Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Reading is not a Wasted Activity

January 2, 2016

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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.

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Muses Stirring at Dawn

October 10, 2015

Then came the sound of a musical instrument, from behind it seemed, very sweet and very short as if it were one plucking of a string or one note of a bell, and after it a full, clear voice-and it sounded so high and strange that he thought it was very far away, further than a star. The voice said, Come. 

C. S. Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress

I cannot find my way: there is no star           

In all the shrouded heavens anywhere;          

And there is not a whisper in the air  

Of any living voice but one so far     

That I can hear it only as a bar                    5

Of lost, imperial music, played when fair      

And angel fingers wove, and unaware,         

Dead leaves to garlands where no roses are. 

No, there is not a glimmer, nor a call,

For one that welcomes, welcomes when he fears,             10

The black and awful chaos of the night;        

For through it all—above, beyond it all—     

I know the far-sent message of the years,     

I feel the coming glory of the Light.

Edwin Arlington Robinson, “Credo”

By the close of the work week, feeling hammered, I decided to retire to bed on a Friday night around 9:30. Grading papers for two campuses while restocking my art inventory had pretty well mashed me into the ground. Knowing I had to rise by 7:00 to be on time for a Saturday craft show opening at 9:00 am, I retired to bed around 9:30 pm. Alarms were set. No need. At 4:30 this morning I was wide awake and sleep would not return. After rising and putting on coffee, I settled into a comfortable reading chair with Don Quixote, bathed in the peace of knowing I would not have to go out the door for another four hours.

Pre-Dawn Watch

Pre-Dawn Watch

Some time ago, I purchased the soundtrack CD for the motion picture “A Beautiful Mind.” I find the music very enchanting, and thought of it this morning as I re-read a portion from C. S. Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Regress. Something about the quality of the musical strains of the soundtrack certainly pluck my deepest strings of desire. A few nights ago, before the crush of grading and art preparations descended upon me, I devoted a few hours to tracing out passages from ancient texts that discuss that quality of desire that makes us lean forward, expecting something better than what we have. When I asked myself what I wanted, I of course could not come up with a simple answer. But one thing I desired then was a space in time of a few hours to let my mind drift over good reading, good thoughts, quality ideas. That gift was presented at 4:30 this morning, and I am currently at peace, very grateful to receive that gift. Later, I’ll go to the craft show, most likely in good spirits.

Thanks for reading. Now I’ll pursue mine . . .