When was the last time you read a book?
Currently, I’m reading a book by Dr Karen Swallow Prior called “On Reading Well”. Throughout the book, she tracks through various classic novels, the ones we pretend to read in high school, and the virtues they teach.
Through the novel’s historical context, narrative, character’s and more she uncovers how literature forms a person, build character can be a guide to a good life.
The Introduction is worth the asking price of the book itself. A Professor of English and Literature at South-eastern Baptist Theological Seminary she weaves her knowledge of the classics with philosophy and cultural insight of the effect the narratives we consume have on our actions.
It is on the second page of the book, quoting Puritan poet John Milton that struck me,
“Since therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this world necessary to the constituting of human virtue, and the scanning of error to the confirmation of truth, how can we more safely, and with less danger, count into the regions of sin and falsity than by reading all manner of tractates and hearing all manner of reason? And this is the benefit which may be had of books promiscuously read.”
Good literature compels us to see human nature and helps us see what is true and what is not and pursue what is virtuous. Dr Prior shares further as Christians, combined with our belief of a telos, a purpose to glorify God and enjoy him forever, we understand the pursuit of the “good life” does not necessarily lead to our flourishing.
Reading well, and reading good things carefully, forms us as people. The attention it requires is uncommon in today’s fast-paced society.
Anyone reading from this point should already have ordered this book, paper or e-book and get into it themselves as soon as possible. Everything below is fraught with my thoughts and observations, go on if you wish.
A Guide to consuming media well
Reading is rebellion. We live in a world where attention is fragmented and the act of reading a book leaves us reaching for our phones by the time we’ve scanned halfway down a page.
The aim from here is to give a short guide to engaging the different media we encounter in our lives and how we can do it more thoughtfully and well.
As Andrew Lewis famously said, “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”
Socials media is where we do most of our reading these days. The stats are out there on how much time we spend on devices. Our feeds are built to capture our attention and that’s it. Engaging it well might very well mean not using them.
But we can take control, cultivating our feeds unfollowing the inflammatory posters, choosing when we go on, not just when we’re bored. There’s too much going on to live our lives through a screen.
Don’t read your news through social media, I know it’s easier but if you’re like me you read comments and don’t bother with the article. Now I’m biased in this section, but widen who you read from most even the news we’re given is made to suit our tastes. As much as I love a Bachelor recap they’re not exactly soul-filling.
Try to subscribe to at least two different news sites, if you can’t, search for Newswire, there’s no such thing as a perfect source but the more perspectives you get on a situation the more readily can have an informed opinion. Though even with a paid subscription be careful, the opinion and news columns are given equal weight on the front page of a site with little distinction.
Read them. As Milton says read promiscuously. Fiction, non-fiction, history, theology, philosophy, poetry, biographies, whatever interests you and can get your hands on. Read with focus, a pencil in your hand, read that paragraph, then read that paragraph, bring out your dictionary and comprehend.
Most of all enjoy it, don’t read quickly just to get information, see the logic, maybe lack of behind it. Also if it’s bad, stop, as Irish author James Joyce says, “Life is too short to read a bad book. “
Justin Sayson is a freelance journalist living on the Sunshine Coast. From about sport, music, faith or anything else, he’s always keen to discover more about the world around him. You can see more if his writing on justinsayson.com