A Few Notes on Reading
Updated: Jan 24, 2021
I personally believe that reading is important, it teaches us to think through whole ideas, without the immediate need to have a social response, so its fantastic for learning new ideas and considering them fairly and more fully. A person who reads on a regular basis can learn about different times and places, can imagine whole new worlds, I know, I know, cliche - but oh so true. There's much to be gained but sadly research has shown the average American reads less than 12 books a year (I guess it is no small wonder that we are finding it increasingly difficult to have productive conversations with people who believe differently than we do). Why do people read so little in a world absolutely flooded with wondrous volumes of knowledge? When talking to friends I hear some variation of three reasons over and over 1. I just don't have the time, 2. I don't get much out of the reading I do, it's just not how I learn, 3. I don't enjoy reading. I want to take each one of these in turn and propose why I think people feel a certain way and what to do to remedy it. Don't worry if you are a reader I think you'll find this worthwhile still, of course if you don't feel free to let me know about what wasting your time.
I just don't have the time: Life in the western world has never been more leisurely and filled with nonsense. The average American watches 4 hours of tv a single day. (according to statista.com). That means by the end of the week the average American watches 28 full hours of tv. That's staggering. The people who tell me they don't have time to read are invariably the people I constantly hear talking about their tv shows. I have friends who work 60-80 hours in a week and are raising kids and still find at least 15 minutes a day to read. The problem is that our entertainment has become incredibly ubiquitous, it fills up more and more of our unprecedented leisure time, we feel busier because of all the down time being filled with things that engage our minds, eyes, and ears but really add precious little value to our lives. There's a really simple trick to try, don't turn on the tv, or fire up your streaming service until you have read for 15 minutes and thought about what you read for at least 5 more minutes every day. Before you know it you'll get into your book and you'll find the time. It will become a discipline. Once you start reaping the benefits of a more active mind you just might find the entertainment becoming less and less important. Either way the fact is simple, what you make time for is what you care about, ask yourself if the other things filling your time are worthy of it.
I just don't get much out of reading / I am not good at it: I can relate to this, but not because of reading. I was always the type of kid that didn't want to do things I didn't feel good at, with maybe the exception of baseball, I love baseball and I was never any good. . . but I never really learned to dance well, because I felt silly doing it. I know I am goofy on the dance floor and that makes it hard for me to want to do it. Some of us really struggle with reading, it is actually difficult. Still there's another group, this group is comprised of the people who can read well, but they have been taught to read to pass tests and get by. I want to speak to both groups. If you struggle do it anyway. Doing hard things is good for your mental discipline, and as an adult you don't have to evaluate yourself against any standard - so what if you're not a great reader, what does it actually matter if you take your time and forget a lot of it? Focus on what you do get out of it, think on that and keep plugging at it. You might not know you're in the second group. You can read slow, and make it boring trying to remember every last detail, I know that's how school has trained us to read. I have great news for you though, you do not have to read on your own time like you're trying to memorize the book. It's not really the goal. Just read and think, think and read. That's it. When I want to learn about a different era in history I read a couple survey style histories swiftly, I build familiarity. After building familiarity I find things stick a lot better. I would be willing to bet you that you can glean a lot more by casually reading a novel, history, self-help, theology, you name it, than you will get out of tv. Ultimately being a poor reader that continues to plug at it will be more fruitful than keeping up with the Kardashians.
3. I don't enjoy reading: I think some of this is covered in the first two points. I have to take a different tact here. I don't enjoy my taxes but I do them, I don't enjoy cutting my lawn, or flossing my teeth but I do these things anyway. Why? I realize that the value of doing these things outweighs my objections. Reading doesn't have to be an onerous task. Pick up books about things that grab your interest. Read in little chunks, just floss your mind a bit, it prevents brain decay.
I wrote all of this just hoping to get you thinking about reading a bit. Let's get the national average headed up. Please feel free to drop by the forum and share your thoughts on this post if you'd like to share about why you read or why you don't read much, or just to share your opinion on the subject.