Last week I spent a week in soul-deep fellowship with 23 of my new best friends. It was the first annual Close Reads Podcast retreat, where people from all over the US, who happen to listen to the same podcast about books, came to discuss, well…books.
For six hours each day we discussed poems, essays, and books by the inestimable Wendell Berry: A Native Hill, The Unsettling of America, The Memory of Old Jack, Remembering, and A World Lost. My appreciation for this author is far deeper than I could have guessed it would be when we first started. I knew he wrote one of my favorite books, Jayber Crow, but I had no idea the depth of his philosophy or literary prowess until we undertook a deep dive into his works. When we were not talking about those books we were talking about other books–books we have read, books we want to read, books others have read that intrigued us, books that challenge us, books that we hope the podcast will cover. Books.
And when we weren’t talking about books we talked about other matters important to the soul such as theology, death, birth, family, dogs, community, singleness, wine, marriage, Truth, Magic, Eastern Orthodox tradition…
Wait, did you say Orthodox tradition?
Yes. I did, and I heard some of the most amazing and thought-provoking ideas about church tradition, theology and death. These are things that have been hidden from us in the American church and perhaps even the Western Protestant church tradition as a whole, and I am stunned at how deeply what some would call “ancient mysticism” resonates with my weary soul.
Have I stepped down the Rabbit Hole? We will see. I need to satisfy this curiosity, and if you know me at all, I am not easily satisfied until I have looked under all the rocks and turned all the leaves.