The Importance of Reading

Because understanding life can help us, it's tempting to look to what others might have to say about their interpretation of the world, with sentiments that suggest we devote ourselves to (reading) books. But in truth, despite the immeasurable value inherent in interpreting knowledge frozen in texts, reading is an activity that extends far beyond the understanding of written works encapsulating ideas, concepts and observations about the world. 

Reading is intrinsic to our interface with the world. It is how we absorb cues about how we might live. We know to walk, write and eat by an innate ability to recognize, decode and formulate patterns; we inherently interpret sensory inputs forwarded our way from the external world. With no intent to diminish the value of texts, we can define reading to be any activity (or a host of activities) aimed at understanding the observable world, an effort to ease through the condition of living and experience life in a way that facilitates meaningful survival.

On pondering methods to deploy to understand the world via texts, we might find ourselves hesitant to engage our mental faculties. We may see reading (text) as an activity reserved for people with 'brains': we were born with a less-than-remarkable IQ, we do anything related to books poorly; we may feel it boring to read written works yet find ourselves compelled to push through with no aim in mind, we would feel inadequate for giving up on a revered (but incomprehensible) book, we avoid books altogether to nullify the possibility of coming in contact with these kind of 'revered' books. This is why we dismiss the activity of reading while professing to our friends about how badly we want to develop the habit. Our failure isn't a demonstration of indolence induced ineptitude. It is a response to a personal disbelief in our systematic approach to understanding life. 

We can imagine being held back by a set of problems. Books hold tremendous power but there is too much of them to get by. Also, as Paul Graham put it, a majority of them are bad. And we live through all the nagging emphasis placed on reading while questioning any effort we place on the habit because of our certainty that our chosen method for deploying the activity fails in its ability to work efficiently - we hardly remember what we read from books.

Yet, all the fuzz comes founded on entertain-able grounds. As Maria Popoova observes, hardly anything does one’s mental, spiritual, and creative health more good than resolving to read. In the ancient world, at times when access to books were a luxury available to societal elites, the sensible response laid in coveting this (novel) form of media. Powerful people who demonstrated god-like abilities proved that living depended on an intimacy with written works: prophets wielded stones scribbled with divine commandments; healers scribbled symbols silencing sicknesses; rulers mandated the ruled with scribbles of law. Among the ancient, an approach developed that survival, the variety dabbed with decent doses of meaning, required a valuable skill - and that it was to this skill the wise should turn in contact with a complex existence. It was this skill modernity, at its dawn, came to adopt in promoting universal progress onto bringing illumination to unclear terrains of the universe, and that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a daughter of present day modernity, gave voice when she said: 'reading is the best way to understand the complexities of a complex world'.

Though, it's worthy to highlight, a person becomes wise not on the basis of having insatiable information but because they are able to wield knowledge to enable them cut through life, because they know that irrespective of possessed facts, we are all children of choice.

The role of reading is to get us to make sense of the world in which we live. It is rooted in the human trait of observation and interpretation. It opens our minds to perceive, or on a grand scale to intuit at, a universal singularity. The emphasis may be to become adept at knowing words, to getting better at how our eyes move over them on pages, but reading emotional cues of our loved ones, the power dynamic of our society, or the running of our inner lives all carry important value that equally deserve emphasis. A fundamental component for reading is questioning. More precisely, curiosity. It is this fuel of interest that propels one to kick off a dialogue with a stranger, push through the 'drudgery' of finding decent books, and in unique cases, maintain a dogged desire to ease a problem, all for that glorious feeling that comes from unpinning a mind knot and making sense of things. 

The way to better reading lies in a province we seldom like to hear: practice. The adept reader, we have noticed, have a strong command of forces about them. They are able to make millions of people in a crowd cheer. They are able to rake in copious amounts of money. They are able to present mind-shattering responses to the deepest questions of life. We, in our rusty relationship with books, lack the time and resources to ever reach such levels of skill. In our despair, we remain rooted on the assumption that we have to be devote disciples of written works and dismiss canvas of exciting avenues for grasping the world, upon which books lie, along with the rest, as choose-able options.

Traditionally, T.V. and video games have been major subjects of scrutiny: the non-serious engage these avenues at the detriment of their minds. Today, in a backdrop of technological progress, where Twitter and Facebook are the media forms in rave, the person of bookish sensibility looks on to the social development with suspicion, feeling such outlets only serve to numb minds. The sentiment hinges on this belief: modelling the nature of things begins and ceases on dining with pages. This is ironically the reason behind the non-reader's book aversion: they want accurate models of the world and think (in error) a relationship with books will only serve to slow them down in their pursuits, since a majority of what they read become lost in the island of the forgotten. 

Emphasis on written works has its merits. It is founded on a sound sense that a remarkable chunk of what can help us lead better lives is frozen in words waiting to be absorbed, it is based upon an acute sense that we can stand on the shoulders of existing development. Advocates of books are alive to the importance of being knowledgeable. The person with utter disregard for interpreting written works deserve no admiration; for they operate with a dispiriting attitude of insouciance towards wisdom. They are so certain and dogged about their understanding only because they haven't taken on board the crucial reality that a majority of what exists lies in the realm of the unknown. But we needn't confuse this fellow for the one who gives up on the art because of a lack of reading skills, and we may often find ourselves in this giving-up category. Our starting place should be to dismiss the obligation to a devotion to books. While they hold importance, it's counterproductive to place them as ends rather than means. Coming across those with a knack for written works can seem profound but it's only because we exaggerate the grandness of their habit. 

A majority of what lies across life is waiting to be read, the unraveling of which, as the book-reading folks who pull our admiration know, begins at the steps of interest and curiosity. We might crave efficient methods for interpreting texts, and a whole library of written works exist elaborating these methods, but all our efforts would be fruitless without key components. We needn't dismiss the happenings of life upon which books tap their celebration. We needn't entertain soul-drying arrangements of text describing accounts of the world. We needn't stifle our interests. We should value interpretation of text alongside other reading activities. Our starting place should be our interests and our questions, for they ultimately take us through books to what would otherwise lie beyond our reach: understanding.


Post Author: P. W. Uduk 

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