I’m generally seen as a reader. I’m one of those annoying people who actually likes to sometimes sit down and read a book cover to cover. But dear reader, I have a confession to make; I do not read nearly as much as I believe I should. I have been recently picking my way through 3 books in addition to my Bible reading, and in many cases I am left, well, humbled. The writers of these books are brilliant, and even where I disagree, I have a sneaking suspicion that the arguments and ideas underlying what these people say are far more nuanced and well thought than my critiques of them.
The reason I think I know this is simple, I am reading books that are generally time tested. People have (in some cases) found these books useful for years, and by slowly and carefully reading them, I am learning why. Dostoyevsky’s understanding of the human condition is far more searing than I had believed (and more current than most would want to admit), and Calvin’s philosophical rigour is far stronger than many of the present debates surrounding the theology that bears his name. I disagree with them, but I am richer for the time with them.
These people are “giants” in their respective fields, and many say that we in the present stand on the shoulders of giants to see the world as we see it now. That is true, we have been brought to our present understanding by these great thinkers and writers (as well as many others), but I worry that my formerly (and even presently) superficial reading of each is somehow stunting my ability to see the world we have as their legacy. I can honestly feel the temptation to skim what I’m reading, or to judge them when they disagree, because they often question my own understanding. I keep wanting to take shortcuts.
To truly stand on the shoulders of giants, it seems, my own understanding has a lot of climbing to do.