I am absolutely addicted to reading.
The withdrawal symptoms are clear. Within 6 hours of our Pop Culture 180 start time, I was wandering the shelves at Barnes and Noble, looking at titles I could not allow myself to open. I think about books at least twenty times per day. I keep looking at my hands, whenever I have a spare 5-20 minutes, thinking, “shouldn’t they be holding something?” I sit down in my work break room, then stand up again- I have no reason to sit there if I cannot read. I stare longingly at the books on my bed stand at night, trying to ignore their pitiful cries to be opened and read. I go to sleep early, because I honestly can’t think of anything else to do.
I’m a mess. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
I spent the first two days of our little game trying to understand my own feelings, and I realized something simple and powerful; reading makes my world much more vivid. It’s like when you go to a movie and the camera work gives the impression of speed and action, your pulse races a little quicker and you emerge from the theater a little worn. The loss of books has highlighted the dullness of the everyday.
As a heavily word-oriented person, reading is a vehicle to brighter colors, faster action, deeper emotions, more thoughtful analysis, and incredible beauty. The rainbows and tapestries of this amazing world are condensed into a little stack of pages, and I can participate in experiences I’ll never have physically.
Consider the book I was reading just before I was so rudely interrupted by this week; The Agony and the Ecstasy, by Irving Stone. To enrich his historical novel of Michelangelo, Stone traveled to Italy, translated all Michelangelo’s letters, and took classes in sculpture. Now, I read his book and in some sense participate in Michelangelo’s world and Stone’s experiences in a way that I very likely never will here on earth.
Some might call this escapism, but I’m really not escaping the world. There is a complex interaction between my reading and my everyday, where books provide constant metaphors to interpret reality, and reality provides constant examples to reinforce the truths proclaimed by books. When my friend is hurting because a family member dies, books articulate the emotional power of grief and help me sympathize. When a complicated problems emerge at work, I often solve them using solutions described by books. When I deal with relational tensions, they reinforce the truth in an author’s description of a similar problem.
Oh, right. Here are the benefits of not reading. I am a little more rested, because I don’t stay up late reading. I have played a little more video games than normal (which, in my still-only-have-an-Xbox world, means as much, “seclusion,” with less payoff). And I have more time for Twitter and Facebook.
That reminds me; I’ve been doing Twitter and Facebook!
They’re okay. It can be somewhat interesting to see what others are doing, to hear announcements about life events. I like the pictures and videos of my nieces, and I like it when my family members get on just to see my son being his goofy self.
But the overwhelming, dominant theme of Twitter is little comments that don’t connect to my life at all, don’t enrich conversations, and are completely unmemorable. News posts convey information that I read in much more detail on a website or in a newspaper. Even when I try to be creative with personal posts, the time and energy I put into comments of less than 140 characters just float off into the wind, never to return. And the dominant theme of Facebook is that I have lots of comments from people who do not know me better than others. They just use Facebook more.
In other words, my experience of social media is that they are massively disproportionate to the reality of my relationship structures. I have very close friends and family on Facebook, yet most of my interactions happen with people who are more like acquaintances than bosom friends. I experience interesting things with people, but we don’t talk about it on Facebook. And if I do share those experiences on Facebook, I inevitably get comments from people who cannot understand because they were not there.
So, recognizing that I regularly defend the valuable role of these social media and that I have no problem with people using them… so far my experience has been that they do not enrich my real life, nor make it better, nor bring anything of value to the table, with the single exception of communication for close relationships over a long distance. Again, I’m not saying that is the entire and conclusive story on these things… just that this is what it has been, so far, for me.
Three more days to go.