Mother indulgent. Said I have a queer mind and have read too much. Not true. Have read little and understood less.
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Decades ago, a relationship ended between a young lady and myself shortly after she announced to me that I read too much, and reading is boring. I never once looked back with regret on that broken engagement. And I suppose that for as long as I live, I will hear someone express the sentiment that reading is a waste of time and energy. I could not disagree more vehemently. It has been reasoned to me that I read because I am a teacher. Not true. I am a teacher because I read–that was the order in which my life events progressed. I became a lover of ideas, books were a major source for those ideas, and teaching became a natural forum for me to express what I read.
Why do I read? For a variety of reasons, all of them defensible. But fundamentally, reading makes me think. Reading engages all of me. When I linger over lines from Shakespeare or James Joyce, I have to work at understanding, and when the meaning finally rises to the surface of my consciousness, amazing things begin to happen. The new thought dredges up other coinciding memories from past experiences and ideas from other sources. And slowly a new skyscraper of truth is erected. My city of ideas has enlarged and my own being has enlarged. I am a transformed person, with renewed energy to live life and to create new possibilities. The process of reading is like no other–there is a depth of excavation, followed by the laying of a new foundation, followed by the construction of a new structure that is then added to an expanding city of thought–a philosophy still under development.
These events do not happen when I am scanning newspaper headlines, staring at a news broadcast, sitting in a room full of chattering people, or jumping from link to link on the Internet. They do not happen there. They happen in the soft confines of my reading chair before the fire or in the corner of my study, at my writing desk. Reading, for me, is always time and energy well-spent.