Wednesday, July 25, 2007

be quiet, i’m listening to the pictures OR how do you read Harry Potter’s Deathly Hallows

Every fortnight I do Viewpoint, a 4 minute radio slot. This morning I did a piece reflecting on the hype surrounding Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which caused me to ask the question; How do we read (whether Harry Potter or the Bible)? I’m quite pleased with it, so I thought I’d put it on the blog for my e-world listeners.

Good morning listeners. In case you missed it, Saturday was the biggest one-day sale of any book in history.

I’m talking of course, about the worldwide launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the 7th, and the final installation in the Harry Potter saga.

I was at my local shopping mall on Saturday trying to buy a birthday present for a friends birthday and got to see all the hype, all the Whitcoulls shop assistants dressed up and excited children grasping brand new copies and hurrying off home to start reading.

On Monday a local newspaper carried an interview with one young fan, who after nine hours of solid reading, had finished the 734 pages. The fan was feeling mixed emotions. “It was weird finishing it” she said, “and now there is nothing more to look forward to.”

It brought to mind a story told to me by a colleague, retired Baptist pastor Ken McCormack.

His story of driving through Wellington with his family. Back seat are his children. 2 boys. 1 girl.

2 boys are simply being boys. Noisy. Playful. Radio is on and Ken’s daughter is getting more and more agitated.

Eventually she bursts out: “Be quiet.” “Be quiet,” she orders the noisy boys, “I’m listening to the pictures.”

I’m listening to the words on the radio, and the words are forming pictures in my mind. And in order to listen to the pictures, I need quiet.

A reminder to us that reading is a skill. And that it takes time and effort in order to listen to the pictures.

Which takes me to the Bible. The prophet Ezekiel, who was given a very bizarre set of instructions. Told by God “to eat this book.”

I find it hard to swallow the idea of God literally wanting prophet Ezekiel, or me,
to literally chew my way through the good old NIV Bible.

I can’t imagine literally chomping my way through the pages of Ezekiel or Leviticus. But I do understand God telling Ezekiel to eat this book in terms of the skills of reading. The need to be quiet, to take the time, and space, to let the words form pictures in our minds.

I call this slow eating.

So Saturday’s biggest one-day sale of any book in history has got me asking the question. How do we read? How do we read the Bible? As fast food? Rushing off to consume 734 pages in 9 hours?

Or are we going to practise slow eating? Taking time to be quiet, and listen to the pictures. That’s my viewpoint.

Posted by steve at 11:20 AM


  1. good stuff

    Comment by Makeesha — July 25, 2007 @ 12:04 pm

  2. Reminds me of a great book by Eugene Peterson called “Eat this Book” – part two of a series that Peterson started with “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places”. The third volume ‘The Jesus Way’ comes out soon. Well worth a read. And a good slow chew.

    Comment by Andrew Butcher — July 25, 2007 @ 6:52 pm

  3. He Steve,
    Thank You for this blog, i’ve read it with a lot of interrest. Just in a moment that I needed to see things in a diferent way I came accidently at your blogsite. Thank you for still being who you are!
    As a dutch guy I still remember your famous concerts here in Holland. God Bless You! Henk

    Comment by Henk Vlot — July 25, 2007 @ 9:22 pm

  4. thanks Andrew. I have not got the book but am aware of the title. It probably was subconsciously shaping what I wrote.

    Henk, you might have the wrong Steve Taylor. I am not the US singer :). Thanks for stopping by


    Comment by steve — July 25, 2007 @ 10:35 pm

  5. I may have been excited to finish the final installment of Harry Potter as quickly as possible but I will now go back and more slowly digest the seven books. We read in particular ways for different reasons. I read scripure in a similar way, reading quickly to get an overview of the broad sweep of the whole story and then reading more slowly to take in the nuances and complexities of the narratives containied in the different books. Both in my mind are valid for the different tasks.

    Comment by Gary Manders — July 26, 2007 @ 8:20 am

  6. Hey,

    I seem to have a built in ‘slow-chew’ method when I read. I *certainly* visualise in my head and so if my picture is fuzzy or unclear then it probably means I was trying to read too fast or not going over the text in enough detail.

    In some particularly narratively rich texts I think I probably end up mulling over the text and re-reading chunks of it more than I actually spend in the first reading.

    Oh, and I’m still only ‘chewing’ Book 3: Prisoner of Azkaban.

    Can a person FINISH chewing the Bible?,

    Comment by Iain — July 26, 2007 @ 8:40 am

  7. Steve – It’s interesting Henk has mistaken you for the singer of the same name. I have often thought of the wonderful similarities between you and your namesake too…

    Especially that tongue-in-cheek line about “And you’ll only drink milk from a Christian Cow…” if he hadn’t written it first I’m sure it would have come out in one of your sermons.

    There’s a lot of images to listen to in that one line too…

    Comment by Randall — July 26, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.