Okay, so, as the title might suggest, this post might drift more into the mystical and the romantic than I usually do. I have reservations about this sort of experience, but then again, I can’t really ignore it either.

Here’s the thing – I can remember, twenty years later, vividly, far more vividly than many other supposedly more important things, the first time that I really felt what I can only call “universal oneness”, despite whatever baggage you might associate with that sort of language. I was on the bus, on the way home from the university library. It was a Saturday afternoon in the fall, early in the first year of my undergraduate degree in English literature. I was reading Gerard Manley Hopkins in a trashy paperback edition that I still own because I haven’t been able to throw it out. The sun came through the bus window, just as I looked up, and it caught the hair of the girl sitting in front of me, became a halo. The moment was transfigured. The universe was impossibly, I don’t know – impossibly what it is. Even two decades later, the memory of it moves me.

I’ve had this experience, to various degrees of intensity, more than a few times since (if you’re ever over for coffee, ask me about the time I had a vision in a coffee shop). The circumstances around these moments vary wildly. There seems to be very little rhyme or reason about them, and no predictability whatsoever. I have been surprised by the experience everywhere from bus rides to coffee shops to walks in the woods. Sometimes it occurs when one might expect (like when my child came home to me from his foster parents), sometimes at times that feel entirely incongruous (like at the bottom of a ruck in a rugby match).

Today I was sitting on my porch. The rest of my family was gone at the park. I had just finished a couple pints of Octopus Wants to Fight IPA and smoked my pipe as I read the ARC manuscript of a friend’s new novel. The bees were swirling around the flowers in my garden. The cicadas were buzzing. A breeze kept shuffling the shadow-leaves around where I was sitting. The sense of rightness and oneness laid me down on the badly painted wood of the porch like a child in a cradle.

I have no explanation for these things. I’m certain of nothing except that I don’t deserve them, and that I am granted them nevertheless.

I’ve always had more than one name. My parents made sure of that when they named my Jeremy Luke but always called me Luke. From the moment they made that choice I was always doomed to be Jeremy on first days of school and at border crossings and to telemarketers, while also being Luke to everyone who actually knew me.

As a child, I felt this situation as one of life’s minor but unavoidable annoyances, like too-bushy eyebrows or a bad sense of fashion, something that might cause some embarrassment with strangers but was easily forgiven among friends and family. As I grew older, however, I started to see some advantages in having two separate personas, where Jeremy was a kind of official persona who applied for jobs and registered for bank accounts and wrote poems, and Luke was a more relational persona who went to school and played rugby and spent summers on Manitoulin Island and attended youth group and asked girls on dates and all the other things that went with family, friendship, and community.

This distinction was never really very rigorous, of course, and couldn’t be. There was only ever one person behind the personae, and the things I did, the people I knew, the places I went couldn’t help but blend into each other. Even so, I began to find the two names and their implied roles more and more helpful. Even if Jeremy and Luke were never entirely distinct, they each named a different part of me in a way that helped me understand myself and relate to others better, particularly as my official persona became increasingly tied to academic and literary pursuits. The two names became roles I could take on in different situations: Jeremy, a mostly extroverted teacher and writer, at least partially distinct from Luke, a mostly introverted husband, father, and friend.

As I said, those two names have been with me from birth, but what spurred me to think about them again recently is that I’ve acquired a third name. I’ve been working a couple days a week for a contractor friend over the past few months, and he calls me Lucas. I’m not sure why, but he does. This means that his new co-op student calls me Lucas, that the other contractors, clients, hardware store employees and everyone else I meet in that capacity, all call me Lucas also. Most interestingly, at least to me, Lucas is also starting to name a persona that serves me, much as Jeremy and Luke serve me, to identify a role that I play in the world.

Whereas Jeremy tends to be very independent, self-motivated, and even self-employed (if you can use that word for an enterprise that barely breaks even), Lucas is content just to swing a hammer and let someone else be the boss. Whereas Luke’s roles of husband and father and friend are mostly defined by nurturing and supporting others, Lucas’ roles of employee and co-worker are mostly defined by playfulness and humour and comradery. Whereas Jeremy’s work is primarily intellectual, Lucas’ work is primarily physical. While Luke’s labour is about building family and home and community, Lucas’ labour is purely transactional.

Now, let’s be clear. Lucas’ role has always been one I’ve played throughout my life, far before that name became attached to it. I was Lucas when I was drywalling in the Alberta oil patch for a summer, when I was playing highschool and university rugby, when I was making fiberglass at Owens-Corning, and when I was working occasionally for my brother. To be honest, there’s a part of Lucas who shows up every time I hang out with my brothers, every time I go to the movies with some guy friends, every Thursday night when a few of my friends meet for drinks and video games and other such unproductivity, every time I go play with my old man basketball team. That physical, brotherly, wise-ass part of me has always been there, if perhaps less developed than some of my other bits.

The difference is that now this part of me has a name, a persona, a distinct role. I didn’t ask for it, but it was given to me, and I’m starting to enjoy it. Just as with Jeremy and Luke, the role of Lucas isn’t entirely distinct, but it allows me to inhabit a part of me more fully, to take on that role of co-worker, teammate, and brother with greater intention. I’m curious to see who this Lucas will become.


I want to write about nothing except home, nothing, to write about nothing but being at home, coming to home, finding home, because it is the only thing in me that is worth writing.  It is the one true thing that I have to say.

I’ve never been someone who writes to music, neither to create a certain mood nor just for the sake of background noise.   When I write, I prefer just to write.

Recently, however, I’ve discovered the immense benefits of headphones when I’m trying to work in the midst of the lovely, terrifying, wonderful, impossible chaos that is my house most days.  That is to say, I have discovered music in the way that most teenagers have long known it, as an insulation against the world, and even with all the attendant temptations to antisocial behaviour, at this point I’ll take anything that lets me get editing done.

I’m also gaining a new appreciation for some of the music that’s been sitting on my drive mostly unplayed since I downloaded it in a fit of musical optimism or since my youngest brother dumped it there in a mostly failed attempt to improve my taste in music.  So here’s a brief list of what I’ve been putting through my earphones as I edit lately, keeping in mind that I have an extremely low tolerance for stupid lyrics and so listen almost exclusively to instrumental music.  These are not necessarily my favourites, but they’re the ones I find myself listening to at the moment.

Animals as Leaders
Do Make Say Think
Explosions in the Sky
Jason Becker
Jeff Beck
King Crimson
Marc Rizzo
Ozric Tentacles
Russian Circles
Scale the Summit
The Yage Letters

I have had to read extensively through my notebooks as I work on my new novel, and I made searchable master list to assist me in finding things.  The result interested me so much that I decided to share it, though it will probably interest you much less.  The list is a chronological record, not of the books I have read in the ten or so years that I have been keeping these notebooks, but of the books that prompted me to make notes for some reason or another.  There are some books, particularly some novels, even ones that I very much enjoyed, that went without any sort of notes at all and are therefore not on the list.  There are others that did find their way into the notebooks and onto the list despite the fact that I genuinely disliked them.  Also, in a number of cases, the book ended up in my notes on the second or third reading, because I first read it before I became addicted to reading in the way I now read.  The rest of the list should be self-explanatory.  It is also very probably too long to read, and you need not feel obligated even to try, but here it is in any case.

Erasmus Praise of Folly
Kierkegaard, Soren Fear and Trembling
Kierkegaard, Soren The Sickness Unto Death
Kierkegaard, Soren Concluding Unscientific Postscript
Rushdie, Salman Midnight’s Children
Smith, Anna Deavere Twilight: Los Angeles 1992
Zitkala-Sa American Indian Stories
Hodgins, Jack The Invention of the World
Ellison, Ralph Invisible Man
Plath, Sylvia The Bell Jar
Hulme, Keri The Bone People
Faulkner, William The Sound and the Fury
Stein, Gertrude Three Lives
Ondaatje, Michael Running in the Family
Mitscherling, Jeff Roman Ingarden’s Ontology and Aesthetics
Ingarden, Roman Selected Papers in Aesthetics
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Ethics
Lewis, C. S. The Abolition of Man
Ingarden, Roman The Literary Work of Art
Derrida, Jacques Writing and Difference
Derrida, Jacques A Derrida Reader
Derrida, Jacques Of Grammatology
Derrida, Jacques Difference
Husserl, Edmund Logical Investigations
De Saussure, Ferdinand Course in General Linguistics
Miller, J. Hillis Narrative
Radcliffe, Anne The Mysteries of Udalpho
Lewis, Matthew The Monk
Dickens, Charles Hard Times
Shelley, Mary Frankenstein
Woolf, Virginia Mrs. Dalloway
Lessing, Doris The Golden Notebook
Gosse, Edmund Father and Son
Augustine, Saint The Enchiridon
Norwich, Julian of Revelations of Divine Love
Doctorow, E. L. Ragtime
Barnes, Julian Flaubert’s Parrot
Winterson, Jeanette Sexing the Cherry
Benjamin, Walter These on the Philosophy of History
Stoker, Bram Dracula
Kant, Immanuel The Contest of Faculties
Kant, Immanuel An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment
Arnold, Matthew Culture and Anarchy
Readings, Bill The University in Ruins
Graff, Gerald Professing Literature
Appadurai, Arjun Patriotism and its Futures
Ahmad, Aijaz Culture, Nationalism, and the Intellectual
Murray, Heather Working in English
Grant, George Technology and Empire
Chesterton, G. K. The Napoleon of Notting Hill
Adorno, Theodor W. Subject and Object
Critchley, Simon Ethics, Politics, Subjectivity
Jasper, David Rhetoric, Power, and Community
Blodgett, E. D. Silence, the Word, and the Sacred
Caputo, John God, the Gift, and Postmodernism
Shakespeare, William King Lear
Derrida, Jacques Aporias
Hood, Hugh The Swing in the Garden
Marion, Jean-Luc God Without Being
Osborne, John Look Back in Anger
Kipling, Rudyard Kim
Anonymous The Cloud of Unknowing
Eliot, George Adam Bede
Parker, William Riley Milton: A Biography
Hooker, Richard Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity
Nouwen, Henri The Return of the Prodigal Son
Kahn, Paul W. Law and Love: The Trials of King Lear
Booth, Stephen King Lear, MacBeth, Indefinition, and Tragedy
Danby, John Shakespeare’s Doctrine of Nature
Elton, William King Lear and the Gods
Kronenfeld, Judy King Lear and the Naked Truth
Cornell, Drucilla Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice
Sterne, Laurence Tristram Shandy
Booth, Mark What I Believe
Marlowe, Christopher Marlowe: The Plays
Sawday, Jonathan The Body Emblazoned
Swift, Jonathan The Complete Poems
Rushdie, Salman East, West
Drakakis, John Shakespearean Tragedy
Girard, Rene Violence and the Sacred
Wilde, Oscar Comedies
Turgenev, Ivan Fathers and Sons
MacDonald, George Lilith
Girard, Rene I See Satan Fall Like Lightning
Carlyle, Thomas Selections from Carlyle
Litz, A. Walton Major American Short Stories
de Beavoir, Simone The Blood of Others
Derrida, Jacques The Gift of Death
MacDonald, George At the Back of the North Wind
Derrida, Jacques Archive Fever
Tutu, Desmond No Future Without Forgiveness
Derrida, Jacques Acts of Literature
Dostoevsky, Fydor The Idiot
Derrida, Jacques Acts of Religion
Dumas, Alexandre The Count of Monte Cristo
Vanier, Jean Made for Happiness
James, Henry The Portrait of a Lady
Vanier, Jean Finding Peace
James, Henry The Ambassadors
Yancey, Phillip Soul Survivor
Ranciere, Jacques The Names of History
La Capra, Dominick History and Criticism
Le Goff, Jacques History and Memory
de Certeau, Michel The Writing of History
Buechner, Frederick The Storm
Defoe, Daniel Moll Flanders
Foucault, Michel The Foucault Reader
Barnes, Julian A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters
Russell, Peter Constitutional Odyssey
Saul, John Ralston Voltaire’s Bastards
Haselkorn, Anne Prostitution in Elizabethan Drama
Mudge, Bradford The Whore’s Story
Zimmerman, Susan Desire on the Renaissance Stage
Kant, Immanuel Kant: On History
Hegel, G. W. F. Reason in History
Dollimore, Jonathan Sexual Dissidence
Foucault, Michel The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction
Foucault, Michel The History of Sexuality, Volume II: The Use of Pleasure
Foucault, Michel The History of Sexuality, Volume III: The Care of the Self
Cary, Elizabeth The Tragedy of Miriam
Foucault, Michel Madness and Civilization
Stackhouse. John J. Humble Apologetics
Foucault, Michel Discipline and Punish
Coetzee, J. M. Foe
Barthes, Roland Mythologies
Barthes, Roland S/Z: An Essay
Heidegger, Martin On the way to Language
Baudrillard, Jean Simulacra and Simulation
Dillard, Annie Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Heidegger, Martin Poetry, Language, Thought
Barnes, Julian Something to Declare
Milbank, John Radical Orthodoxy
Raeper, William George MacDonald
Gonzalez, Margarita Behind the Veil of Familiarity: C. S. Lewis (1898-1998)
Schakel, Peter Reason and Imagination in C. S. Lewis
Tolkien, J. R. R Tree and Leaf
Lewis, C. S. Of This and Other Worlds
Wangerin Jr., Walter The Book of the Dun Cow
MacDonald, George The Light Princess
MacDonald, George Phantastes
MacDonald, George The Lost Princess
MacDonald, George The Gifts of the Child Christ
MacDonald, George A Dish of Orts
Peters, Thomas The Christian Imagination
Montgomery, John Myth, Allegory, Gospel
Conlon, D. J. G. K. Chesterton: A Half Century of Views
Anonymous The Song of Roland
Milbank, John Being Reconciled
Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy
Barth, Karl Dogmatics in Outline
Dillard, Annie Living by Fiction
Algren, Nelson Nonconformity
Derrida, Jacques Positions
Amis, Kingsley The Biographer’s Moustache
Rajan, Tilottama Deconstruction and the Remainders of Phenomenology
Dillard, Annie For the Time Being
Cohen Leonard Beautiful Losers
de Chardin, Teilhard The Divine Milieu
Faulkner, William As I Lay Dying
Kesey, Ken One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Joyce, James Dubliners
Brown, Robert McAfee Saying Yes and Saying No
Brown, Robert McAfee Religion and Violence
Brown, Robert McAfee Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with the Third World
Longacre, Doris Living More with Less
Aichele, George Violence, Utopia, and the Kingdom of God
Barthes, Roland On Racine
Blanchot, Maurice The Step Not Beyond
Derrida, Jacques Religion and Violence
Foster, Hal The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture
Godwin, William Caleb Williams
Kavanagh, Thomas The Limits of Theory
Behn, Aphra The Rover
Kierkegaard, Soren The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard
Kierkegaard, Soren Works of Love
Ibsen, Henrik Ghosts and Other Plays
Rushdie, Salman The Satanic Verses
Woolf, Virginia To The Lighthouse
Graves, Robert Poems Selected by Himself
Chesterton, G. K. Saint Francis of Assisi
More, Thomas Utopia
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich The Cost of Discipleship
Kierkegaard, Soren Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing
Chesterton, G. K. The Man Who Was Thursday
Webb, William Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals
Fokkelman, J. P. Reading Biblical Narrative
Lukacs, Georg Realism in Our Time
Huxley, Aldous The Doors of Perception
Bronte, Anne Agnes Grey
Levi-Strauss, Claude Totemism
Nietzsche, Friedrich Thus Spake Zarathustra
Thomas, Edward The Works of Edward Thomas
Forster, E. M. A Passage to India
Chekhov, Anton Ivanov and Other Plays
cummings, e. e. 100 Selected Poems
Becket, Samuel Endgame
Ward, Graham Barth, Derrida, and the Language of Theology
Smith, James K. A. Speech and Theology
Oliver, Mary Why I Wake Early
Rooke, Leon The Happiness of Others
Rushdie, Salman Shame
Steiner, George Real Presences
Camus, Albert The Plague
Kafka, Franz The Trial
Drefus, Hubert L. Being in the World
Rich, Adrienne Adrienne Rich’s Poetry
Illich, Ivan Energy and Equity
Illich, Ivan Tools for Conviviality
Nin, Anais A Spy in the House of Love
Adams, Richard Shardik
Gorky, Maxim Fragments from My Diary
Zola, Emile Germinal
Barnes, Julian Love, Etc.
Grant, George Philosophy in the Mass Age
Barthes, Roland Empire of Signs
Newman, Jay Religion and Technology
Boethius The Consolation of Philosophy
Tilloch, Paul A History of Christian Thought
Hesse, Herman Steppenwolf
Derrida, Jacques Of Spirit
Hesse, Herman Magister Ludi
Derrida, Jacques Rogues
Camus, Albert The Fall
Whitman, Walt Leaves of Grass
Illich, Ivan Rivers North of the Future
Brueggemann, Walter Deep Memory, Exuberant Hope
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Life Together
McLaren, Brian D. A New Kind of Christian
Wangerin Jr., Walter The Book of Sorrows
Derrida, Jacques Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas
Huxley, Aldous Collected Short Stories
Illich, Ivan Deschooling Society
Cixous, Helen Coming to Writing
Eco, Unberto Foucault’s Pendulum
Levinas, Emmanuel God, Death, and Time
Honore, Carl In Praise of Slow
Borges, Jorge Luis Selected Poems
Abelard, Peter Ethical Writings
Borges, Jorge Luis Other Inquisitions
Norris, Kathleen The Cloister Walk
Woolf, Virginia The Common Reader
Levinas, Emmanuel Ethics and Infinity
Levinas, Emmanuel Outside the Subject
Rushdie, Salman Grimus
Dillard, Annie Holy the Firm
Levinas, Emmanuel Proper Names
Golding, William The Pyramid
Levinas, Emmanuel Of God Who Comes to MInd
Naipaul, V. S. The Enigma of Arrival
Shields, Carol The Box Garden
Wiesel, Elie The Night Trilogy
Golding, William Rites of Passage
Buechner, Frederick The Son of Laughter
Marion, Jean-Luc The Crossing of the Visible
Williams, Charles Many Dimensions
Williams, Charles All Hallows’ Eve
Barnes, Julian Metroland
Marion, Jean-Luc Being Given
Ackroyd, Peter The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde
Derrida, Jacques Learning to Live Finally
Mossman, Dow The Stones of Summer
Styron, William Sophie’s Choice
Koestler, Arthur Darkness at Noon
Lowry, Malcolm Under the Volcano
Wright, Richard Native Son
Saramago, Jose Seeing
Heller, Joseph Catch-22
Pynchon, Thomas The Crying of Lot 49
Fowles, John The Magus
Lessing, Doris Briefing for a Descent into Hell
Blanchot, Maurice The Instant of My Death
Lewis, C. S. The Pilgrim’s Regress
Blanchot, Maurice A Voice from Elsewhere
Nabokov, Vladimir Pnin
Illich, Ivan Ivan Illich in Conversation
Maugham, Somerset Of Human Bondage
Barthes, Roland A Lover’s Discourse
Friere, Paulo Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Nabokov, Vladimir Lolita
Barzun, Jacques The House of Intellect
Chesterton, G. K. The Man Who Knew Too Much
Rushdie, Salman The Moor’s Last Sigh
Vanier, Jean Be Not Afraid
Dillard, Annie The Writing Life
Moorhouse, Geoffrey The Fearful Void
Genet, Jean Funeral Rites
Melville, Herman Moby Dick
Mailer, Norman An American Dream
Marion, Jean-Luc Prolegomena to Charity
Orwell, George Homage to Catalonia
Golding, William Pincher Martin
Graves, Robert Watch the North Wind Rise
Lyotard, Jean-Francois Postmodern Fables
Derrida, Jacques Echographies of Television
Ford, Ford Madox The Good Soldier
Cohen Leonard The Favourite Game
Chomsky, Noam Miseducation
Butler, Samuel Erewhon
Williams, Charles In the Place of the Lion
Chesterton, G. K. The Flying Inn
Wiesel, Elie The Forgotten
Debord, Guy The Society of the Spectacle
Mann, Thomas Doctor Faustus
Orwell, George Down and Out in Paris and London
Huxley, Aldous Island
de Certeau, Michel The Practise of Everyday Life
Winterson, Jeanette The Passion
Lilburn, Tim Going Home
Buber, Martin I and Thou
Kenner, Hugh The Elsewhere Community
Winterson, Jeanette Tanglewreck
Perec, Georges Species of Spaces
Orwell, George Books v. Cigarettes
Proust, Marcel Days of Reading
de Montaigne, Michel On Friendship
Bachelard, Gaston The Poetics of Space
Calvino, Italo Invisible Cities
Golding, William The Scorpion God
Kearney, Richard The God Who May Be
Gibson, William Pattern Recognition
Bolano, Roberto The Savage Detectives
Bolano, Roberto 2666
Bourdieu, Pierre On Television
Illich, Ivan In the Vineyard of the Text
Buechner, Frederick The Sacred Journey
Gibson, William All Tomorrow’s Parties
Dick, Philip K. A Scanner Darkly
Winterson, Jeanette The Battle of the Sun
Williams, Charles Descent into Hell
Ward, Graham The Politics of Discipleship
Williams, Charles The Shadows of Ecstasy
Calvino, Italo If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller
Maugham, Somerset The Razor’s Edge
Layton, Irving A Red Carpet for the Sun
Gardner, John On Moral Fiction
Canetti, Elias Auto-da-Fe
Hoban, Russell The Lion of Boaz-Jachin
Ellison, Ralph Juneteenth
Bellow, Saul Herzog
Calvino, Italo The Road to San Giovanni
Davies, Robertson The Debtford Trilogy
Perez-Reverte, Arturo The Club Dumas
Hemingway, Ernest True at First Light
Heidegger, Martin What is Called Thinking?
Derrida, Jacques Of Hospitality
Saramago, Jose All the Names
Green, Graham The Power and the Glory
Dick, Philip K. Blade Runner
Dick, Philip K. Flow My Tears the Policeman Said
Miller, Henry Tropic of Cancer
Roth, Phillip The Human Stain
Ricoeur, Paul Living Up to Death
Gardner, John October Light
Saramago, Jose Small Memories
Saramago, Jose Blindness
Postman, Neil Amusing Ourselves to Death
Golding, William The Paper Men
Illich, Ivan Toward a History of Needs
Weil, Simone Waiting for God
Haggard, H. Rider She
Perez-Reverte, Arturo The Fencing Master
Nancy, Jean-Luc The Muses
Eco, Unberto Baudolino
Bolano, Roberto Antwerp
Bolano, Roberto Monsieur Pain
Kundera, Milan The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Bolano, Roberto By Night in Chile
Llosa, Mario Vargas The Storyteller
Postman, Neil The End of Education
Baudrillard, Jean The Transparency of Evil
Rilke, Rainer Maria Letters to a Young Poet
Lowry, Malcolm Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place
Weil, Simone Waiting for God
Postman, Neil Teaching as a Subversive Activity
O’Brien, Geoffrey The Browser’s Ecstasy
Borges, Jorge Luis Collected Fictions
Agamben, Giorgio Potentialities
Baricco, Alessandro Emmaus
Rulfo, Juan Pedro Paramo
Chesterton, G. K. Autobiography
Grass, Gunter The Tin Drum
Salinger, J. D. Franny and Zooey
Illich, Ivan Gender
Malabou, Catherine What Should We Do with Our Brain
Winterson, Jeanette The Stone Gods
Fuentes, Carlos The Years with Laura Diaz

I wrote a list of books more than three years ago, not a list of my favourite books necessarily, but of the books that I thought were relevant to our times, a project that I undertook because Dave Humphrey prompted me to do so.  I had occasion to return to this list the other day, and I found it somewhat unsatisfactory in the light of three years of reading, so I thought I might update it, retaining all the same reservations and adding a further one, that I would include only a single title by any one author, with the understanding that any author with a book on the list is probably worth reading further.

I have dropped the idea of books that are “relevant to our time”, as the original task specified. Instead I have substituted the idea of the books that are relevant to me personally, still not necessarily my favourite books, but those that have influenced me most profoundly and that I would be most likely to recommend. I have also decided to rewrite only the fiction list and not the non-fiction.

The changes to the list are mostly due to having read some new writers — Roberto Bolaño, Mario Vargas Llossa, Jose Saramago, John Gardiner, Juan Rulfo, Elias Canetti, and others — but it is also due to a gradual reevaluation of what I think is important in writing.  I recognize that the list is much more contemporary now, that it still includes only two women,  and that it does not include a number of books that I would classify as children’s literature.  It still only goes a short way toward representing what I read, and I am still not quite certain why some of the titles are on the list, but it will have to do for another three years or so.

Alessandro Baricco, Silk
Roberto Bolaño, 2666
Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions
Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller
Elias Canetti, Auto da Fé
Albert Camus, The Plague
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Fydor Dostoevsky, The Idiot
Alaxandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Christo
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
John Gardner, Michelson’s Ghosts
William Golding, The Spire
Günter Grass, The Tin Drum
Franz Kafka, The Trial
Doris Lessing, Briefing for a Descent into Hell
C. S. Lewis, Til We Have Faces
Mario Vargas Llossa, The Feast of the Goat
Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano
Dow Mossman, The Stones of Summer
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, A Hundred Years of Solitude
Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo
Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children
Jose Saramago, All the Names

So, I admit it.  I jog.

I know this information will likely tarnish the image that I have so carefully cultivated with many of you, but I need to go jogging just to keep up with the other players on my basketball team, and I need to confess it now in order to comment on a phenomenon that is making me a little crazy.

The reason that I rarely admit to my jogging is that other people who jog or run, the people who self-identify as runners or joggers, always seem to assume that I must be as passionate about this activity as they are.  “What shoes do you wear?” they ask.  “What club do you belong to?” they demand.  “What distance are you training for?” they want to know.  “What are your best times?” they query.  They are always disappointed and then dismissive when I tell them that I wear an old pair of basketball hightops, that I try to avoid belonging to clubs of any kind, and that I never keep track of how far or how fast I go.  I jog, they soon realize, but I am not a jogger, not really.  What I do and what real joggers do might casually be called by the same name, but I have not actually joined the club.

This kind of behaviour, and it is by no means restricted to joggers, always annoys me.  It is yet one more example of how much people are generally interested in the signs of the thing rather than the thing itself.  They are more interested in owning the right accessories and in belonging to the right clubs and in achieving the right goals than they are with just doing whatever it is that needs to be done.  They are more interested in being called something than in actually doing something.  Even when they are doing the thing as well, they are really more interested in making sure that they look the part so that everyone will know them for what they are.

I run into this everywhere.  I know countless people who want very much to be writers but who are not so very interested in doing any writing.  I know others who want to be musicians or artists or philosophers or whatever.  They cultivate the right look and the right talk and the right friends, but they seldom spend much time doing what they say they want to be.  They just want to be part of the club.

Well, in jogging as in everything else, I want to do the thing rather than merely to join a club.  I will not likely ever wear the right shoes or run with the right people or achieve the right times.  I will just jog, whenever and however I feel like it.  The real joggers are welcome to the rest of it.

So, the reason that I have not been posting recently has only a very little to do with the regular business and chaos of Christmas in a large family, and a great deal more to do with the fact that I have discovered the perfect holiday diet.  It seems that the key to getting through Christmas without gaining any extra pounds is to contract a nasty flu from your children so that you will spend the most gluttonous week in the calendar eating nothing but yoghurt and drinking nothing but hot lemon toddies, usually cut heavily with scotch.  I am not sure that this method will receive the approval of your local health board, and it does have the regrettable side effect of debilitating you to such a degree that you cannot possibly accomplish anything else useful, but I guarantee its results.

We went to the market this morning, in its current displaced location in City Hall, and I ran into Tom Abel, who is visiting Guelph this weekend, so he stopped by for coffee this afternoon, and then I read a little from Tolkien’s The Hobbit with my eldest son, and then I sat down to write a post on Heidegger’s What Is Thinking?, and then I will be skipping a Christmas party tonight, and so the day is proceeding at exactly the speed that I like best, and I am content.

I posted recently on what it is that I believe, and while I do not plan on making a habit of these kinds of posts, I have received enough requests for clarification that I feel it necessary to write at least once more on the subject.  I will try to make this as concise and as clear as possible.

Many of those who know me best, my wife among them, responded to the list of beliefs that I posted by suggesting that it was misrepresentative in its brevity, that it did not include many of the other things that I do sincerely believe. There is some truth in this.  My aim was not to list exhaustively the things that I believe, but only to list the things that I felt I could defend experientially, apart from a particular religious tradition.  Though this list of beliefs would, of course, be heavily influenced by the Christian tradition in which I was raised and in which I still practise my faith, I was hoping to isolate the kinds of beliefs that I could maintain apart from the apparatus of this tradition.

If I lay these restrictions aside, however, I certainly do believe a good deal more than my previous post would seem to indicate.  I do count myself as a Christian.  I can cheerfully subscribe to all of the old Christian creeds, though I would question the biblical evidence for a strict doctrine of the trinity.  I can even grudgingly subscribe to most contemporary Christian “statements of faith”, though I object very much to their deeply and ironically unbiblical bibliolatry.  In short, the list of beliefs that I made in my previous post is certainly not exhaustive.

It was not my intention to obscure these beliefs.  I hold them very closely and very deeply.  Rather, I was trying to distinguish between these kinds of beliefs, which are entirely dependent on a particular tradition and a particular set of scriptures, and which are therefore impossible for me to verify even to myself,  from a second set of beliefs that I can verify through my own experience, even if only to myself, even if only to some limited degree.  It is not that I hold the one kind of belief more deeply than the other.  It is that I hold them very differently.  I arrive at them differently.  They are two different ways of believing.

On the other hand, many of those who know me less well, who know me solely in a more academic capacity, questioned my list of beliefs from the other direction entirely, challenging the validity of any beliefs that are based entirely on unverifiable experience.  There is some truth in this too.  I readily admit that my experience can guarantee nothing about God, but it was not my intention to guarantee anything about God.  I would even go so far as to say that nothing about God can ever be guaranteed by anything that is human.  To ask for such guarantees is to misunderstand the nature of belief.

The nature of belief is not to guarantee but to bear witness.  It must not say, “Look here, this must be believed,” because it always lacks this authority.  It can only say, “Look here, this is what I have tasted and seen and found to be good, perhaps you might taste and see also.”  Any belief that seeks to promise more runs the risk of becoming a fundamentalism in the worst sense of this word.

This is what I also believe.  To this much I bear witness.