Monthly Archives: March 2011

Why 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day and not 20 books a year?


Yesterday The Independent published a quite noteworthy article by Philip Hensher, Fifty books a year is ideal, but why stop at schoolchildren? The author shares his reflection on the value of reading books. He points out that reading books in a public place is a part of European culture but in many other cultures, reading in that place would be perceived as very rude (in Taiwan, for example). In his opinion ‘reading is as central to the existence of many English people as eating.’

Philip Hensher also mentions the Education Secretary Michael Gove’s ambition to persuade schoolchildren to read 50 books a year, as currently many of them read 2 books for GCSE. The journalist backs Gove’s idea, but he thinks that the Government should also introduce mandatory reading of 20 books a year for adults, similar to eating 5 fruit and vegetables a day.

Reading 50 books a year seems to be a huge challenge, especially for 11-year-old children but personally I’ve never had a problem with reading obligatory school books. Actually, my love of reading started when I was 11 years old – that summer I read 30 books. Since then I’ve read thousands of books, some of them even three times. I’ll never forget books like The Six Bullerby Children by Astrid Lindgren, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Winnetou by Karl May, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe or The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and many, many others.

Someone would ask, why mention all these titles or what to read, if we have internet, digital television, and other new technological innovations. Well, maybe it’s necessary. Nowadays, teachers try to teach students how they could extend their imagination and give them tasks such as writing clever similes or metaphors found in Thesaurus in a table. Kids that will watch too much TV will always have this problem – to use their own imagination. The question is how they could do that if their imagination is limited to flat pictures from TV or their computer games? Maybe 50 books for schoolchildren and 20 for adults is a bit of an exaggerated number, but at least 10 would be enough: for children – to develop their own imagination, and for adults – to drag them away from weekly parties.

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My friend’s double vocation


He met God in a nursing home at the age of 16 where he had been training as a volunteer.’ I held dying people’s hands’, he says. At that time he was a pupil at the State School of Music in Lublin. He used to spend his afternoons playing the organ and piano, as he planned to study at one of the two leading musical schools: University of Music in Katowice and Academy of Music in Gdansk.

Mateusz Józwik comes from Wojcieszków, Poland. He started playing the piano aged of 8 and he recalls that time with a smile; once he signed the piano keys with a red felt-tip pen to remember them better. When he passed his matriculation exams, he was the first pupil in his school for seven years who could play two diplomas using two main instruments. Also, he was the first in thirty years who would pass both exams at grade A.

In July 2008 he sent me a book of ‘Fryderyk Chopin selected easy pieces’ and I didn’t understand the purpose of sending me them until I read his letter. He was about to enter the Metropolitan Higher Seminary in Warsaw.

Today, he says the question about his calling is not an easy one, and explains, ‘It’s a matter for me, and God’. I wonder how his life looks now, and he seems to be surprised by my questions. However, there is one principle difference which separates his previous life from the present one; ‘It’s discovering the way to God. I constantly check it out and ask myself if it’s really what God had prepared for me’.

As he says, now ‘there is not only ‘ora et labora’, but behind these words is hidden a proper essence of his vocation, ‘The most important thing is how you pray and how it shows in your contact with people. No one cares about your name or age; the most important thing is your earmark – a cassock. Most people cannot see the difference between a priest and a cleric and sometimes you have to refuse a request for confession’.

The music is still present in his life; now he plays mainly sacred or religious music. He is fascinated by baroque music and the music of the 20th century. ‘I love to listen to Goldberg Variations by Bach and piano concerts by Henryk Górecki. Contemporary music with its apparent difficulty and eccentricity, shows that neither humanity or the world are not such as boorish or as uncomplicated as they seem to be’.

He is happy. ‘I tasted the beauty of the world of praying, silence and spiritual concentration and I felt that I could help other people because of this intimacy; through God to human. But in real life, either you cooperate with God or not, and there is no way out’. What’s most important is that he doesn’t regret his decision. ‘You cannot look at a vocation like a career. A vocation means being on duty. And career? Is it a self-fulfilment or fulfilment of our egoism?’

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