Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I finally got a Kindle Fire. I caved in.

I haven't been buying books, and my amazon gift cards were piling up. True, you can buy absolutely anything from (or at least through) the online megastore that stays open 24/7 in your house. I could have used my cards to buy something useful for the family, like 500 boxes of cereal. Or I could have splurged on exotic imported chocolate. Or I could have gotten Eileen some lovely jewelry for Mother's Day.

But I decided to make a "professional investment."

Really, that's what it is. I do not play games online. Let me repeat that: I do not play games online. I'm not saying anything against all you folks who ardent devotees of Angry Birds, or those of you who are constantly inviting me to join you in ZombieWorld, or whatever. Everybody has their obsessions...ah...I mean "tastes for recreation." I find my recreation in sports, especially baseball (and hockey too, these days). It is not virtue or asceticism that prevents me from playing online games. It is the simple fact that I'm not good at them. Maybe my brain has taken too much of a beating over the years.

So this is a professional investment. I am going to explore the world of electronic publishing. I have already begun, and am finding it an affordable and convenient way to access, store, and carry around a large variety of texts. The screen is eye-friendly, and you really can "curl up" with the thing, somewhat like a book. Although, lets face it, its not a book.

Now that I have one, I feel much better about the fact that people are buying my own book on Kindle (time for an advertisement: get my book, Never Give Up: My Life and God's Mercy for your Kindle, and you can have it with you all the time:

But the internet features are a really nice surprise. The touchscreen keyboard is not so great, but the browser is fine, and the gadget is terrific for reading long pieces of text (something that I often spend hours doing on the internet). Its all there, right in my hand, and enlarging the font size makes it easy on the eyes. This means I don't have to spend so much time hunched over a bulky computer when I want to read online journals or lengthy studies or church documents. I don't have to feel like I'm "spending all day in front of the computer." Its liberating!

There is so much free stuff to read online. And then, there is a lot that can be purchased and downloaded for next to nothing. I got the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas for 99 cents! Its on the Kindle, the whole thing. I can pull it out of my pocket anywhere, access any text, search any topic. Thus also the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, etc., etc. I have just begun to build up my "elibrary"!

I know, there's video too, and music. I haven't done much exploring there yet, although the kids and I gathered round and watched Bugs Bunny videos on YouTube on the little seven inch screen.

My interest is still, primarily, the written word. I'm not sure how I feel, "philosophically," about the proliferation of technological convenience devices. They can tempt us to evade responsibility, or to indulge in worthless distractions that serve neither our work nor our leisure. They certainly challenge us to use them wisely and well. I have found that, when used well, these technologies can ease some of the peculiar burdens associated with intellectual labor. They are tools for a thinker, a writer, or a teacher, but they are not substitutes for the heart of those labors. Intellectual work remains, for the poor benighted human being, a slow and difficult business. Its primary food remains the real experience of life, through which ideas mature into wisdom.

The road must be traveled. I am, of course, grateful for anything that is useful for the journey.