Spiritual Reading

There are two types of reading. One is to possess knowledge. Through reading, we can learn new things and keep them in our mind. For this type of reading, finding a good quality of new books is quite important.

The more we read new books, the more we possess something new. Or, they are not necessarily new. There is a vast amount of books in human histories. It is impossible for us to read everything.

It is just like facing huge ocean, we pick up water by a small cup one by one. And our life is short. Nevertheless, each small cup of water could make us a little bit more knowledgeable. We humbly accept this reality and feel a sense of awe.

Pascal says:

Man is but a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed.


We are just a tiny reed, but at least we can think and know there is an infinite ocean of knowledge. And this realization leads us to the second type of reading.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

If the former is quantitative, then, this latter is more for qualitative. Instead of looking for something new, we read the same books over and over. And in this case, we focus on a few sets of best selections. We don’t need to cover many books, but just a few.

Usually, we call them classic books. And there are the following common attributes:

  1. These are usually old books; written hundreds or thousands years ago.
  2. These are the books that have survived through the trials of time.
  3. We can’t read them fast. We have to read them slowly pondering a lot of possible interpretations.
  4. Someone’s summary is helpful and yet could be misleading as it is just one of the possible interpretations.
  5. So-called modern translation could be misleading due to its modernism bias.
  6. Understanding without socio-cultural, historical background could also be misleading.
  7. Reading them becomes our lifetime commitment.

Knowing these attributes, it is apparent that we can’t read a lot of books. We have no choice but find a few books and read them slowly over and over again throughout our life.

For example, you read your favorite book when you were seventeen years old and enjoyed it. But it is not the end at all. You would reread it after ten years, thirty years, and sixty years, even on your deathbed. Or, perhaps you read it every day throughout your lifetime.

Every time you read it, you find something new. You feel you were able to dig into it a little bit deeper. And you realize you get a little bit wiser. A few books you selected should be such quality. These books are like your life long partners and best friends. Some call this “spiritual reading.” I agree.

For me, one of such books is the Bible. I am looking forward to rereading it in my deathbed one day.

Image by Gerhard Gellinger

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