Too often we are falling into a lifelong routine. It seems that we are pressured to follow a path to go through school, get through college, get a well paying job, work, have children, work some more, and then retired. What if we don’t follow this path? What if we dream of something a bit different?
We’re only human (and humans that have been on this planet for a relatively short period of time, at that…) There’s no way any one of us could know everything there is to know out there.
I know it can be overwhelming to think about how much there is in this universe that remains still unknown to the human race—and I’ve got to wonder if that doesn’t excite you at all.
If you feel some sense of wonder about what humanity might still discover, you should also feel that way about the knowledge you personally have yet to master. No matter who you are, there is still so much more you can explore, learn about, and test out—and one of the best ways to do that is through reading.
Sadly, there seems to be a downward trend in reading across the American population. A Gallup poll from 1978 found that 48% of Americans had read 11 or more books in the past year, and 13% reported reading more than 50 books. A similar poll by Pew in 2014 found that only 28% of Americans had read 11 books. What’s more troubling is that nearly a quarter of Americans reported that they hadn’t read a single book over the course of the year—whether in print, or on their kindle, or even as an audio-book. (The Atlantic).
Why the *!#% does it seem like we’ve all but given up on the pursuit of knowledge?
One obvious reason might be all the quick reading we do online day-in and day-out, which could satisfy our thirst for intellectual stimulation without the need to open up a heavy book. However, I think there might be a deeper root cause of this declining interest in reading.
To decide NOT to read in your free time, either out of self-inquiry or sheer curiosity, and to be content with that decision is possibly one of the most arrogant things you can do. It’s the equivalent of saying “I know about everything out there that’s important; I’ve gathered all the relevant facts; I’ve come to the right conclusions on all the lingering debates; and nothing anyone else might have to offer could be of any value to my life.”
I know people who openly admit they don’t like reading books. They say they’re boring, even as I watch them play Angry Birds for an hour straight IN FRONT OF A TELEVISION THAT IS ON. I also know people who say they don’t have time to read, even while displaying the same sorts of behaviors. Few people of my age would truly have no time to read for pleasure, unless they worked two jobs to pay their way through school and were also heavily involved in extracurriculars. Instead, it’s a matter of deciding not to make time for this act of inquiry.
This stems from a place of complacency—that feeling that everything is fine, I’ve done enough, and all I want to do is relax. Relaxation in your downtime is important, for sure, but why are we routinely prioritizing “Netflix and chill” over “Curl up with a book and chill?” It seems to be a dysfunctional relationship with time—and an unhealthy distinction between work and play—that will follow us throughout the rest of our lives if we don’t take the time to seriously investigate our aversion to reading endeavors.
We like snippits of reading. We like Reddit, and predigested news, from loud commentators or in flashy mash-up videos on our news feed. It seems like we like whatever’s “easy,” to pair nicely with all the hard work we have to do for classes. Is this healthy? What about when we enter the workplace? If we become too habituated to the work-until-work-is-over-then-veg-out routine, we may continue this reluctance to read into adulthood.
Why is that a big deal????
It’s a big deal because, even though we might like to think so, we aren’t always right. Because there’s a lot more to learn. Because we can do better at empathy, and the starting point for building this vital skill is genuinely listening to what other people find important enough to say. Because there are so many problems we collectively face as a species that might have a better chance at being solved if our thoughts were in conversation with each other a little more often . . if we gave the perspectives of others the time of day. . . if we took time out of our day to pour over them, consider them, evaluate them, and build upon them. We could be so much more, both alone and together, if we were more willing to welcome challenging ideas–challenging, perhaps, but no more threatening than simples words on a page.
Let’s start facing them more often.
by Rosie Lynch
Check out these two short videos