ, and science but; beyond that we find we cannot trust ourselves to truly accept the known things.

            Hemingway:  What do you mean?  If I kill a bull in the ring, I know what happened.  I felt the emotion, saw the blood, smelled the dust, heard the cheers.  I know that is the world.  That is real.

            Pascal:  But is it?  I hear you say that you saw, smelled, and heard and that the bull died—but what of your death?  Will that be real?  Killing the bull is only a faint act of superiority in which you attempt to forget by way of amusement, your own mortality.  It is sin that is hunting you down seeking to kill you and drag you away from life.

            Hemingway:  I understand all about sin, brother.  There is pain and injustice in the world and if there were a God he would take care of it and I wouldn’t have to write about it.

            Pascal:  Would you bet on the fact that there is no God? 

            Hemingway:  Oh bother—I’m going fishing.

Pascal amazes me because his mind is so logical and knowledgeable of both the Scriptures and the natural world.  He and Hemingway would agree that the world around us tells us things.  Hemingway, however, rejects God and Christ as significant in the life of people in understanding the world.  Pascal argues that without the Lord, the world only draws us further away from God.

Hemingway was a great writer—I love his terse style; but his philosophy of life I find, wanting.


Okay, it isn’t really beach reading because I was not at the beach. But during vacation I did read; and thought I would share some of my reading with you.

Let’s start with the magazines.  I read my July edition of “National Geographic.”  The feature article was about Cleopatra.  It wasn’t nearly as exciting as I thought it would be; but Natgeo is always one of my favorite magazines and I look forward to it each month.  I also read the July/August “Biblical Archaeology Review”.  It too is one of my favorites and it did not disappoint.  I especially enjoyed the articles about the martyrium of Philip and the ivories of Nimrud.

I also read several books.  In Mesa Verde, Colorado I picked up a book titled The Mesa Verde WorldExplorations in Ancestral Pueblo Archaeology.  It is an anthology from various authors bringing several different perspectives on the Mesa Verde ruins and it has great photographs!

Professionally I read a book titled The 21st Century Pastor by David Fisher.  I’ve had this book in my library for almost a year and finally decided to read it.  The book is really great; but poorly named.  It is not really about the 21st century pastor at all, it is about the struggles of being a pastor in the late 20th century.  Personally I identify with much of the writer’s views and agree with his conclusions.  The ideal reader of this book would be a young minister fresh out of seminary.  The book is dated; being 15 years old and I wish I’d read it 15 years ago.

A friend of mine from church gave me the book Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton.  Once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down; that is how good it is.  I will not give any spoilers, but it is a novel that will make you think and break your heart.  I highly recommend it, (thanks Mike!).  This was the most enjoyable and meaningful literature I’ve read in a long time.

About a month ago I picked up Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter-House Five at a garage sale for fifty cents.  I’d never read Vonnegut but had heard about him.  Slaughter-House Five is a very hard book to read because it is violent, disturbing, and profane but it is also an important book to read.  There is a profound message in the pages.   Slaughter-House Five is odd, quirky, and funny; but not in a “funny ha-ha” kind of funny.  Mature adults should read this; but do not read it if you are easily offended.  Vonnegut could never have gotten published today—the world is just too sensitive.

I continued reading Pascal’s Pensees.  I have not finished it, and am beginning to wonder if I ever will.  I enjoy reading it, but the material is so dense that I never feel like I am making progress toward completing the book.

I took with me a book a friend gave me titled The Rickover Effect which is about Admiral Rickover and how he influenced the U.S. Navy.  I did not get to it, but will start soon because when my friend gave it to me he said, “Read this and you’ll understand sailors better.”  Since many of the people I minister to are connected to the Navy; reading this book and fixing apparent defects in my ministry is an important learning endeavor.