Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Broadening Experiences

I will read just about anything. I was, after all, one of those children who read the backs of cereal boxes if no books were lying around on the kitchen table at breakfast. But I usually read things that I personally want to read. Well, maybe not the State Standards for Graduation Tests. But otherwise, mostly, yes. And I have an extremely wide-ranging set of interests, and a genuine desire to learn about experiences and views that do not reflect my own. So I truly will read just about anything.

(OK, I do not read Ann Coulter or her ilk. (She has clones, right?) I did read online this morning what she had to say about John Edwards. She could have said the same about George Bush; either way, she would assure my non-readership forever.)

Anyway, that little introduction was designed to lead up to the disclosure that I am now embarking upon two books at the request of other people. The first is called We Are Here Now: A New Missional Era by Patrick Keifert. Yesterday I went to a Presbytery discussion group for which we had been asked to read either the Keifert book or Diana Bass Butler's Christianity for the Rest of Us. My contributions to the discussion were based upon the latter, but I was intrigued by the references others made to the discernment model presented in the former, so I agreed to read it, too.

The problem is, I loathe the word "missional." I detest it. It grates on each and every one of my teeny tiny nerve synapses. It reminds me of the oft-misused "hopefully," against which the 11th-grade-English-teacher-who-taught-me-to-write would periodically rage with such eloquence. It reminds me of the word "unchurched." I suppose my nerve synapses are teenier and tinier than one night hope, but I cannot stand those words. Give me a story any day. Do not give me a made-up word designed to convey -- well, what, exactly?

I mentioned my little problem with the word as someone at the table handed me the book. Almost everyone else in the group laughed and nodded their heads in sympathy, and the gentleman next to me said, "It's on about every other page."

The other book I am reading at the request of someone else, and the one I have actually started, is Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. A friend of mine, one of my very best and most beloved friends, no longer connected to the church, told me I "had to read" it. It's clearly been a meaningful book for her, and I had the sense that she wanted to discuss it with someone. Perhaps me, since she told me it reminded her of me. And it is, in fact, a narrative. I should be happy.

I'm not. So far, I have reached page 58 and I do not much like what I am reading. A tad bit self-absorbed, perhaps? I am speaking of Elizabeth Gilbert here. I realize that it might verge well over the edge of ludicrous for a blogger (especially a blogger who has just described her own rather limited brain structure) to berate someone else for her inward focus, so I am going to refrain from being overly-critical. I also realize that, while I am liberal and progressive and exploratory and one of those people who might be accused by certain other people of being so open-minded that her brains are scrambled all over the sidewalk, I am also alarmingly orthodox on certain matters of faith. Jesus is a little more than "that great teacher of peace," as she describes him.

I'm hoping that what reminds my friend of me is the author's passion for searching out gelaterias in Rome, and not anything else. (Stracciatella and lemon is my favorite combination, if anyone is moved to send me some.)

So, there you go: today's report from the front, where I am apparently willing to go beyond my comfort zone in my willingness to be Open to Discussion. I am, however, going to read really, really fast. And perhaps I will reward myself with a visit to the local gelato emporium. Stracciatella all by itself might be required.


mompriest said...

I've used and over used, and am tired of the language of Mission and Ministry and Missional. It's been useful up to a point as I have sought to focus small church and give us a reason for being other than our navel gazing and insular fears. (Which are typical in small churches fearful of dying, no one wants to focus on doing anything but surviving)...After reading lots of Kennon Callahan and his 12 Keys books, which again were useful up to a point, I was relieved to read Bass's "Christianity for the Rest of Us." I also attended a conference last fall where she was the keynote speaker. Good stuff.

Anyway. Always good to read things that push our buttons and help us clarify.

Quotidian Grace said...

I'm so with you on several points--all rather random:

1. I don't read Ann Coulter either despite my right wing leanings. She strikes me as a mean-spirited harridan. (Did I say that? Yes I did.)

2. The word "missional" also gets on my last nerve. I do my best to tune it out.

3. I'm also a voracious reader, but have also learned when not to finish a book. Don't think I'd care for your friend's book either from your description.

4. Have some ice cream for me.Babs has me on a diet so I can get back into some clothes!

more cows than people said...

i listened to eat. pray. love. while traveling in europe last summer and loved it. i wonder if it's a better listen than read. yes, self-absorbed, but is it possible for a memoir to be anything but?

and, um... could you give me the "hopefully" lesson? i'm afraid i never learned it.

Gannet Girl said...

More Cows, I wish you would write about the book. I read a lot of gushing reviews on Amazon. I would love to read one from someone whose writing I enjoy so much.

Hopefully: an adverb.

We looked hopefully out the window,


We looked out the window in the hope of seeing sunshine (or whatever).


Hopefully, we are going swimming tonight --

by which people usually mean

We hope we are going swimming tonight

and not

We are going swimming hopefully

which would mean

We are going swimming in the hope of cooling off, or of not being consumed by sharks, or whatever,

which might actually be the case

but is not what was meant.

I'm hopeful that that's more clear than mud. But perhaps not. The heat is doing a number on me.

Carol said...

Just finished "Eat, Pray, Love" for my book club. Italy/Eat was fun to hear about the sights and the food, India/Pray was absolutely impossible to get through for both myself and the majority of the members of my book club. Indonesia/Love was far easier but don't get your hopes up about being enlightened in any way at all.
Just starting "Snowflower and the Secret Fan" for this month's book club read; hoping it's better.
Saw the Ann Coulter/Elizabeth Edwards exchange last night on Hardball. That woman, AC, gives me the creeps. She is truly what's wrong with not only politics but America in general.
Sorry about the heat; no help here as the temps are in the mid-90s with matching humidity. And I can't complain because my dd is in the middle of MA without a/c and temps right at 100.

alphawoman said...

I read Eat, Pray, Love and liked it. Not a great book, but sparked an interest for meditation....again (old '70's chick, don't ya know)