...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Monday, February 2, 2015

What you want to do makes you read the text[s] to confirm what you want to do

It's like some sort of loop:

'Turner writes: “The way that most white American evangelicals read the Bible did not lead them to oppose glaring social injustices.” No. The acceptance of glaring social injustices led to “the way that most white American evangelicals read the Bible.”'

     As a young apprentice, Franklin had read a book extolling vegetarianism. He embraced the diet, but not just for moral and health reasons. His main motive was financial: it enabled him to take the money his brother allotted him for food and save half for books. While his coworkers went off for hearty meals, Franklin ate biscuits and raisins and used that time for study, "in which I made the greater progress from that greater clearness of head and quicker apprehension which usually attended temperance in eating and drinking."
     But Franklin was a reasonable soul, so wedded to being rational that he became adroit and rationalizing. During his voyage from Boston to New York, when his boat lay becalmed off Block Island, the crew caught and cooked some cod. Franklin at first refused any, until the aroma from the frying pan became to enticing. With droll self-awareness, he later recalled what happened:
     I balanced some time between principle and inclination until I recollected that when the fish were opened, I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs. "Then," I thought, "if you eat one another, I don't see why we may not eat you." So I dined upon cod very heartily and have since continued to eat as other people, returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet.
 [from Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson]

In the first case, in both cases, I'm provoked to ask what ways I'm reading that's blinkering my ability to read. In the second case, I love that the first paragraph makes B.F. almost saintly in his industriousness--inspiringly so--and in the last paragraph his all-too-humanness outs itself.

No comments: