I am appalled that there are people in this country and on this planet who claim that they don’t read. When asked who their favorite author is, they respond by saying “Transformers”. Ask what kind of genres they enjoy, and they respond with “MTV”. These people are bold and brazen and oddly proud of their willful ignorance. I find people claiming that reading is “lame” or dismissing it with some other, equally unqualified and clearly misguided explanation. My brain cannot process the scope of why someone would willingly avoid, and even actively dislike, something as rewarding as reading.
I didn’t always love to read, mainly because of the forced nature of traditional, American public school English classes. There were hundreds if not thousands of books I wanted to read as a child, but I was pushed outside of personal preference and down the dark, scary alleyway of contemporary pedagogy. Works like Sinclair’s “The Jungle” and Dicken’s “Great Expectations” are wasted on a bored, confused 7th Grader. Even after years of study and shifting my perspective on literary appreciation, I find some of the canon classics we were coaxed to consume, partially digest, and regurgitate, outside of the realm I consider “good”.
But now I am free of noncompulsory schooling, and can chase down the turns-of-phrase and elegant wording I choose, free from oppression. I can dabble in weird fiction or explore the worlds of extremist nonfiction if my mind is so left to wander. I can love every single thing I read, which makes me loves any single thing I read; I’ve even gotten to the point where I must know the ingredients of products around my house, as to document, sort, and correlate them with other information in my mind.
When I stumble upon a new idea, psychological theory, or fringe philosophy, my mind is afire with possibility. The multi-colored Lego blocks that make up my brain shift and shudder as new pieces materialize, filling in the gaps in the walls of the intellectual castle I’ve been building since I discovered object permanence. This joy of learning is what keeps me reading, and what confuses me so deeply about people who do not read.
I will be the first to admit that I don’t allocate nearly enough traditional, paper-and-spine reading in my day, but that doesn’t limit my actual reading. As being fully employed doesn’t yield many opportunities to read books throughout the day, I find myself instead reading every juicy word of websites I visit. If I ever get an idle moment, my time is spent hitting the “Random Article” link on Wikipedia; the tropes-y nature of the site and its embedded links leading me to hidden nuggets of educational joy where I had never even thought to look.
As I read article after article, my brain transcends the human realm and information begins to directly bombard my unconscious mind. Bypassing all of my cynicism and normal filters, this information is downloaded directly into my mental databases as I jump from page to page in a semi-conscious trance. It’s as close to Csíkszentmihályi’s “Flow” as my mind has ever come. I think this is why I can recall so many random pieces of trivia that are unrelated – and often un-correlatable – to my current situation or conversation. Jeopardy try-outs, here I come.
Do other people not feel this? Do the words written down by their fellow humans not resonate on so visceral a level that they cannot help but stop and feel them? Even some of the worst attempts at writing I have ever read at least elicit anger, pity, and annoyance, which speaks strongly in defense of the whole field of writing. Reading and writing are, to me, so natural a phenomenon I would place them alongside eating and breathing in a hierarchy of necessity.
So, people of the world: Why you no read? Is it an actual inability to pull ideas and motifs from written English? Is it a lack of skill that due to mental struggles diminishes the returns from reading an intricate story? Is it a misunderstanding of who is allowed to read, based on some mystical, loosely defined social expectations and roles? Is it some deep, dark conspiracy perpetuated by a corrupt and amoral government to spawn an entire generation of mindless sycophants unable to challenge the socially destructive status quo due to a lack of education and free-thinking!? Whatever it is, I would champion a cause to remedy this awful, humanly antithetical plague.
Perhaps a not-for-profit or a charity organization that involves striking a nonreader until their brain reboots and functions correctly is called for. “Headshots for Hardcovers”, “Body blows for Books”, or “Lashes for Literacy” could all work. I’m not normally one to condone violence, but the proceeds of such a charity could go towards fostering a love for reading in children, all so that they don’t grow up to be adults who constantly fear assault from surprise literature-loving ninjas.
Tagged: Books, Csíkszentmihályi, psychology, reading
Reference Summer Reading –
“why do I need to read – I already know how to read”
Oliver Gray circa 2000
We don’t talk about the dark days.