Thursday, November 06, 2008

Feed Your Mind

It is apparent that one of my kids was hanging out in my home study sometime this week. All of the books on one of the shelves, once nicely aligned against the front edge, are uniformly shoved to the back of the wood. All the dust I was trying to hide has been exposed. I've seen this game before. And right now, I don't have the energy to realign them like a bunch of cans or boxes at the grocery store.

Most of these same books I've shoved back in a sense. I read them once, but their ideas, suggestions, insights have been relegated to the far back panels of my consciousness. Even beyond this shelf, I'm sure I've read thousands of books across my decades. Some of the content remains active in day-to-day operations, but much of it is a shapeless undercurrent of influence that has molded my thinking or behavior in some fashion but is hard to nail down as a root cause.

I'm shocked that so many people hardly read anything. When I offer a book suggestion to some people, you would think I was asking them to solve trigonometry problems while standing on their head on top of a moving StairMaster inside of a gym whose roof was just blown off by a tornado. They haven't yet discovered the pleasure of a good read, how it strengthens the mind. They shove books away rather than shoving them and their ideas into their awareness.

I think there is some sort of correlation between lack of reading and lack of critical thinking, which leads to a generic, reactionary sort of approach to career, relationships, key decisions. I listen to NPR interviews with people of different political persuasions, and I can tell which ones are readers and which are not. The ones who simply quote sound bites they've heard on the media or cliches they've garnered from their cousin could probably use a good 121 hours or so with James Joyce.

Good books are a gateway to thoughtfulness, and a key to discovering that sweet spot of vocation. I haven't heard him say much about it, but I would love to see President-elect Obama attack the literacy crisis that impacts so many children and adults in our country. Teach a person to read, and you feed his mind for a lifetime. And you probably give him a better chance of getting a better job.


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