These early morning hours “make my day.” Harry Emerson Fosdick, writing of Rufus Jones, said it this way: “To meet him was to feel set up for the day.” Each morning I “meet” with Rufus Jones or one of the many “friends of the written word” that share my study with me. Many of these friends have long since died, but their words live still and to connect with any one of them is “to feel set up for the day.”
Many of the friends I meet here in my study would not be classified as “religious writers.” The irreligious Mark Twain is a dear friend and mentors me often. I consider Dr. Seuss one of the greatest philosophers ever, right there alongside Plato. Carl Jung, Carl Rogers, Karl Menninger, Elie Wiesel, and a host of others like them, share my bookshelves with Paul Tillich, E. Stanley Jones, Thomas a’Kempis and Soren Kierkegaard.
I read many of the books written by these friends of mine at an early age, in high school, college and seminary. Now I have the time to reread them from the perspective and experience of the years—and I’m just now beginning to understand what they were trying to say. Sometimes we read the great books too early, before we have enough experience to understand them. C.S. Lewis says this much better than I can, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally — and often far more — worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”
Do I read new (contemporary) books? Of course, I do. With the ease of obtaining books these days I try to keep up. I read biographies—trying to glean from them how other men and women have thought and lived. I read mysteries just for the fun of it, and other novels as well. In the present political climate, I highly recommend Jimmy Carter’s, “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power.” But, one of the purposes of this blog is to introduce those who may read it to the great books and the great authors—the books and authors that have endured over time. It is those “great books” that often make me feel set up for the day. Charles William Elliot says it well: “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”