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Sep 19, 2007

"Ruined by Reading"

Ruined_by_reading Barry C. wrote a blog on What Single Book is the Best Introduction to Your Field...for Lay People which inspired Chap to mention "my Shelf of Shame (the books I bought but haven't yet read)" which reminded me that I wanted to share this quote with you:

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?

--Lynn Schwartz, Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books

12:38 AM in Quotables | Permalink


The Buddhist approach to balance, looking to the middle path, eh?

Posted by: Chap | Sep 19, 2007 10:03:27 PM

A little ironic don't you think? I mean, he clipped that quote out of the paper - which he read.....

Posted by: Marianne | Sep 20, 2007 12:11:57 PM

I meant she!

Posted by: Marianne | Sep 20, 2007 12:12:50 PM

When I write something, it's with a specific audience in mind...whether that audience is a specific person or a group of people. Everything I write is like a letter, to someone, even if it's an article explaining some obscure technology.

So I look at books as a one-way conversation. Comments like these open writing up again, from one-way to two-way.

That said, one thing I've become cautious about in recent years is asking for advice, whether from books or people. It ain't the medium, but the message, and the source of the message, that is key. The reason for my caution in looking to books OR live humans is that I've realized that my own resources are usually as useful, if not more so, than looking outward. And Phil, since I've asked for and taken your advice to heart, kudos to you. :-)

Posted by: cd | Sep 21, 2007 11:12:08 PM

Hello! I have come across your blog before through other Durham blogs, and I just stumbled upon this post today.

I think this is an interesting topic because my work is all about teaching adults to read, and on the side I also teach yoga (emptying the mind). So I have a few thoughts...

1. Couldn't this be a question of privilege? Because you/we CAN read, you then have a CHOICE about whether or not you DO read, and if you DO read, then it is still a CHOICE about WHAT you read.

The program I work with serves 100 adults a year who are reading anywhere between a 0-8th grade level, because they did not have the correct resources or circumstances to improve their reading at any earlier stage in their lives. So, aren't we lucky to be able to even contemplate this question through text?! I think of this everyday. My belief is that reading is a gateway to success.

2. To this statement: "To read more is a handicap."
I respond: to NOT be ABLE to read is a handicap in our current state of society.

3. To these questions: "What is it all about? What am I doing it for? And the classic addict's question, What is it doing for me?"

I respectfully respond: It is all about empowerment and choice. We can choose to fill our minds with these words and put them to use, to work in our lives and in our worlds. You are doing it for enrichment, advancement of yourself and your community. And, what is it doing for you...I hope it is empowering and furthering your choices to fill... and empty... your mind. :)

In peace.

Also please check out our blog... http://dlcal.wordpress.com (Hope you enjoy!)

Posted by: yashna | Oct 13, 2007 9:31:22 PM

CD: thanks for your most kind complement -- all the more appreciated because of your exposition, here.

Yashna: Hello! Long time no see! Thanks for your comments, too. I'm glad you're doing the work you're doing at the Durham Literacy Center.

BTW, I don't how Ms. Schwartz answered the questions she posed in the intro, because I eventually decided that I was better off giving the book away rather than hanging onto it for another four or five years, waiting for the moment I'd decide to read the whole thing.

That said, some responses to your comments:

1. Certainly I agree that privilege affects the questions posed and the answers obtained. And certainly I agree that we're lucky to contemplate the question. And for sure, reading is a gateway to success.

2. I think both statements can be true. Not reading enough is a handicap. So is reading too much. To quote the great philosophers Daryl Hall and John Oates:

"Isn't it a bit like oxygen? Too much will make you high. Not enough will make you die. So I got to keep it under control" They were talking about music, and it's obviously true in other places.

BTW, do folks remember the bit in Frank Herbert's Dune where Paul Atreides is telling his family's dinner guests about a man who "drowned"? One of the guests on the arid planet of Arrakis did not know the word.

"Drowned?", she asked.

"Yes. Immersed in water until dead. Drowned.", Paul replied.

"What an interesting way to die."

Dune. By Frank Herbert, who wrote in a country where people now die because of too much food.

Posted by: Phil | Oct 13, 2007 10:54:57 PM