Sunday, August 14, 2005

Important clarification! ALL books, ALL traditions welcome here...

I want to post a clarification here based on something Mutt mentioned in his last, brilliant post on Midnight's Children (great post, Mutt!)... not because I am trying to correct him or anything like that, buit because I want to be clear on what this blog is all about. Perhaps in my inaugural post (see under the Archives header on right side of page, August 2005 link, for the post "Welcome to The Secret Thread!", dated August 10), I was not totally clear on what this blog would cover and what it wouldn't. Regardless, Mutt wrote in his last post that the book Midnight's Children "falls more or less outside of the direct scope of Duke's stated objectives for The Secret Thread, because it is more or less secular in nature..." It is emphatically NOT the case that any book written from a perspective other than a Christian/religious one falls outside the scope of this blog, and I want to make that really clear if I didn't before.

It is the firm belief of the creators of this blog that ALL true art has something important to contribute to our understanding of ourselves and the world we live in. This is true whether it is created by a Christian, a Hindu, a Buddhist, an agnostic, a Socialist, a pantheist, or even an atheist (read The Stranger or No Exit to prove that last one). To cite just one of about a billion examples, I recently re-read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and though he was a socialist and nothing close to a Christian, I still learned some valuable lessons about the nature of community, the universal human struggle for freedom from oppression and exploitation, and our obligation to respect the dignity and rights of the poor, while we work to put an end to poverty.

I have absolutely no doubt that there is an abundance of wisdom and insight to be gained from reading Salman Rushdie. Just as there is from reading Rabindranath Tagore, his fellow countryman, a brilliant Hindu poet and storyteller (who incidentally was the first non-Westerner ever to be honored with the Nobel Prize for Literature). He is the author of these magnificent lines:

It is the sorrow of separation that gazes in silence all night from star to star, and becomes lyric among rustling leaves in rainy darkness of July.

It is this overspreading pain that deepens into loves and desires, into sufferings and joys in human homes; and this it is that ever melts and flows in songs through my poet's heart.

Now, whether you are a poet or not the least bit interesting in poetry, or a Hindu or not the least bit familiar with Hinduism, I think you can recognize the truth that weaves through those lines like... well, shoot, like a secret thread! Everybody experiences the pain of separation in their life in one way or another, even if they might not possess the poetic gifts to describe that yearning as something that "gazes in silence all night from star to star." That's just an inevitable drawback of our shared human condition, that no one can possibly avoid entirely.

(Note: I may be reflecting on these lines too much because we are about to send our oldest son out into the "real world" of full time school, in which for the first time, he will be under the watch of others for more hours of the day than he is under ours... and my wife and I don't want to let go of him, we want to keep on protecting his precious innocence forever, even as we know we can't.)

Anyway, the point is that ALL literature falls well within the scope of this blog, if it is indeed that: literature. That is, great writing (on virtually any subject, as long as it is not intentionally offensive or hurtful without good reason) that stands, or will stand, the test of time. One of the overarching principles that guide this blog is the simple belief that "all truth is God's truth," and therefore, all truth, regardless of its source, is worth reading and pondering and exploring. The great monk, writer and poet Thomas Merton is sort of our "patron saint" in this regard: he embodied the relentless pursuit of truth from wherever it can be found, from any tradition or culture, and the effort to reconcile and cross-pollinate his firmly-held Christian beliefs with the wisdom of the entire human family (without diluting or compromising those beliefs).

That is what this blog is ultimately all about, I feel. In fact, that is actually what reading great literature is all about, in the end. C. S. Lewis, one of the most widely-read men of his time, certainly understood this (there's good reason why this blog borrows its name from him). He hilariously quipped once (although I doubt he was joking when he said it), "Your book bill ought to be your greatest vice." In that spirit, then, may this blog continue!

Happy reading!

Pax Christi,


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Mutt Ploughman said...

Duke, thanks for the clarification. You heard it from the man, folks, the site founder, Duke Altum - all books welcome! Didn't mean to shut anything out. Well, still plowing towards the end of the book anyway, so look for future posts. Bring it all in!