By Lee Duigon
I’m a writer, so naturally it distresses me when I hear someone brag, “I never read!”
And bragging it is. Genuine illiteracy is seldom involved. It’s much more a conscious decision not to read at all—or to read only when one’s job requires it. I know so many people like this, it’s easy for me to believe that scholastic reading scores, nationwide, are racing toward the bottom; and that many people will never read a book again—on purpose—once they’ve finished high school or college.
Why is reading so distasteful to them? Was it the way it was pitched to them in school? When I was in high school, I sometimes suspected that the curriculum designers went out of their way to find the most boring, the most irrelevant, and the least entertaining books they could lay their hands on, and then giggle slyly to themselves as we poor students plodded through them. They also dug up monstrously abridged versions of literary classics: the alleged “Ivanhoe” we had to read had all the guts, all the spirit, gouged out of it, leaving nothing but a rather silly story. Many years went by before I decided to give Sir Walter Scott another chance. The difference between the “Ivanhoe” he wrote and the “Ivanhoe” they had us read was like the difference between the living and the dead.
If I had had to rely on just the reading provided us in school, I might’ve been forever put off reading, too. But my family was full of readers, our houses full of books, I could see my mother and my aunts and my grandparents enjoying them—so I became a reader, too. School had nothing to do with it.
Choosing not to read, to me, seems like choosing not to go outdoors. If you’re a good reader, a habitual and effective reader, there’s almost nothing you can’t learn. Whatever it is you want to know and understand, someone has written it down. Reading can expand your scope of knowledge.
And it can do so much more than that. Escape. Relief. A good long laugh. Insight into what it means to be human. Excitement. The benefit of other people’s experiences. Good and bad examples. Thousands of years’ worth of tradition, discovery, knowledge gained and knowledge lost, wisdom and folly, adventure, amazement—it’s all there in the books.
Oh, come on! What about the internet? All that stuff in the books, you can get online.
If only it were so.
Yes, there’s all sorts of treasure on the internet. There’s also all sorts of crapola, and more and more people cannot tell the difference. And it’s so easy to get distracted! In fact, it requires much discipline not to be distracted. Read the headline, skim a paragraph or two, and then go on to something else. Or just stop reading and see what’s hot on YouTube. Or play another video game. And of course you’ll want to chat with other users, keep up with the latest trends, get influenced by—ugh—“influencers,” and revel in conformity.
I call it a digital stupor. The never-reader lives in a bubble of now, has no interest in anything that happened more than a few hours ago and probably isn’t even aware of it, and is a sitting duck for any pseudo intellectual twaddle being peddled on the screen.
This is serious. How are we supposed to maintain a constitutional republic—and keep our liberties!—if hardly anybody knows, or cares, what a republic is, how a constitution works, or what history tells us will not only not work, but can actually lead us into disaster? Ignorance is bad civics. It’s not bliss; it’s a great big “Kick Me” sign that every tyrant, every snake-oil politician, every prating socialist doofus, can read. They home in on ignorance like heat-seeking missiles.
Read! Read the Bible, the classics, and everything else that might appeal to you. Learn how to tell wisdom from idiocy.
Because all the trendy chit-chat in the world will not keep us free.
© 2021 Lee Duigon – All Rights Reserved
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