Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Friday, April 22, 2005


I personally find it hard to imagine a life without books and yet in the Philippines, I realised what a luxury they were. The poor school I taught in had a library stocked predominantly with old school textbooks and cast offs. There were no colourful children's books, visual encyclopaedias and beautifully illustrated children's Bibles or story books. The homes I visited had few books - maybe a set of old encyclopaedias if one was fortunate but mainly religious tracts and pamphlets and old school textbooks. The public schools I visited were even worse. A class of 60 may share about 10 of fewer textbooks.And without books around them, children did not develop a culture of reading. They watched TV, played computer games but generally did not like to read and did not read even signs - a visual people.

I have been blessed with books all around me from birth. As a child my grandfather, uncle and parents used to read to me every night; as I grew older, I learned to read these favourite stories for myself and I would exasperate my grandmother asking her to buy yet more books for me to devour... As a child I had bookplates with this phrase that captivated me: "Books fall open, you fall in". How true that still is for me and as my appetite for answers to my curious mind developed, I read more and more non-fiction. In this way, I discovered Catholicism!

Everywhere I go, I have an irresistable urge to enter a bookshop and browse... and my attention is drawn by a myriad subjects and topics - theology and religion of course and then philosophy, history, popular culture, anthropology, fine arts, architecture, poetry, popular science, computing, marketing and economics etc. It's odd but as I grew older, my reading taste veered away from fiction, although I do still enjoy (some) fantasy and Sci-fi, historical novels and the odd Asian novel.

One of the more fascinating books I read recently was about the "History of Reading" by Alberto Manguel. It was written by a bibliophile for bibliophiles and it was amazing to see how reading as a skill and past-time had developed and evolved. I often keep many books on the go, reading as many as 20 books concurrently. At the moment I am reading "Reformation" by Dairmaid MacCulloch and it is really interesting. I am also reading "Principles of Catholic Theology" by Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), "Truth is Symphonic" by Hans Urs von Balthasar and "The End of Poverty" by Jeffrey Sachs.

Everywhere I go, I have accumulated a library of books around me. I had to ship a box of them back from Manila and I have three shelves full in Kuala Lumpur and boxes and boxes in Skipton. I recall one trip I made to London and Oxford and I bought so many books that in the course of lugging them from one city to another, train station after another, the wheels of my pull-along baggage broke! When I returned to KL from Skipton 2 years ago, I sent back 25kgs of books... I simply cannot bear to be parted from them!

I remembering reading once a caricature of the Dominican as one who is typically burdened with books and dragging them behind him from place to place. And yet there is a touching story of St Dominic selling a precious annotated book in order to give alms to a poor man...

As I continue to drag my books from city to city, I wonder if that is not the wiser action or perhaps I should establish a library somewhere, such as Dagat-dagatan?! My other vice is music and CDs... but I shall leave that for another day...


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