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Among the many weaknesses in my life are too much tea (notice I didn’t say “iced” or “sweet,” since any other form is not tea), a tendency to stay too long at the table, and a healthy dose of procrastination.
The drive toward procrastination has been with me since forever, I guess. My guiding principle there has been “never do today what you can put off until tomorrow” and I have taken it to a high level through the years. But I’m not sure that’s a good thing and I really am trying to get away from it since I don’t think I have 70 more years to play around.
Nowhere, though, has it been more perfected than in the world of literature and reading in general. In my study, on the bedside table, on the floor beside the bed, on the table next to the couch — really, anywhere there’s about 20 square inches of available space — you’ll find a book or two or four or more, sometimes stacked pretty high and often leaning a bit. Most of them are volumes I “had” to have; many are about half-read.
Not my fault there is such good stuff out there.
It kind of reminds me of an episode of the original “The Twilight Zone” in which a nerdy little banker played by Burgess Meredith gets himself locked into a timed vault during his lunch hour on a Friday. After the weekend passes and the vault unlocks itself and he’s set free, he discovers an atomic blast has destroyed civilization as he knew it.
Now he has time to read all he wants. Except on his way to his first taste of his newfound freedom, he drops his glasses and they shatter on the rubble.
I’ve always been hooked on the printed word. It was in the 4th grade, I think, I decided to keep a notebook of the books I’d read. Seems the list got up to about 150 or so; of course, most of them had only seven or eight pages but still it looked pretty good when, at the tender age of 9 or so, I showed the list around.
Today, some of my volumes are for pleasure; others for edification or personal improvement and some I’m not sure why. For instance, there’s a book about how Christianity should respond to today’s culture. It’s pretty deep, something not to skim over lightly. I have to read and reread; maybe that’s why I’m only up to about page 37.
Then there’s one titled “Tombstone.” It’s about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday and all the folks at the OK Corral. When I read it, I remember the movie of the same name and how good that was. Maybe that’s why I’m more than half done with it.
Then there are some once read that probably should be read again. One of those is one used in a long-ago Sunday morning church study class. Entitled “One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life,” basically it’s about setting priorities as in what would we do with our lives if we knew we had only 30 days to live.
There’s some great stuff in it, for sure, and I learned some things and improved my focus on some. Truthfully, I think it’s probably the kind of book that is best utilized on a second or even third go-round.
But here’s the real key. The stuff I either already knew, either innately, from experience or as new information, is all well and good. But I’m still having trouble putting significant amounts of it into play and I wonder why.
That reminds me of the young book salesman who went from farm to farm trying to peddle his company’s new publication entitled “How to be a Better Farmer.” One day he’s leaning on a prospective customer’s fence extolling the virtues of the book.
“Why, if you’ll just buy this book and do what it says do,” he said, “you’ll be farming 10 times better than you are now.”
“Son,” the old farmer replied, “I already know how to farm a sight better than I’m actually doing.”
Southern comic Brother Dave Gardner, a legend of the 1950s, had a line or so in a standup routine where he said, “I know what’s in every book in every library in the world.”
“What?” the straight man would reply.
“Words,” came the answer.
And so it is. It’s just picking some and leaving others that’s hard.
And putting the good ones into practice, as well.
Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and retired long-time managing editor of the Chatham News/Chatham Record, having written a weekly column for more than 30 years. During most of his time with the newspapers, he was also a bi-vocational pastor and today serves Bear Creek Baptist Church for the second time as pastor.