Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Eating and Reading and Mystics, Oh My

I don't want to hear about no PB&J or socks and shoes or Burns and Allen - eating and reading, now that's the combo that approximates perfection. A book in one hand, a fork in the other, and there's not a thing more in the world that I need.

So there I was at a restaurant today, luxuriating in the moment of combining my two favorite activities. A middle aged man wearing a shirt marking him as a retail worker walks up to a table next to me, sees my book and exclaims, "Evelyn Underhill? Cool!" referring to the book on mysticism that I was reading. Turns out that he is steadily making his way through works on mysticism - Underhill, The Cloud of Unknowing, etc. He thinks it's amazing that I'm reading the book right out there in public; I think it's amazing that anyone would think anything other than "Gee, what a geek" upon seeing me with said book in public.

"I used to attend this evangelical church, and I started reading this stuff," he told me. "And I got mad - it was like they were hiding all the good stuff, all this richness, all what it's supposed to be. But you know what? They weren't hiding it - they didn't know it, either." His friends were leaving, so he waved and headed out the door after that.

Do people know it? Is anyone hiding it? Does anyone need it? Does it matter? Questions to explore...


  1. I totally understand his comment about you reading it in public. I *think* I mostly read what I want whatever, but I am hyperaware of the idea that ppl will notice and judge. There are so many fundamentalist around me. Their thoughts will not be good ones when they see me reading Conversations with God if they're familiar with that book (for example).


  2. When I was living in Memphis I went to a laundromat one day and I was reading Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity, which posits that God is really just the summation of all of humanity's highest ideals, and which I was going to be teaching later that day in class. An older woman saw me reading this and told me what a fine Christian woman I must be, and I thought that if she knew what I was reading she'd have me tarred and feathered on my way out of town.