I’ve mentioned here before that I enjoy doing quick informal visual surveys on the city bus to see how many people are reading. A person reading a book in public always catches my attention for some reason, maybe because of all the “book is dead” naysaying. I’m a gadget freak who has a love affair with paper, so that might also make me more excited by the sight of someone holding a form of paper and giving their attention to it.
Anyway. This morning on the bus, I sat across the aisle from a young man holding a beautifully decorated book. It looked like a Qur’an, and he was silently mouthing the words as he read. I realized it must be prayer time. Then a faster (or more direct) bus pulled up behind us so I dashed out and caught that one. I took the first open seat I found, and the man sitting beside me was also reading a beautifully decorated Qur’an. This one was smaller, simpler, but the reader seemed to be really taking his time with it. I didn’t want to be disrespectful, so I tried not to stare at the book, but I have to admit it was lovely.
But I was far more curious? interested? jealous? in the ritual than in the book. This idea of having scheduled times each day for a brief spell of concentrated contemplation and quiet. I remember being fascinated by it years ago when I read Kathleen Norris’ The Cloister Walk, and again when I heard a story once upon a time about Italians using Virgil’s Aenid to turn at random to a page and divine some sort of answer to whatever was bothering them.
I don’t have a faith to follow, so I have no automatic community, no book, and no book ritual. But when I have weeks like this one, and stressful days and frustrating moments, I wish I did have some friendly, familiar book that could offer nuggets of inspiration.