The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever else you get, get insight.
[Proverbs 4:7]

The Rev. Pauli Murray

I watched a fabulous documentary the other day on Prime Video titled, My Name Is Pauli Murray, which I highly recommend. Among her many achievements, Murray was the first African-American woman to be ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church.

I intend to relate my thoughts on the film more fully at a later date, but that is not the reason I bring her up today.

This brilliant woman also spent several years as a college professor, and the documentary interviewed a couple of her former students. They described a visit to her home and how impressed they were with the shelves full of books that lined her walls. They asked her, “Have you read all these books?” Her response was an emphatic, “Yes! The ones I haven’t read are in a stack and won’t go up there until I read them.” 

The two of about ten bookcases that clutter my home

The words stung. I have shelves full of books, but I can’t say the same. Hearing the two men’s remarks filled me with shame. I had set reading as one of my goals in my retirement, but other things have gotten in the way.

In addition to unread books on my shelves, I have a stack of unread and partially read books and magazines in nearly every nook and cranny in my home. Each morning when I wake up, I walk past them and say to myself, “Maybe I’ll dig into one of those today.” But the moment rarely comes. After I finish my devotional reading, which takes all of about twenty minutes, I’m pretty much done for the day.

I’ve noticed that during this pandemic, a lot of television interviews, once done with a person in studios, are now done remotely, with the person at their home, usually sitting in front of a bookcase. If the person is an author, his or her book is strategically on the shelf just over their shoulder.

I wonder whether they’ve read all the books on display.

My wife far outshines me in the voracious reading department, further adding to my humiliation. Even while we’re watching television, she has her nose pressed in a book. I’m not made to multitask that way.

In conversation with a friend last week, I lamented the lack of the structure that I had when I was in active ministry. Mind you, I don’t want to go back to working full time, nevertheless I struggle with creating a routine for myself, and find it difficult to stick to a task for an extended period of time.

I have always been a procrastinator. My greatest motivator was deadlines. The adrenaline rush of the last-minute inspired me to indescribable heights of creativity. In retirement, I have little of that.

Yet, not to beat myself up, as I look back on the past ten months, I have done quite a lot. Lack of a disciplined reading plan notwithstanding, I have written more than I thought I would. Part of that is due to the goal I set to blog twice a week – even though sometimes I’ve merely thrown something together just to fulfill that obligation. (You might consider today’s entry in that category.)

My blogging stems from my admiration of acquaintances in the print media who write columns regularly on a variety of topics. They never seem to be lacking in subject matter. I’m sure they have a drawer full of ideas that they’ve collected over time as well as a treasure trove of notes and thoughts all piled up and ready to go when the situation calls for it. Frankly, I can’t think that far ahead.

When my opinion on current events mattered, I recall receiving emails from those close contacts which began, “I’m working on a feature about thus and so…would you be willing to share with me your thoughts on that by the end of the week?”

As I write a response, my inner chastising voice is saying, “Now why didn’t I think of that?”

One cardinal rule of writing is that the best way to become a better writer is to read more. If my inconsistency is any indication, the prospects of my writing virtuosity are bleak.

It is said that confession is good for the soul. So now that I have bared my soul to the world, I guess I will slink off and start reading.

Published by pastorallende

Retired Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Social justice and immigration reform advocate. Micah 6:8. Fluent in English and Spanish. I enjoy music and sports.

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