I have always been a voracious reader. Mom instilled in me a love of reading. Eventually, as a teen, I developed my own style of speed reading. For example, ultimately I could read a 300-page novel during my 45-minute study hall.
No brag, just fact. (Will Sonnett – “The Guns of Will Sonnett” television western, 1967-9. )
I graduated from High School in 1973. I attended Brigham Young University that Fall Semester (1973) and then prepared for a mission. I served in the Australia East Mission, Spanish speaking, returning in April of 1976. I worked the summer and restarted at BYU that next Fall Semester.
University courses ruined my self-taught speed reading methodology. Quizzes and examinations forced me to slow down to guard against missing a key phrase or definition. So, I slowed.
After BYU, my reading for pleasure increased in speed but non-fiction still took (and takes) more time. But reading is fundamental! In his book “The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark“, Carl Sagan wrote of the importance of reading, of literacy. I quote:
“Frederick Bailey was a slave. As a boy in Maryland in the 1820s, he had no mother or father to look after him. (“It is a common custom,” he later wrote, “to part children from their mothers … before the child has reached its twelfth month.”) He was one of [sic] countless millions of slave children whose realistic prospects for a hopeful life were nil.”
“What Bailey witnessed and experienced in his growing up marked him forever: ‘I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom [the overseer] used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood … From the rising till the going down of the sun he was cursing, raving, cutting, and slashing among the slaves of the field … He seemed to take pleasure in manifesting his fiendish barbarity.'”
“The slaves had drummed into them, from plantation and pulpit alike, from courthouse and statehouse, the notion that they were hereditary inferiors, that God intended them for their misery. The Holy Bible, as countless passages confirmed, condoned slavery. In these ways the “peculiar institution” maintained itself despite its monstrous nature—something even its practitioners must have glimpsed.”
“There was a most revealing rule: Slaves were to remain illiterate. In the antebellum South, whites who taught a slave to read were severely punished. ‘[To] make a contented slave,’ Bailey later wrote, ‘it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.’ This is why the slaveholders must control what slaves hear and see and think. This is why reading and critical thinking are dangerous, indeed subversive, in an unjust society.”
“So now picture Frederick Bailey in 1828—a 10-year-old African-American child, enslaved, with no legal rights of any kind, long since torn from his mother’s arms, sold away from the tattered remnants of his extended family as if he were a calf or a pony, conveyed to an unknown household in the strange city of Baltimore, and condemned to a life of drudgery with no prospect of reprieve.”
“Bailey was sent to work for Capt. Hugh Auld and his wife, Sophia, moving from plantation to urban bustle, from field work to housework. In this new environment, he came every day upon letters, books, and people who could read. He discovered what he called ‘this mystery’ of reading: There was a connection between the letters on the page and the movement of the reader’s lips, a nearly one-to-one correlation between the black squiggles and the sounds uttered. Surreptitiously, he studied from young Tommy Auld’s Webster’s Spelling Book. He memorized the letters of the alphabet. He tried to understand the sounds they stood for. Eventually, he asked Sophia Auld to help him learn. Impressed with the intelligence and dedication of the boy, and perhaps ignorant of the prohibitions, she complied.”
“By the time Frederick was spelling words of three and four letters, Captain Auld discovered what was going on. Furious, he ordered Sophia to stop. In Frederick’s presence he explained:
“A n****r should know nothing but to obey his master—to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best n****r in the world. Now, if you teach that n****r how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave.”
“Auld chastised Sophia in this way as if Frederick Bailey were not there in the room with them, or as if he were a block of wood.”
“But Auld had revealed to Bailey the great secret: ‘I now understood … the white man’s power to enslave the black man. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom.'”
“Without further help from the now reticent and intimidated Sophia Auld, Frederick found ways to continue learning how to read, including buttonholing white schoolchildren on the streets. Then he began teaching his fellow slaves: ‘Their minds had been starved … They had been shut up in mental darkness. I taught them, because it was the delight of my soul.'”
“With his knowledge of reading playing a key role in his escape, Bailey fled to New England, where slavery was illegal and black people were free. He changed his name to Frederick Douglass (after a character in Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake), eluded the bounty hunters who tracked down escaped slaves, and became one of the greatest orators, writers, and political leaders in American history. All his life, he understood that literacy had been the way out.”
And then later in the chapter:
“Frederick Douglass taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom. But reading is still the path.”
Ponder that a moment.
Ponder just a little longer!
Now, returning to life in 2013, I was working in the Information Technology Services department of a well-known luxury retailer in Texas and my schedule was not strictly 8-5. I carried a pager and was on an “On Call” rotation. I would have to take trouble calls 24/7 for the week I was Primary On Call and provide backup for the week I was Secondary On Call. Then I had a week to finalize the issues that arose while I was on call. Eventually, I became the one-and-only UniVerse (a multivalued database) Database Administrator, which put me on call 24/7/365.
One benefit, though, is that during issues outside the usual 8-5 workday I could start up my Kindle Fire and read. I have many LDS Church history books downloaded.
I read and I read!
My reading project took me until March of 2014. In the meantime, I had left the employ of that well-known luxury retailer and joined the company that owned the database I had been supporting. I worked from home. Nice!
In this new position, my wife and I were free to move from Texas to Colorado in order to help my in-laws through some difficult health episodes. We sold our house in Texas and bought one in Colorado, 3 miles from my in-laws.
The contents of my reading project percolated in my mind, creating a bit of a mental whirlwind (hence the name of this blog). It has become a pleasant breeze now! But at that time, wow! In my employment, I was very successful as a troubleshooter because I could correlate seemingly disparate symptoms of an issue that would guide me to the root cause and allow me to propose a solution. This very same ability kicked off a whirlwind of correlation from all that I had read on my Kindle over 14 those months.
Those correlations didn’t bode well for my belief in the LDS Church and its leaders, both present and past.
In July of 2015, I spoke with my wife about my unbelief. I next spoke with my Bishop. The story, from this point until my Disciplinary Council, including a reiteration/retelling of some of what is here as well as the audio of my DC, can be found here.
This brings us up to date on my state of unbelief. Future posts will tell how this mental whirlwind plays out in my life.