From the bookshelf

Thanks to my Kindle, I have been doing some over-indulging in what I call 'brain candy'. That would be those books (light mysteries for me) which are entertaining, but that's about all they have to recommend them. They are not great literature, I read them incredibly fast (at most an evening or two), and I usually forget them as soon as I finish them. It is pure escapism and I will occasionally go on binges of doing this. (I have to say I can indulge to a greater extent with my Kindle because I am not constrained by running out of books and having to leave my house to stock up at the library.) It is not necessarily something I'm proud of, but sometimes it seems my brain needs a rest and I feel incapable of reading anything of depth.

At some point, though, I will pick-up whatever the current brain candy is, and realize that I have no desire to read it. I'm done. I've had enough. It's kind of the same feeling when you've been overindulging on sweets and baked goods and find all you really want is a nice green salad.

In response I'm currently reading two very different books (with a third waiting in the wings) and thoroughly enjoying both of them. While I'm still in the beginning sections, I have come across some interesting quotes that I want to share with you.

The first is from The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge. (I recommend this book with some important reservations. In my reading so far, I have come across at least one chapter that I skimmed and wish I had just skipped. Be choosy in what sections of this book you read and certainly don't leave it lying about where your children might be tempted to pick it up and read it. Let's just say that the author is coming from a secular world view and his ideas of human sexuality and what is appropriate to write about is perhaps VERY different from the world view of many of my readers.) With that said, I have been fascinated with the discoveries about the plasticity of the brain and in particular the work that has been done to help children who for various reason have some significant brain deficits. It is from that section that the following quote comes.

This follows a section which details how doing detailed work on identifying patterns, working with language, and copy work can have significant global impacts on brain development. From Chapter 2, 'Building Herself a Better Brain':

"The irony of this new discovery is that for hundreds of years educators did seem to sense that children's brains had to be built up through exercises of increasing difficulty that strengthened brain functions. Up through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a classical education often included rote memorization of long poems in foreign languages, which strengthened the auditory memory (hence thinking in language) and an almost fanatical attention to handwriting, which probably helped strengthen motor capacities and thus not only helped handwriting but added speed and fluency to reading and speaking. Often a great deal of attention was paid to exact elocution and to perfecting the pronunciation of words. Then in the 1960's educators dropped such traditional exercises from the curriculum, because they were too rigid, boring, and 'not relevant.' But the loss of these drills has been costly; they may have been the only opportunity that many students had to systematically exercise the brain function that gives us fluency and grace with symbols. For the rest of us, their disappearance may have contributed to the general decline of eloquence, which requires memory and a level of auditory brain-power unfamiliar to us now. In the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 the debaters would comfortably speak for an hour or more without notes, in extended memorized paragraphs; today many of the most learned among us, raised in our most elite schools since the 1960's prefer the omnipresent PowerPoint presentation - the ultimate compensation for a weak premotor cortex."

(I feel the need to add this was written in 2007; no specific political jab was intended by the author.)

In our home we do italic penmanship and have at various times memorized poems. I had a gut feeling we needed to do this, but I could not have told you why except for my feeling that it was good for my children.

The second book I've started is Ways to Open Your Heart & Home to Others by Karen Ehman. I haven't made it very far in this one. I was reading it yesterday... or trying to... while H. was sitting next to me. (She likes to stay very close.) It was sweet to have her there, but let's just say sitting quietly is a developing skill. Her world was turned upside-down so much that she needs fairly constant confirmation that Mommy loves her, that we will eat soon, and that she will get to "drive, drive, drive" in the car again. If I thought I had that whole patience-thing figured out, God evidently felt I needed to take it up a notch.

But, back to the quote that really struck me and one that I think many women need to hear. This is from Chapter 1: A Heart that Says "Welcome":

"God began to teach me [the author] that there is a huge difference between 'entertaining' and offering hospitality. Entertaining puts the emphasis on you and how you can impress others. Offering hospitality puts the emphasis on others and strives to meet their physical and spiritual needs so that they feel refreshed, not impressed, when they leave your home."

I don't know about you, but I find this idea convicting. I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the book.


Sally Ivaska said…
I read the "brain" book about a year ago and found it fascinating. I'm pretty sure I can guess what chapter you skimmed :)

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