Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lit: a book

This week I powered through a little book called Lita short survey of how to read more, especially Christian works, written by Tony Reinke. There were a few quotes, anecdotes and tips worth passing along. For instance, why is it that people seem to find a hard time to read the good stuff? Check out this stat:
In 1964, Robert Lee calculated the leisure time available to Americans... "it is a striking fact to note that the working man of a century ago spent some seventy hours per week on the job and lived about forty years. Today he spends some forty hours per week at work and can expect to live about seventy years. This adds something like twenty-two more years of leisure to his life, about 1,500 free hours each year, and a total of some 33,000 additional free hours that the man born today has to enjoy!" (p. 131-132)

It always amazed me, when working with college students, that some would say they couldn't find time to read the Bible. During college? Please. These same folks EASILY carved out two or three hours during finals week to "wind down" with a movie. But 15 minutes for Bible reading could not be found? It came down to priorities, as the following stat reveals:
"Nothing squanders time more than pursuing things without a purpose. Given that the average American adult (18-34) invests only 10 minutes each day reading, yet watches 116 minutes of television, I think many of us have time that we can spend differently." (p134)
As a follow up to this stat, he offers a helpful formula for squeezing in an hour of reading a day: 15 minutes in the morning, 15 at lunch, and 30 in the evening. He also gives the summary bullet list on how to make reading a higher priority:

  • Expect resistance from your heart (i.e. when it's time to do something of value, your heart will tug toward something meaningless, especially if you are tired).
  • Make time to read, not excuses for why you don't read. We all have good excuses.
  • Cultivate a hunger for books by reading (and rereading) great books (Stay with the rich stuff because just like with broccoli, you can develop a taste for something new over time).
  • Set your reading priorities, and let them drive your book selections.
  • Stop doing something else in order to make time to read.
  • Try reading three (or more) books at a time and take advantage of your environments (p 136) - a great tip that has helped me so many times to stay motivated on a difficult book. When you read more books... you read more books. Hmmm....

As far as distractions go, the Internet gets a bad wrap today, for making us stupid. But the Internet wasn't the first medium to face such criticism. Ironically, the cutting edge technology of books was slammed by one of the greatest, Mr. Socrates himself:
"If men learn this [i.e. how to read and write], it will implant forgetfulneess in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they will rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within theselves, but by means of external marks; what you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder." (139-140)
[Reineke states] "I'm not sure if Socrates was aware of the tremendours benefits of books - including preserving his own words about books (ironic). But it was clear that Socrates saw the dawn of books as the dusk of human memory." (140)
Of course what Socrates says seems absurd, but think of it this way: how has your ability to spell survived since the advent of spell check? Shoot, I used to know the phone number of all my friends. Now? I'd be lost without my phone. I even remembered every locker combination I had (school, personal locks, everything) through college. No longer. Some would say it's age.... but I'm so young!

All of this certainly says something about our ability to concentrate this day and age. When it comes to concentrating on reading, it seems to me that one of the biggest challenges one faces today is that of distractions.
Christian Philosopher Douglas Groothuis writes: "The compulsive search for diversion is often an attempt to escape the wretchedness of life. We have great difficulty being quiet in our rooms, when the television or computer screen offers a riot of possible stimulation. Postmodern people are perpetually restless; they frequently seek solace in diversion instead of satisfaction in truth. As Pascal said, "our nature consists in movement; absolute rest is death.' The postmodern condition is one of over saturation and over-stimulation, and this caters to our propensity to divert ourselves from pursuing higher realities.'" (141)
But until you remove distractions, it's nearly impossible to focus on something of depth. That's why I gave up my cell phone completely for about six months in 2011. Man, that was a rich experience that I might write about sometime this year.

Lastly, one of his more encouraging tips is to try reading with a group of friends. Discussing theology give accountability and true camradarie and helps motivate you to work through some more challenging works, like some of the Puritans, or Calvin, or even some soul edifying church history works.


Justin Bertram said...

Nice post, John. I always need inspiration to live with purpose and energy.

Dan said...

Glad to see he includes a chapter on fiction--there's a quality to life that fiction brings which non-fiction is just not able to provide. It creates space to think, it runs worldviews through their paces, it tests the reader and the world, it creates better thinkers.

Read a lot and read widely!

John C. Majors said...

Couldn't agree more. That's why I wrote a long post on the value of reading fiction back in June 2012. Check it out.