“The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as it had nothing else in the universe to do.” –  Galileo Galilei


We can learn much about the world in which we live by studying the solar system. We gain perspective of our relationship to the rest of the universe, an understanding of natural patterns (tides, seasons, and daylight), and an introduction to foundational scientific truths (pull of gravity, speed of light, laws of motion). Yet if we spent years obtaining an in-depth knowledge of the solar system, our education would be far from complete.

In order to gain a more comprehensive view of the world, we’d need to utilize not only the telescope, but also the microscope. To explore the composition of atoms, cells, dna. The work of photosynthesis in the smallest leaf of a tree. The combs and brushes found on the bumblebees legs, perfectly designed to gather pollen from a flower and collect it into a mass to be stored. We can learn about weather patterns, condensation, and crystallization, but our understanding of snow will be limited if we don’t also study the delicate, unique structure of an individual snowflake.

The smallest corners of creation and the vast unmeasurable universe are equally important puzzle pieces. We need both in order to get a more accurate picture of our world.

The same is true of the intangible world.

This summer, a group of us read through the Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers. I was challenged, pushed, and helped along as I was given the gift of seeing the (sometimes dense and difficult) text through the eyes of others. My experience of the book was deeper and richer as a result of our reading as a group. As an unexpected bonus, I was able to share written responses from some of the members with you (listed at the bottom of the page here).

The original intent of the group was to work through the one book. Within days of finishing the last chapter, it became clear that the experience had been valuable for all. We wanted more. Makoto Fujimura’s Refractions was to be the next book. It was a perfect complement to the Mind of the Maker, and Refractions gave dynamic color and texture to many of Sayers’s concepts.

Mind of the Maker takes an over-arching look at the nature of creativity. You might say we gazed through a literary and philosophical telescope. Refractions reveals both universal truths as well as concrete examples of creativity as a generative force. A force that rehumanizes in the midst of a dehumanizing world. Now we’re going to look under the microscope.

The Plan:

In January, our group will be reading The Art of T.S. Eliot by Helen Gardner. Please consider joining us. “Why?” you may ask. Well, here are a few thoughts:

~ T.S. Eliot is often cited as one of the most significant poets of the 20th century. His works have influenced our culture extensively. To be a student of Eliot is to be a student of the world in which we live. Bankers, teachers, homemakers, scientists, and artists  all have something to learn from Eliot.

~ Gardner’s The Art of T.S. Eliot is considered to be a classic, focusing on his poetic style and the Four Quartets. Gardner’s book acts as microscope through which we can get a sharper view of Eliot’s work.  As with all true art, the truths discovered in poetry are reflective of the truths found in life.

~ Makoto Fujimura has recently completed a commissioned series in response to the Four Quartets. He will be part of a touring exhibition  over the next several months which will include a collaboration of art, music, and spoken presentation. The catalogue of the  Four Quartets is available for purchase here. If you’re able to attend one of these events, having read Gardner’s book would enrich the experience.

~ Growth occurs as a result of stretching beyond our comfort zone. As adults, we acknowledge the need for physical challenge to ensure health and spiritual challenge as a necessary part of the refinement and maturation process. Yet all too often, as “grown ups” we find our intellectual comfort zones and set up camp. We let fear, disguised as competency, curtail the joy of discovery. If this is new territory for you, you’re in good company. I’ve read through the first chapter and was both inspired and challenged. I’m a business major and banker, for goodness sake. If I can muddle through this, so can you. We’ll explore and discover together. If this feels like familiar territory, then please join us as well. We’ll need your help and insight. We’ll learn from each other.

What next?

If you’d like to read along, I’ll be posting a reading schedule and guiding questions to be used in discussion/journaling. We’ll start with Chapter 1 the first week of January. Consider asking a friend, small group, or book club to read along with you.

The reading schedule is as follows:

Week of Jan 7 – I. Auditory Imagination
January 14 – II. The Music of Four Quartets
January 21 – III. Poetic Communication
January 28 – IV. The Dry Season
Feb 4 – V. The Time of Tension
Feb 11 – VI. The Language of Drama
Feb 18 – VII. The Approach to Meaning

If you’re on Facebook and would like to join the online discussion, just send a request to join “Greener Trees Reads.” You’ll be approved, and in January, we’ll start our conversation.

In the interim, become familiar with Eliot’s Four Quartets. If this is your first time, don’t be discouraged – just listen and let the words sink in. Then listen again. And again. Each reading grants a gift – a new thought, the enjoyment of the words flowing together, a glimpse of imagery to be experienced uniquely by you.

“The Four Quartets may be one of the few modern works that journeys from despair to hope.”   Makoto Fujimura


If you’d like to join us, please comment below or send me a message. We’d love to have you along for the journey.

If you liked this post, you might like these:

On Limitations and Lemonade Stands, Free Will and Miracle
Catching Up: Conferences, Cliffhangers, and a Movie Critic
Books for Lent

14 thoughts on “From Telescope to Microscope – The Reading Group

    1. I’m well aware that I’m in over my head with this one, but I sure look forward to reading with you all. I’ll be counting on you to help us navigate along the way!

    1. I’m so glad you found us. We’re reading the book at Mako’s recommendation. I plan on attending in Raleigh at the end of January, so am looking forward to learning more. We would love for you to join us!

  1. I want to do this, but January begins tax season and I’m not sure I’ll be able to devote sufficient time. Any idea what the time commitment will be?

    1. Great question. I’m thinking that we’ll only cover a chapter a week in order to make it doable for everyone (there are 6 chapters). I’m not a particularly fast reader, so I’d rather take it slowly and have time to digest what I’ve read. I hope that helps.

  2. Julie – I’m in. My sister Loren got me the book for Christmas (though it hasn’t actually arrived yet, so I might have to jump in on week two!). Looking forward to it.

  3. Julie, I would love to be part of this reading group. I have not bought the book yet so I might be a little behind out of the shoot…