Attention, book readers: slow down
Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel
It's Saturday morning, and once again the thick metal door of the soundproof booth shuts tight behind me. Settling into the swivel chair, I crack open the book I'll be reading for the next two hours and remind myself, Don't hurry.
It took about a year of volunteering at Recording for the Blind before I learned a profitable lesson about reading books slow down, absorb. You're about to establish a relationship. If you get swept along by the accelerated pace all around you and just grab-and-read, you'll miss something important.
Whether it was a textbook on brand marketing, a collection of short stories from Africa, or a Dickens classic, I discovered that about halfway into each session I was not only becoming familiar with the subject of the book, I was also getting to know its author.
This made me think about my relationship with an old friend "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. What more might I glean from this book if I slowed down and peeked around the corners, rather than speeding by them?
So the next time I picked up Science and Health, I acted like an inquisitive first-time reader, carefully exploring one page, then the next.
What caught my attention at the outset, on the title page, was that this book was written by a college president. She was president of a state-chartered college that she had founded. This told me the author knew something about education, about administering a school, setting up a curriculum, working with faculty, and teaching students. But these are not the main subject of this work. How to heal, is.
The book explains the metaphysical system for healing that Mary Baker Eddy discovered, one that has its roots in her own Bible study, spiritual insights, and healing. She named her system Christian Science, and it's based on the power of Truth, God, to heal disease and sin. Mindful that such a claim demands proof, the author added 100 pages of first-person testimonials, validating that healings of all kinds of disorders are possible with her system.
I turned back to the title page with a lingering question: Why the college? What connection did that have with her book? Perhaps she'd answer these questions.
Sure enough, as I continued I read: "A book introduces new thoughts, but it cannot make them speedily understood" (pg. vii). Perhaps she saw her college as one way of speeding up people's understanding the Science in her book. After all, personal instruction does give students an opportunity to ask questions and share insights.
What else was in the Preface? The author described her first thoughts on the subject as "crude" and as "infantile lispings," which made me think she poured into those pages not only the Science she discovered, but her journey to it. What heart, what conviction, what a love for humanity, made her take us along on her journey.
Her next major revision of Science and Health was preceded by years of Bible study, healing, writing, lecturing. She taught Christian Science to thousands of students at her college. So she must know what a spiritual seeker is looking for. Those who come to her book for inspiration, healing, and spiritual understanding, will find a writer speaking to them who has walked that walk. She knows the heart of Truth-seekers because she is one and wants her book to quench the seeker's thirst as it did her own.
As I neared the end of the Preface, I felt I knew a little more about the author. Our relationship had deepened.
But wait. Something was missing. Where was the dedication? Here on my desk is Garrison Keillor's "Lake Wobegon Days," with the dedication: "To Margaret, my love." Did Mary Baker Eddy skip this personal message?
No, apparently not. At the end of the Preface, rather than before it, the author says "... she commits these pages to honest seekers for Truth" (pg. xii). That stopped me in my tracks.
What an honor. The book that is so much a part of her life is dedicated to me, and to millions of other Truth-seekers. It was as though she were saying to us, "I know what it means to be a seeker. I also know what this Science has to offer. Everything in this book is for you. Let's walk this path together."
Quite a journey lies ahead, I realized. I took a breath and turned the page, ready to go forward. It will be at an unhurried pace. I don't want to miss anything.