Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Life Spent Reading

This is a post I wrote on New Year's Day for the Christian Writers Downunder blog, and I want to share it here too.

During this first week of the year, I stumbled across a quote by Annie Dillard. She reminded me, "How we spend our days is how we spend our lives." Then she expanded on that to say, "Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading - that is a good life."

I had to stop and think about that, because I do consider a day free to do nothing but read is a good day indeed. As I pondered, I began to see what I think she meant. And she's right.

Consider the benefits of a life spent reading. We stimulate healthy paths in areas of our brain which might have been left dormant otherwise. At parties, we have the potential to begin interesting conversations. We never need to worry about being bored in unexpectedly empty hours. Instead of moping about how we have nothing to do, we relish the sudden opportunity to get stuck into our books. If we're caught in a queue or waiting room without our books, we simply pull our fully loaded reading devices out of our handbags or briefcases and we're all set. If we're bloggers, it isn't difficult to come up with something to spark a blog post because our minds keep ticking over with what we've read. As I skimmed through my blog to see the tone of last year, I noticed how often I said something occurred to me because of something I'd read. If fiction is among the mix, we may be more empathetic people than those who don't read. Even scientific studies have indicated that. Imagining ourselves in other people's shoes comes easily to us, enabling us to intuitively sense how those around us might feel, making us more sensitive in our relationships. We may be more familiar with the experience of having sudden flashes of insight or unexplained answers to questions we've been pondering, without actively seeking them, because they come to us from within the pages of our books. We are more familiar with the interesting features of the world without physically having to visit each place. And our imaginations are healthy. They get more aerobics than those of people who merely opt for watching TV. There are huge benefits to a life spent reading.

BUT to have the benefit of a life spent reading, we have to be able to spend part of our days reading without feeling that we're wasting our time. There's where people may sometimes come unstuck.

It's increasingly difficult for people to justify doing that in the twenty-first century. There's usually something pressing and urgent to be done within each 24 hour block. We feel lazy if we're caught with our feet up, reading a book, while there are still dirty dishes in the sink or wet towels on the bathroom floor. When we feel as if we shouldn't read until all the housework is done, there's very little time left over. If your house is like mine, one room is being made messy while another is being straightened. If we are lucky enough to be caught up in the pages of a fascinating book, how easy it is to call the day a write-off and say, "I spent too much time reading," or "I did absolutely nothing."

I'd like to encourage us all to remember the great benefits of a life spent reading, and remind us that we won't achieve those good things listed above unless we prioritise at least a little while each day to read. And if we really want to feel as if something good and constructive is coming out of our reading time in the short time, we can leave trails of our experience through reviews left on our blogs, or any of the many book review sites. That's a good record of our life spent reading, which might be springboard for those of many other people.

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