The Art of the Read
Today, adorning covers of thousands of books on the shelf, you will see the words “New York Times Best Seller”. A weekly list is published with hundreds of books in assortments of categories. Many readers flock to these books as an indication of quality, but is it?
The day and age that we live in is much different from the ones of our fathers and grandfathers. We have greatly advanced technology, tamed the invisible world, and connected everyone on Earth. But at what cost?
Progression has led us into a world where snippets, summaries, and YouTube videos are the information source. Hours of our days are spent typing on keyboards and staring at televisions. It has truly changed the way our minds function and how we process and store information. Gradually, we are turning away from lengthy books that expand our minds with specific knowledge and now we fill our minds with limited information on broader topics. Stuffed in our glutenous minds are tons of things our ancestors wouldn’t have wasted their time knowing.
The transition from the book to the summary is a sad one. It began about the time mass media came on the scene. They started transforming our minds by placing a heavy importance on action sequences with low information retention. Sure, it was easier, but it was also a lot less valuable. When we stopped using our imaginations, and let the screen tell us what to imagine, we lost an integral part of ourselves and destroyed years worth of progress.
During the Enlightenment period we made vast leaps into thinking. The Enlightenment was more about the philosophy of science over superstition, but it led to a higher learning and thinking that in turn produced some of the greatest books ever written. These are not limited to scientific writings like Newton, nor philosophical like Diderot. Magnificent works of fiction and travel also flourished during this great age. As a matter of fact, they flourished well up into the 20th century, when we single-handedly bludgeoned literature.
My issue is not with technology. Technology is of great benefit to mankind. My quarrel is with low-brow social media and the lack of importance placed on true intellectual material. Literary works of the past were an art-form. They weren’t just about the plot and the action in the story, nor how it translated into a movie. Each sentence and paragraph was carefully chosen to flow with elegant liquidity. I dare you to take a paragraph from Hemingway or Tolstoy and compare it to something new on the shelf with a label of acclaim. Our interest in the art and legacy of truly poetic and thoughtful writing has been killed, or at least maimed. That’s not to say that everything being written now is worthless. There are a handful of authors out there who are staying true to the cause and are not capitulating. To them, I say a big thank you.
Also, I think it important to state that it is the duty of each one of us to educate and elevate ourselves out of our own stupidity. While I complain about the events that are taking place, they are taking place because the majority of society accepts the changes and for the most part, enjoys them. Perhaps I am a dying breed; the captain of a ghost ship sailing around forgotten seas. If that is the case, I happily sail on unwavering. If there are others our there who think as I do, please put some thought into how you are getting your information and what you are filling your mind with. The under evaluated and misleading facts of the internet are dangerous waters.