Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Call to Arms, 2017. Part Four: Reading

I have labored under the assumption that our time has becoming increasingly limited with all the twenty-four hour conveniences and constant connectivity. I think the instant information and the fast food has, for some reason, made our time dwindle or disappear outright. I have very little scientific reasoning for this, only observation.

On a vacation years ago, on Texas's Gulf Coast, Galveston I think, I was spending my morning drinking coffee and reading a book at a picnic table. This was a long time ago, before smartphones. We were camped, as it were, on a concrete pad and in a travel trailer. My neighbor, another RV camper was out too. He was furiously fussing with a small satellite dish. The breeze from the Gulf was refreshing. Seagulls were cacophonous. I had my paperback on the table top. My neighbor huffed toward me. “Are you having trouble with your satellite reception?” he asked. “No,” I said. “I can't get the damn thing to work,” he said. “No,” I said. He huffed away. I don't know if he got the thing to work or not. I mean, what the hell was he going to watch on the tv? I didn't even have electricity. The situation still confounds me.

I find it funny that at least a dozen years have passed since then and even a satellite dish seems archaic. I mean now, that small device has more power, more options and endless data. Data. Data. Data. I'm not sure what that means. And what I suspect is that data and more and more of it, isn't necessarily a good thing. I think the old timer on Galveston now has frustrations with his data package provider and I'm still reading paperbacks.

It seems like generations ago, and I mean a bunch of generations ago, people had more time. Less cars, less ATMs, screens were only for windows and porches, and food was slow. I suspect that the hours were spent reading books, learning to read a language like Latin or music or both. I feel like time was more available and attentions were longer than 120 characters. Access to information came in the form of books and libraries and not Google. I mean, in the analog days, you really had to seek out the answers to something.

I don't think it's better or worse now. It's just different. I don't think we as modern people have lost our passion for learning things nor have we lost our passion for reading. I know those readers of genre fiction, like romance or fantasy, are the most voracious readers out there. I have friends who read whole books on their phones. I also have friends who claim they haven't read a book for years. I have friends who say they have neither time nor patience to read a book.

The reading of a book is an investment of time. Personally, a 300 page book will take me six uninterrupted hours. But those six hours are beautifully slowed hours. If left to a book from beginning to end in one sitting, I will hardly notice the changing light. On the completion of the read, I am a different person.

I also feel like the reading of a book has become an act of disobedience. After all, to read a book now, to open the pages and crack the spine now, is taking valuable time away from the system. It takes the reader away from screen, the news, gossip and whistle blowing. Perhaps it is more important to read today than ever. Grow your mind and lower the metrics of the news sites in one act.

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