Books

Whoever saves a single life...

“And I read something else,” Jacob goes on. “There was this discussion of the story of Cain and Abel, from the Bible. After Cain kills his brother, God says, ‘The bloods of your brother call out to me.’ Not blood. Bloods. Weird, right? So the Talmud tries to explain it.”

“I can explain it,” says William. “The scribe was drunk.”

“William!” cries Jeanne. “The Bible is written by God!”

“And copied by scribes,” the big boy replies. “Who get drunk. A lot. Trust me.”

Jacob is laughing. “The rabbis have a different explanation. The Talmud says it’s ‘bloods’ because Cain didn’t only spill Abel’s blood. He spilled the blood of Abel and all the descendants he never had.”

“Huh!”

“And then it says something like, ‘Whoever destroys a single life destroys the whole world. And whoever saves a single life saves the whole world.”


Story as life's compass...

“But,” says a teacher, “these are just stories. I’ve got a curriculum to cover. I don’t have time for stories!” Far from suggesting the curriculum be abandoned, I say it is enriched and made meaningful by story. Story does not exist to teach reading skills. Story is the vehicle we use to make sense out of the world–even when we sleep. Dreams are our attempt to make sense out whatever defies logic. Do you know anyone who dreams nonfiction? We dream story.


In childhood, all books are books of divination...

Perhaps it is only in childhood that books have any deep influence on our lives. In later life we admire, we are entertained, we may modify some views we already hold, but we are more likely to find in books merely a confirmation of what it is in our minds already; as in a love affair, it is our own features that we see reflected flatteringly back. But in childhood, all books are books of divination, telling us about the future, and like the fortune teller who sees a long journey in the cards or death by water they influence the future. I suppose that is why books excited us so much. What do we ever get nowadays from reading to equal the excitement and the revelation in those first fourteen years?