Thursday, February 09, 2012

Listening and hearing

A friend lent me a copy of Brian Hardin's book, Passages: how reading the Bible in a year will change everything for you.  She wanted 'my opinion' on it.

Hardin began a daily podcast reading through the Bible several years ago - there's a passage from the Old Testament, one from the New, a Psalm (or portion of one of the larger ones) and a verse or two of Proverbs, presented each day.  This is a fairly common approach to getting through the Bible in a year.

I had a listen to one of these this morning, and I like the way he reads the words: calm, measured, a little drama where needed; it's all done at a speed that allows the mind to listen as well as the ear.   We have some sections of The Message paraphrase of the Bible on audio.  I love it, because I enjoy the way Eugene Peterson puts familiar words into new phraseology, but the reader on this audio reads at a breathless pace, presumably because he's got a lot of material to get through on each CD.

Not long ago I was reading in another book - in fact it was Peterson's Working the Angles - that when we read the Bible with the eye, we skim a great deal; we don't dwell on words and 'hear' them.  He recommended reading the Bible out loud, even if it's only to ourselves, because then the eye and the ear get engaged, and when both are engaged, the mind pays more attention.   I've noticed with reading books on Kindle that one of the disadvantages is that I skim lines even more than usual; it's a habit of mine, anyway, but something about the text in this format leads me to 'read' faster.  I'm forever having to click back to the previous page to check something that I've obviously missed.

Hardin's slower-paced reading of the words gets you to listen - although even while listening I tended to be picking up something and checking whether we needed to keep it, or making a cup of tea, or running the bath.  Settling down to listen is difficult for us moderns, and this is part of what Hardin has to say in the book.  It's also why an audio version of the Bible gets us to stop and take in the words in a way that we don't when we're just sitting reading.  It takes 'effort', one might say, to read and actually listen to what we're reading.  The audio approach is valuable.

Just for the record this morning's readings consisted of the section of the Old Testament in which God gives Moses detailed instructions about how to dress the priests - it's both down to earth and full of beauty.   The New Testament section was the one in which Jesus talks to those who've never given other people the time of day: haven't clothed those who were naked, or given water to those who were thirsty, or visited people in prison.  It's one of those sections of the Gospels that are just a little bit scary!

The Psalm was an old favourite of mine (although Hardin only read the middle section of it) - Psalm 31.  It's one I memorised years ago and have recited to myself umpteen times, especially in those days when the black clouds were hovering or I felt bereft for some reason.   I'm not sure what the Proverbs bit was, as, modern that I am, I'd switched my brain off at that point.  Maybe I need to check through the audio again!

The length of today's audio shows up as 48 minutes.  In fact the Bible readings take a good deal less than that - I assume Hardin gives a kind of homily at the end of some sort.  For me the readings on their own are enough to think about.  Incidentally, the dates on the audios are a day behind for us New Zealanders; not that that matters in the least - I just thought I'd mention it!   And incidentally again, you can get the readings on an app - of course.
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