meditations for rainy days

meditations for the humanist

Reason That I Love Books #192: When you start reading a book and with every page it seems more and more like it was written for the express purpose of teaching you about your life.

I’ve been reading through A.C. Grayling’s Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age, and even though Humanism is a subject that I’ve been wanting to look into for a while now, I never expected to find so much of myself in these pages. In his essays, Grayling comments on different parts of the human condition, everything from Hope, Mercy, and Civility to Blasphemy, Poverty, and Obscenity; in every essay I’ve read so far there has been at least one part that has caused me to stop reading, set the book down, and reflect on the points he makes.

So far, I think my favorite pieces have been on the subject of Tolerance: “But tolerance and its opposition are not only or even invariably forms of acceptance and rejection respectively. One can tolerate a belief or practice without accepting it oneself. What underlies tolerance is the recognition that there is plenty of room in the world for alternatives to coexist, and that if one is offended by what others do, it is because one has let it get under one’s skin.”

And on the subject of Civility: “Despite appearances, the Western world is not undergoing a new immoral age. It is suffering a different phenomenon: a loss of civility, a deficit of good manners. … Civility is a matter of mores, etiquette, politeness, of informal rituals that facilitate our interactions, and and thereby give us ways to treat each other with consideration. It creates social and psychological space for people to live their own lives and make their own choices. Youths spitting on the street and swearing on buses offer merely superficial symptoms of incivility; more serious are such things as invasion of privacy by tabloid newspapers, and interruptions into the areas of personal life irrelevant to to public concerns – for example, exposés of the sex lives of politicians. Our age is in fact a moralistic one … which is a large part of the problem – for moralistic attitudes are intolerant, and intolerance is one of the worst discourtesies.”

I’ve always loved the experience of reading books that feel as if they’re so full of new ideas, or things you’d never given thought to before that it’s almost difficult to sit and read for the fact that your brain tries to devour everything at once. Reading for pleasure or entertainment is enjoyable, but for me there’s no feeling quite equal to that of being overwhelmed with the discovery of new and different perspectives.


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