Jul 24, 2006
Ruined by Reading
Rarely does the daily paper move me to re-examine my life. But a recent New York Times piece quoted a Chinese scholar whose "belief in Buddhism...has curbed his appetite for books." Mr. Cha says, "To read more is a handicap. It is better to keep your own mind free and to not let the thinking of others interfere with your own free thinking." I clipped his statement and placed it on the bedside table, next to a pile of books I was reading or planned to read or thought I ought to read. The clipping is about two square inches and almost weightless, the pile of books some nine inches high, weighing a few pounds. Yet they face each other in perfect balance. I am the scale on which they rest.
Lying in the shadow of the books, I brood on my reading habit. What is it all about? What am I doing it for? And the classic addict's question, What is it doing for me?
-- opening lines from Ruined by Reading by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, 1996, Beacon Press.
I kept this book on my shelves for years and years, thorougly annoyed by the irony. Lately I have been less inclined to read -- hoping to spend more time in fewer but more meaningful moments -- but I won't credit the Buddha. I also won't say whether I'm having any luck, but I thought I could at least share the quote.