Friday, September 16, 2011

Books Don't Make Us Human

Can books make us human or are we born human?

I would like to re-word the thesis of this symposium, and present my list of books that are known to make people humane, and thus a be catalyst to make the reader an enlightened, knowledgeable, and truth-seeking missile of a human being.

People are homo sapiens, even if they lack a proper understanding of the human condition. Joseph Stalin and Mother Theresa were both human; the difference between them, however, was not the question of their biological classification, but their choices. Stalin demeaned and killed humans and Blessed Theresa cared for and defended them. For at "the Day of Judgment, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken, but how holy we have lived,” wrote St. Thomas a Kempis in The Imitation of Christ.

I am thus providing ten books which I believe best encapsulate and understand what it means to be a humane human; that is, sympathetic to the whole person, have a foundation in God, and outwardly show an ability to love transcendentally (opposed to hiding their candle beneath a bushel).

Furthermore, I’ve resisted including books-I-like or books-everyone-should-read if they do not fit the prompt. Aquinas’ brilliant Summa Theologica is a perfect example of this; as are Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One and Vile Bodies, and Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter (my three favorite books). They do address aspects of humanity, but not to the degree to which this symposium prompts me to choose.

I also did not comment on any of my book selections. This was intentional. For those who know me, I am quite chatty. For those who read me, I enjoy explaining and diving into ideas. For this symposium, however, I thought it much more apt to let the books and their authors speak for themselves. Too much commentary can set up unintentional expectations, and perhaps ruin the experience of diving into a new read. All of these books have profoundly affected my character, challenged my thinking, and have prompted me to act accordingly.

All books selected were written in the not-so-distant 20th century, and remind me of something Tom Bombadil said to the hobbits: "You've found yourselves again, out of the deep water. Clothes are but little loss, if you escape from drowning."

Keep reading at The Imaginative Conservative >>>>>>>

1 comment:

  1. Kudos, Julie, for stepping out and showing those guys! ;-)

    Appreciated your list, altho I havent read them all. Makes me more thankful that God wakes me up every morning....

    so I can read.

    FWIW - I'm editing a family storybook together with my mother. My great-aunt wrote out some vignettes from her childhood. The more I read each one the more I think each one would make a great children's book. With Margaret's illustrations, of course.