This may be shocking and contain a bit of disillusionment, but on many things in life, I’m old school. I’m not so certain it is as much my advancing age as it is simply my temperament that somehow has no small amount of curmudgeonliness. Spell check doesn’t like that word, but it simply needs to get over it. See?!? I rest my case. Neither do I receive with generosity, the “AI” when I’m texting, attempting to tell me that when I’m abbreviating Wed. as a day of the week that “likely” what I’m trying to say is We’d. No, no actually that is NOT what I’m likely trying to say, so exchanging it for me is not particularly helpful. And yes, I’m guessing I could probably remove that spell check thing off my texting app by going into some kind of settings and clicking around and sliding a green button to a gray button and I might have tried to find it once on a lark and all too quickly reached frustration and started playing spider solitaire to ease my stress. I’m. Old. School.
I like books. I like how they look. I like how they feel. I like how they smell. I like that when I own one, I can handwrite notes and questions in the margins with my favorite pencil, that I can turn the corners of the pages down – a true no, no, if it’s a public library book – but I like being a rebel in my own mind and my own library so most of my books have dog-eared pages. I like getting a package in the mail with a book I ordered. I like finding that book on my shelves that has that one quotation that hit me with such force when I read it I knew I’d want to remember it and be able to go find it and see it again for reals on the page where I remember it.
I like being old and every now and again sitting and thinking about A Wrinkle in Time by Madelaine L’Engle that I read in 8th grade and for the first time I saw a young girl as a leader with intellect that included STEM; about Watership Down by Richard Adams that I read in High School that illuminated what it is to live in community; about Manchild in the Promised Land, by Claude E. Brown that was my first true introduction to the challenge of racial injustice; about Making Connections, by theologian and ethicist Beverly Wildung Harrison that opened my eyes and understanding of walking with and beside and building relationship across lines of differentness in order to change the world. In so many ways it has been seminal books at particular times in my life that have deepened my awareness, opened my eyes and mind to subjects I might have otherwise found too overwhelming to approach, and invited me into new choices about how to live intentionally using the gifts in my life for purpose and meaning, for me, in relationship to my faith.
And the scriptures?!? As we United Methodists say at our best, “Scripture is primary, but not only.” Right? I love reading, hearing, contemplating the biblical story – that’s probably good given my profession. And my old, red, falling apart New Revised Standard Version is still my all-time favorite! I love what it meant to me when I read it cover to cover the first time and really had no earthly idea what most of it meant. I even love what happened when I began to study it in seminary and became so frustrated at learning that it wasn’t meant to be a science or math or history book of empirical and literal accuracy which meant I had to open myself to more expanded possibilities of how God is revealed through story and poem and hymn and essay using metaphor and allegory and parable and saga. And then to understand that this book containing the Scripture is primary, AND USED ALONG WITH Reason, Tradition, and Experience! How great is THAT?!? It’s in large part why I am United Methodist. I LOVE that! Reason invites and challenges us to put our intellect to use when making decisions about our lives, and that intellect, for me, is stimulated in great degree by reading. And the sense of touch and turning pages and seeing words and going back to see them again and again and again, and even the weight of the book and the whisper sound of page after page makes a difference to me.
I have and still do sometimes read books on my computer and/or on my phone when I’m travelling. I don’t have a tablet of any kind which is more book-size I suppose, but I still don’t think it would replace the old school nature of the reading experience for me. Please understand, a working computer makes me happy. It helps me get things done in quick fashion. It allows me to create and write sermons where I can easily, mostly easily on most days anyway, delete and cut and paste and move paragraphs around and make the font-size smaller or larger which allows me to see things on a page and etch it in my mind. The power of technology is fantastic, until it isn’t. I can take some duct-tape or packing tape and even some gorilla glue and keep my old, red bible hanging together enough to use. My attempts at duct-tape, packing tape, don’t worry Chandler and Walt, I’ve not yet tried Gorilla glue, to fix my computer when it’s not computing, hasn’t worked. There are most wonderful AI, tech-guru, fix-it people who are quite patient and mostly not sarcastic when helping people like me work through whatever button I pushed that froze something that won’t even re-boot back to a “normal” way of intelligencing artificially. And I love them. And…I love books.
I HAVE learned how to do Zoom calls for meetings which I find pretty entertaining. I was zooming with colleagues one morning while still sucking down my peanutbutter power smoothie from a certain favorite coffee place that is now just up Ridgeview. There were no small amount of comments made about my insistence on using the straw to get every last drop which evidently makes a noise that can even be heard while one is zooming. And one of the zoomers, who shall remain nameless by position or appointment, had some bed-head going on that did require a response from me about being glad and a bit surprised they were out of their jammies and in regular clothing giving the state of their appearance, unused yet vocal chord scratchiness, and some pretty clear heavy-liddedness. Some of us are simply not morning people and technology, for good or not so much, can make that abundantly clear which can be entertaining.
I guess there is grace for being old school in some aspects and fairly accepting of technology in others. It won’t ever be as easy for me as it is for the youngies, but then again, finding books on actual shelves using the Dewey Decimal system won’t every be as easy for them as it is for us oldies. And don’t even tell me that’s a skill they won’t ever need to know or use – please leave me in my little world where finding the book on a card in the card catalogue and then going on the hunt to find the book on the shelf was the greatest treasure hunt ever! Okay so I’m both a nerd AND old school – but know that I enjoy every single day of it!!! And may that be true for you as well, old schoolish or not. Life is too short not to live fully, laugh loudly, love generously, and be entertained by the self that you most truly are!!!