On The Ambiguities Of Classification

Despite the fact that November is a particularly busy month when it comes to work, it is also the month for NoWriNaMo [1], and the large amount of thematically connected written material that I have and the opportunity to connect that material in a larger book is an opportunity I generally consider too worthwhile to ignore. In looking at the various possibilities for writing larger material this year, which required a minimum length of at least 50,000 words in order to complete the requirements of a book, I decided to write a book on the continuing importance of the Sabbath day to believers in ways that are not commonly recognized, based on my fairly extensive body of writing about the applicable biblical law and application. In the course of pondering how to organize material, what material to include, what new material would need to be written, a few questions came up worthy of discussion, and so it would be worthwhile to discuss them.

One of the questions that came up was how the material should be organized. While I have not yet decided upon a final organization, some material seems particularly worthwhile to include, some of which will have to be written and some of which has already been written. At least some material will likely be written in the process, at least to point out the way in which I go about writing, which is likely to be a somewhat unusual process compared to how other people do it. Often, for me, the writing of material that ends up in a work begins before a work has been conceived and fully organized. Often the initial research or query about material prompts a realization that there is enough material to make a larger work feasible, and enough of interest to make a larger work worthwhile for me to accomplish, given the fact that I tend to like to write about material that can at least be presented in a different way or with a different focus than is usually the case, as I am happy to refer others to works already written if what I would like to say has already been written well by someone else. There is no sense in reinventing the wheel, after all.

In terms of its material, the Sabbath has played an important role in my own personal life in ways that are subtle and often unrecognized. Obviously, the Sabbath was a “test commandment” growing up as a child in a very religious Sabbatarian family, and by the time I was a teenager it was already a subject of considerable contention within the larger religious community of which I am a part. In the course of my own practice in Sabbathkeeping, and in my own research of various scriptures, it struck me that while obedience of the Sabbath was often talked about, the larger purposes and implications of the Sabbath in terms of freedom, reconciliation, and forgiveness have not received the same amount of focus. After all, the Sabbath includes within its purview days dedicated to the wiping away of sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (who is, it should be noted, the Lord of the Sabbath), as well as the forgiveness of debts and the reconciliation of all mankind to God. Therefore, those who believe in the Sabbath also, by implication, should be people dedicated to the wiping away of debts, to being gracious and forgiving to others, and to seeking reconciliation and peace where it may be found, and striving to serve the interests of the freedom of God’s children from the oppression and burdens that are often faced by people in a fallen and rebellious world. The Sabbath, therefore, has personal and social and political implications as well as religious ones, that are often not realized.

How does one go about classifying such a book? Given that I have two ridiculously large libraries, one of them in Florida and the other with me in Oregon [2], the subject of classifying books is one of more than mere academic importance. Although I have no formal education in the field of library science, which is actually a somewhat obscure area of study that at least one friend of mine has studied on the graduate level, I am at least a somewhat learned amateur when it comes to the classification of books [3]. At times I organize books by their subject matter, as is the case with my library in Florida, and at times I have organized material by the source of the books, by their publisher or by the scholarly journal I have reviewed them for, as is the case currently with my library here in Oregon. After all, I would feel a bit awkward about putting all of my books on demonology, to give one of the more painful examples of an obscure subject where I have a lot of books simply because the publishers I review for publish lots of books on the subject, far more than the general public tend to read. That said, when it comes to my own writing, I like to know where it fits in the larger scheme of the organization of books.

To that end I looked up the classification system of the Library of Congress [4], which is used in a modified form by many libraries, like the local libraries where I check out a lot of books that I do not happen to own nor would have the budget to buy or the room to store at this present time, but that are worth a few hours of my time to read and review. According to the Library of Congress system, my planned book would fall into Category B for Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion, as it is certainly a religious book, despite the fact that it would have some implications with regards to history and political science, like much of my writing. Given that the Sabbath is often considered to be Jewish, it is possible that it could go into section BM690-695 for Jewish festivals and fasts, even though the book has as its interest in the implications of the Sabbath for Christians, not for Jews. This could then leave the book to be classified in section BS2350-2393 for criticism and interpretation of the New Testament, or BS670-672 for its relationship between the Bible and Social Sciences, like history and political science. Alternatively, the book could be classified in sections BT19-37 for doctrine and dogma given its focus on the Sabbath as a doctrine, or in section BT95-97.2 for my focus on the Sabbath as a part of divine law, or section BV107-133 for its focus on the Sabbath as the true Lord’s Day as defined in scripture, or my own religious identity as a member of the Church of God could lead the book to be categorized as a denominational book in section BX7020-7060.

What does all of this mean? For one, categorization is not a straightforward matter, and there are likely people who would classify a book differently based on their own understanding of what I write. Given the experiences I have had so far, my experience with the ability of others to properly read and understand what I write has been mixed, between those who understand well and who ask questions where they do not understand, to those who understand and respond to surface meanings and entirely miss the larger significance of what I write, to those who may accurately understand the existence of several layers of writing but who do not understand the meaning of the texts they read and do not ask, but instead speak and act on their misinterpretations. Such a fate would be likely for anything I write, as there are people who would judge the book based on my own confessional identities and others who would seek to judge a book based on its contents or based on its larger context. However, be that as it may, the real test of any work, whether by me or by anyone else, is whether what has been written has been written well, is worth reading, is able to be read and understood by its intended audience, and is accessible to that audience. Once a work has left the privacy of its creator and has been given to a candid world, the author to some extent loses control over how that work is read, what implications are drawn from that work, and what consequences and repercussions follow from its creation. To write is to give birth to children, in a way, and to accept the fact that the consequences of their birth may be controversial, complicated, and often chaotic. Such is the life chosen by those who desire to create, in imitation of our Father above, who rested on the Sabbath after finishing His labor.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/im-as-jober-as-a-sudge-nanowrimo/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/escape-from-flatland/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/the-accidental-traveling-librarian-or-the-material-culture-of-nomads/

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/the-people-of-wal-mart/

[4] See, for example:

http://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/lcco/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Church of God, History, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to On The Ambiguities Of Classification

  1. Pingback: Where Nobody Ever Goes | Edge Induced Cohesion

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