June 7th, 2013


  1. Jeff Hess says:

    Good morning all,

    As is my habit, I read one of Lawrence Block’s essays this morning as a warm-up for my writing. This particular essay, “A Writer’s Library,” first published in October 1981, is Block’s thoughts on his personal library and how he has grown (and weeded) his collection of books over the years.

    That’s an experience I share with Block (and other writers). Bu’s TED talk resonated with me and Block’s essay on the importance of comparison. Writers read a lot and in the process we very often expose ourselves to multiple viewpoints on single subjects.

    When we compare (and contrast) we notice aspects of thought we might miss if we only referenced a single source. We learn that reality is fungible.

    In the ’90s I was a regular for several years in a regular, Saturday morning Torah study class taught by one of my favorite teachers, Rabbi Roger Klein. I made a habit of using a different translation each year and I think I learned more about the text from seeing how different men and women translated the Hebrew than I did from the actual message the translators thought they were transmitting. One year I even used King James and New Standard translations which were real eye openers.

    The words we pick reflect how we perceive our understood reality.

    Allow me to offer an example from a shared experience of my generation: the events of 24 November 1963. I believe I can state with some authority that on that day a man who was known as Jack Ruby pulled the trigger on a 38 caliber revolver and fired a single shot into the abdomen of Lee Harvey Oswald that led to Oswald’s death. That much may be accepted as objective reality.


    Did Ruby kill Oswald?

    Did Ruby murder Oswald?

    Did Ruby execute Oswald?

    Did Ruby assassinate Oswald?

    Did Ruby assist in Oswald’s suicide?

    The verbs – kill, murder, execute, assassinate and assist – all carry their own weight. They are not interchangeable. Each shapes a particular perception of personal reality.

    That is a lesson that we can only learn by reading, by engaging the text in ways that the printed, permanent and non-electronic word facilitates.

    I can think of no better reason to support the idea that books are important.

    Do all you can to make today a good day,


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