Have patience with all things, but first with yourself. Never confuse your mistakes with your value as a human being. You are a perfectly valuable, creative, worthwhile person simply because you exist. And no amount of triumphs and tribulations can ever change that.
St. Francis de Sales has always been one of my favorite saints. Priest, bishop, spiritual counselor, and Doctor of the Church, he is known as the "gentleman saint," and patron of the hearing impaired, writers, and journalists.
The very reason he is one of my favorites is because of his writings. They are beautiful, flowing, loving, encouraging. In an effort to draw people back to the church, he wrote and dispersed religious leaflets; as spiritual counselor to many, he wrote volumes of letters to individuals. He was eventually persuaded to gather his teachings into a book, Introduction to the Devout Life. It was meant as a guide for ordinary citizens, direction as to how to be pious and peaceful in our daily lives. The love, simplicity, and wisdom of his words had a profound impact not only on my life, but on millions of others through history.
He was eloquent. He wrote with purpose and conviction. His words made an impact that has resounded through the ages. As a writer, what more could I wish for?
He was kind and gentle, encouraging and faithful. He worked tirelessly for the good of all and most importantly, he loved. He made a positive difference. As a human being, what more could I hope to achieve?
Saint Francis de Sales, pray for us.
For me, 2017 has started off with a purge. I realize that that’s not exactly unique, but at our house it has been rather extreme this year. We moved my husband’s office to home and it has wonderfully resulted in a lot of tossing out, donating, and rearranging.
In moving so much "stuff," I had to relocate some paperback books from a cabinet to a bookshelf, creating a double row. Yes, it is unfortunate that there were books in a cabinet in the first place, but having more books than shelf space is not an uncommon situation among readers. It is, however, an uncomfortable situation for a “less is more” sort of person like me (with the notable exceptions of books and plants) and thus we have arrived at the topic of this post: ereaders! I find myself astonished, exasperated, and sometimes amused when otherwise sensible individuals insist that they just can’t read on them, that they ruin the reading experience. Often, they carry it further, proceeding to question my reading habits and my approach to life in general.
Finally, I protest. Enough of this nonsense! I don't know how all ereaders work, but I love my Kindle. If you have a different favorite, please feel free to substitute your preferred choice where appropriate. Most ereaders share similar conveniences. Let’s talk about those as opposed to “traditional” or “physical” books. I honestly don’t know which term I like less. There are new traditions as well as old, after all, and I’m not entirely convinced that a digital book is any less physical than a non-digital one (ha).
Multi-device accessibility is awesome. I love that I can read a book on my phone while in line at the grocery store, enjoy a reading break on my iPad when it's convenient, and pick up right where I left off with my Kindle while relaxing in my garden, at the beach, or tucked in bed at night. Each time, on each device, it syncs to the last page I read if that’s what I want. Granted, my Kindle is so light that I could carry it anywhere without a problem. But I don’t have to.
Touch screen technology also enhances the reading experience. Not all ebooks have an efficient table of contents, but lots of them do. Granted, there's nothing really hard about using a table of contents, but the touch screen makes it easier than ever, especially with big books. Take the Bible, for instance. I confess that I still have to flip pages a bit at times. The book of Hosea is between . . ? With my e-version of The New American Bible, I merely tap and I'm there. Lazy? Nope, not If my goal is to read. In answer to any lofty observations that the search would be good for me (“the journey”), that I might stumble upon more than I was looking for by flipping pages, I say that my Kindle's ease of use is just as encouraging. That goes for the built-in dictionary as well; it’s encouraging. Stumble across a word you're not familiar with? Press on it and the definition pops up. My Kindle offers a wonderful variety of free dictionaries to choose from. I can also highlight passages, bookmark pages, flip back and forth -- by touch! Another favorite option is font size.
But what about the tactile aspect? Of feeling the book in your hands? The smell of paper? Okay, so while I’m definitely not as nostalgic as the next guy, I get it to some degree. There's something particularly magical about old, cherished books. There's also something particularly dusty about them, not to mention flat out musty. Achoo! Oh, the mellow, yellowed pages! Since when is yellowed anything particularly desirable? Personally, I'm not a fan. And how about the feel of a heavy book collapsing on your face when you fall asleep reading? That's a tactile experience worth remembering. Consider how nice and light an ereader is. It's also a lot less awkward and physically more comfortable to hold while reading in bed. That’s not an opinion; it’s an inarguable fact. How about holding an entire library while reading in bed? Why not give that a go?
But you have to charge an ereader! Oh, no! Imagine that, using electricity and a battery for convenience! If you are going someplace where that might not be an option, by all means take a hard copy and read in the light of a lantern or candle and enjoy your time-travel.
And back to that purging, that space-saving notion. I have hundreds of books on my Kindle that I’ve read and more that I will read. It's just so easy and convenient. It's neither a goal nor a prediction, but I'll likely have a thousand before the year is out. I do have a substantial hardback library at home, but I don’t have that much space. Even if I had one of those spectacular, multi-storied libraries requiring a rolling ladder or two, isn't it easier to just tap my Kindle? Yes, it is! Can't fall off a Kindle, now can I? What about purses, briefcases, suitcases? An ereader is usually lighter than a single volume and I carry a library wherever I go.
In case you aren't aware, you can now borrow digital books from online booksellers as well as your local library. You can also read magazines, periodicals, and documents on your ereader, all on that one wonderfully light, thin device. You can read with all the lights out, not even needing a clipped book light because e-readers are backlit.
Disclaimer time, just to be clear. I do know there are a lot of books in this world not (yet) available in digital form and that there are some places and situations where electricity really isn’t an option.
Obviously, that’s not what I’m talking about. You know what I’m talking about. Yes, you do!
I should also admit that there are some books that are simply better hardcover. Kindles don't make for great coffee table books. Books with photos are more easily appreciated in paper or hardback. For me, those would include most cookbooks with mouth-watering photos, how-to books, gardening, and travel books. Also, books with maps, charts, and/or graphs may or may not be easier to study in a larger format.
But for general reading purposes? For novels? My ereader wins every time.
You could always have both, of course. For example, I am fond of small, leather-bound prayer books, but even with this dear little exception, I like to have a backup Kindle version if it’s available. Now, Kindle offers a Matchbook program. For books in the program, of which there are plenty, you can buy the old-fashioned version and the Kindle version becomes available to you for $2.99 or less. Isn’t that nice?
So, all you romantics, old-fashioned hardliners, and under-informed, wake up, lighten up (literally), stop being snobby -- or don't! Go ahead and lug some heavy tome through two or three airports and back because you're stubborn. Good for you that books and reading mean so much to you. I mean that sincerely. Just don’t try to convince me that it’s a superior, more soulful option. I might heartily agree that you’re a better person than I, but let’s leave my Kindle out of it.
Happy New Year! It's that time again, the time for resolutions, exercise, and all sorts of fiscal stuff!
But why does the year begin in January? Do you ever ask yourself that question? No? I have, especially while trying to work off holiday feasts! To that end, starting anew after a month of reveling makes sense to me.
Not everyone celebrates the coming of the New Year in January, of course. The Chinese New Year, also know as the Spring Festival, will be January 27 through February 2. Yep, that's seven full days of New Year's cheer. It marks the beginning of Spring in China and is a very old observance. It will be the Year of the Rooster, by the way. Likewise, Iranians celebrate their New Year, Norooz, on the vernal or spring equinox, this year March 21. Beginning the year in springtime, a time of renewal in the natural world, seems reasonable to me.
It doesn't coincide with the beginning of a liturgical cycle, either. Catholics do have an important feast day January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. But it's not a new season in the church; it's still Christmas. Don't take down that tree or pack away the nativity set just yet! Some Orthodox Christians, in accordance with the Julian calendar, will observe Christmas, New Year's, and Ephipany later this month, respectively January 7, 14, and 19. In the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah happened to end on New Year's Day this year, but it did not mark the beginning of the Jewish New Year. That would be Rosh Hashanah, which falls September 20.
It's not the beginning of anything astronomically, meteoroligically, or religiously. Whose calendar are we following, anyway?
The ancient Roman's, of course!
In 45 B.C., Julius Caesar institued his new and improved calendar, the Julian calendar, and decided that the month of Janus, Roman god of Doors and Gateways, was an appropriate time to begin the new year. Janus was always depicted with two faces, one to the past and the other to the future. His month became the gateway to the New Year for the Romans.
Not everyone cared about the Romans or their calendar, far from it. Once that famed empire fell and Christianity became more widespread, New Year's Day was sort of fiddled around with, especially in Europe. Some countries tried observing it in spring, around Easter, but since the vernal equinox changes from year to year and the Julian calendar wasn't keeping up, it got complicated. It took several centuries and Pope Gregory XIII's calendar, the Gregorian calendar (1582), with its leap years and less room for error, to bring more people around. The pope wasn't particularly worried about New Year's Day; he was more concerned with Easter. Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar first, Protestant countries eventually did so as a matter of convenience, and until this day it is not universal.
So now we know. We celebrate the beginning of the year in January because of some random Roman god and Julius Caesar's whimsy, sort of by default, really. No problem! I don't think that the whys and wherefore make much difference. Insomuch as it is up to us, January and the months that follow will be what we make them. Let's make them great! Here's to January, to 2017, and to you!
Image of Janus, public domain, from Alexander Stuart Murray's Manual of Mythology, 1873, Oxford University
Surely, the past, present, and future connect in this miraculous state we call life. In this light, history and all human experience are ever-present. Wouldn't it be nice, then, if we could enjoy each other, if we could appreciate and celebrate our differences? Let us love! Let us have fun. Let us toast each other and wish each other well. Now, in our awareness, is the time to be happy, to do our best, to live fully to our purest, highest standards.