Friday, August 14, 2009

The Importance of Readings Books That Are Over Your Head

I am almost half way through Stephen Meyer's book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design. Some of it is way over my head. I started on chapter 5 "The Molecular Labyrinth" and read this "For those without a background in biology, don't worry if some of the details get past you." (121) Two pages later I was lost. I was tempted to say the book was far too difficult for me and I should go on to something more my level. But I didn't. To avoid complete despair I skimmed the remaining part of the chapter and went on to the next chapter. The following few chapters were remarkably fascinating and considerably easier for me to follow. I will go back someday to chapter 5 and try it again but there was a lesson here.

Educator and philosopher Mortimer Adler used to encourage people to read books that were over their head. Adler in this YouTube clip says it this way, "The art of reading, I’d like to say, consists in having the skills required for lifting your mind up with a book, and nothing but a book in your hand, from understanding less to understanding more." What was the last book you read that forced you out of your comfort zone and made you think hard? For me, it is Signature in the Cell. I must say the effort, while arduous, is sheer delight.


Scripture Zealot said...

Although I don't use the term "comfort zone" most of the technical commentaries I've read through have things that are over my head. I've been reading through one for each book of the NT. They are very worth it. As I learn more Greek and read more commentaries I understand more of what they say which is in line with the quote from Adler.

Kierkegaard (sp?) is the one that was the most over my head though. I only understand 1/3 of what he wrote. But there are a couple thoughts that I understood that were worth pondering.

Louis said...

Scripture Zealot,

"Comfort Zone" was not my best choice of terms but I was having a hard time coming up with the right term. But you got my point.

I completely agree with you on Kierkegaard. I had to do a paper on him for a philosophy of religion class and the professor commented "I don't think you've quite understood what Kierkegaard is trying to say." I wanted to right back and say "No doubt about that."