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Kanye West receives Honorary Doctorate from Chicago School of the Arts

Kanye West receives Honorary Doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Not sure you caught the recent story of Kanye West receiving an honorary doctorate. Despite openly admitting that he doesn’t read, he somehow managed to “co-write” the book “Thank You And You’re Welcome” in 2009: 52 pages – some blank, and others offering “his optimistic philosophy on life.”  He said he put his thoughts in a book because ‘I get paraphrased and misquoted all the time.’ He calls his wisdom “Kanye-isms.” (I’m not sure any book club took this on, and I have nothing to say about the academic status of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago).

Anyways, despite his allergy to reading, this honorary doctorate was conferred upon him. I get it – this degree wasn’t for anything he’s read or written (so to speak). My difficulty with his enormous personality does not blind me to the fact that he’s figured out how to read the culture and how to read a way to communicate to the culture.  And communicate he does: my highlight of the doctorate ceremony was when Kanye said, “this honour is gonna make your lives easier.”  I don’t smile sarcastically about this, I just smile.

Oh wait, Kanye’s wife “wrote” a book too.

kim-kardashian-releasing-352-page-selfie-bookKanye’s honour comes on the heals of his wife, Kim Kardashian, releasing her book “Selfish.”

I am not entirely sure this wouldn’t be:

  • a better title for her autobiography (or is this that?)
  • her self-proclaimed middle name, as the book cover implies
  • merely a play on words for her (in)famous selfies (warning, some “selfies” are “by definition the most revealing you are ever likely to see,” says Jonathan Jones of the Guardian)

Jones can hardly hold himself back in: “Kim Kardashian’s Selfish: a nail in the coffin for artistic photography?

Kim Kardashian has come not to praise the photography book, but to bury it. Her new book, Selfish, is the ultimate slap in the face for anyone who ever pointed a camera with high hopes of being the new Henri Cartier-Bresson…

Selfish is a book of selfies. It’s a book of Kim Kardashian’s selfies. And, as the author has made plain in Instagram teasers of her in her bedroom, there will be plenty of curvaceous flesh in this book. She promises a whole sequence of intimate shots in among the pictures of fashion galas and nights out.

Though I am not likely (as in: not at all) to purchase this book or her husband’s, I just can’t stop laughing with them – after all, the joke’s on us isn’t it? Really, I intend no meanness about this; it’s all just a little too silly.

Reading as Homage to Truth

All this silly chatter is by way of introducing something significantly more profound. In his little Thoughts in Solitude, Thomas Merton writes:

Reading ought to be an act of homage to the God of all truth. We open our hearts to words that reflect the reality He has created for the greater Reality which He is. It is also an act of humility and reverence towards other [writers] who are the instruments by which God communicated His truth to us…

Books can speak to us like God… when they bring us light and peace and fill us with silence. They speak to us like God when we desire never to leave them.

In spite of high praise for reading, Merton explains, “Great though books may be, friends though they may be to us, they are no substitute for persons” – and it is the person of Christ – the Incarnate Word – whom Merton describes as “the Book of Life in Whom we read God.”

Herein lies a compass check I use to help select my reading. Though I have read many (kinds and numbers of) books, I do not read merely to acquire knowledge. Though I am not the arbitrator of all truth (I’m not that knowledgeable or that arrogant), I nevertheless exercise as much discernment as I can to recognize truth as it resonates with the person and character of Christ.

All that sounds so holy, doesn’t it? I am impressed you’re still reading. So here’s a Confession: if I did manage to see Kanye’s or Kardashian’s book on someone’s coffee table, I would attempt a furtive look. Of course I would. But, what I am after, what I would really want if I can reflect – when I can exercise mindfulness, would be best summed up in something Mother Teresa said:

Words that do not give the light of Christ, only make the darkness worse.

I suspect you never thought an article would have Mother Teresa and Kim Kardashian in the same sentence, or host Kanye West and Thomas Merton in the same conversation. It makes the mind swirl to imagine these four “authors” in the same room, doesn’t it? But I’d love to see that; I’d love to hear silly chatter shift in the direction of wisdom. I’d love to imagine something beautiful come out of the meeting – something true, genuine, authentic.

As a fool myself, I am not cynical about God’s ability or desire to reveal truth and beauty to me… or to you. This is the light of Christ, and that is more enigma than dogma.