From the Desk of Jay Rainey – January 22, 2021

I do not tend to make New Year’s resolutions because I learned long ago that I do not tend to keep them, but this year I thought I might try to beat the odds. Since late December—because why not get a jump on things?—I have resolved to read 50 pages per day and double that rate on Saturdays and Sundays, and I have really enjoyed the discipline it has imposed. Life is short. Better get busy reading.

So far I have completed, in this order, The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín, Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, Mill Town by Kerri Arsenault, The Broken Heart of America by Walter Johnson, The Deepest Well by Nadine Burke Harris, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. (As a former English teacher, I am a little embarrassed to admit that I had never read the last of these until this past weekend.) I would recommend all of them.

Presently underway are The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert and The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. The latter is gargantuan and will take some time to finish. I will return to it intermittently, I think, while I tackle other books in parallel. Don’t be too impressed on the volume side of things, by the way. My efforts are substantially assisted by Audible, which keeps me on New-Year’s-resolution pace while I drive, exercise, or do busy work. It’s just a matter of remembering to press play in those moments.

In his book Why Read, UVA English professor Mark Edmundson writes that “we need to learn not simply to read books, but to allow ourselves to be read by them.” I first encountered Edmundson’s notion 15 years ago, and it has never left me. The Testament of Mary reads me as the grandson of a Baptist minister. Caste reads me as an American. Mill Town conjures my childhood within view of a paper plant. The Broken Heart of America reads me as a St. Louisan, if I can yet claim the identifier. The Deepest Well reads me as an advocate for children. Wuthering Heights reads me as a Romantic.

At MICDS, our students must learn not simply to read books but to be read by them. The former is the beginning of knowledge; the latter is the beginning of wisdom. Both projects are lifelong. How lucky we are that there are always more books to read, and always more books to read us.

Always reason, always compassion, always courage. I wish you a happy weekend with your families.

Jay Rainey
Head of School

This week’s addition to the “Refrains for Rams” playlist: Birds On A Feeder by Kathleen Edwards. “Come on spring / Won’t you show yourself to me.” (Apple Music / Spotify)