Staggering off the Broad Road of the Internet

Staggering off the Broad Road of the Internet June 24, 2017

Yesterday I said I was going to Read Moar Books. When asked which books I was going to read I promised to blog about them, so as to put off actually cracking them open a few minutes longer.

The thing is, I have been slowly and deliberately trying to rebuild my reading muscle. You know how it is, life happens. Back in the day we all read books because there was literally nothing else to do, out there in wilderness of Africa. No iPods, no computers, no carnivals trucking by to distract the mind. I am not and never was A Great Reader, but the fact of my circumstances made it so that I read some books. But then I came to America and went to college and then seminary (again, both good places to read, since you had to or you would fail, and while not being a very good student overall, see above about not being A Great Reader, I hate hate hate humiliation, and so I studied enough to do reasonably well) and then the year 2002 hit.

I sure you remember that year. First of all, the internet was big enough and fantastic enough to absorb attention, even if you did have to be on it by means of a massive laptop that made your whole being cozy warm and uncomfortable. Second of all, it was, for me, the year of the First Baby and that marked the true downfall of all my reading life. Much like not working out At All, like not even walking up the stairs if I didn’t have to, once that first baby came, all the books got shoved where the sun don’t shine–see, even my ability to properly speak English vanished. I did not read anything that wasn’t a clever and interesting blog post.

That’s the thing, in the age of the internet I’m still doing plenty of Reading. I am reading all the time. The words are there, in short little bits, often now with color behind them so that I’m seduced into thinking I’m looking at a clever meme when really what I’m ‘reading’ is someone’s personal status update. The blurring of the boundaries between meme and update, much like the fidget spinner, is really just another moment to mark the devastating downfall of humanity into the very dust of the earth. The end times are nigh, ya’ll. They are literally just around the corner, along with my ability to even can.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. I did read some books in the years of constantly having babies. I took the gentle five year approach to The Pickwick Papers. And I continued my disciplined yearly read of The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass. And I reread all the Lord Peter Whimsy books one summer. And, of course, as I began to homeschool, I read a series of wretched children’s books out loud over and over, which gradually and painfully stretched to include books I like. Humphrey’s Bedtime gave way to Winnie the Pooh and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and eventually My Side of the Mountain and then FINALLY, this year, Anne of Green Gables. I now have a genuine sense of pleasant anticipation for the books I plan to read aloud this coming year. After working on the floor of the factory for a whole decade, I’ve finally been invited to sit at a desk and put my mental feet up for a few hours. It’s like there is a God.

There are all kinds of unseen forces that produce the neglect of book reading over internet surfing. The internet is so cheap and easy. It soothes, as Mr. Bulpitt says, ‘the onwee.’ You don’t have to try very hard at all. And when everything else is difficult, like showering, getting dinner on the table and over and over and over and over again, it feels like a salvation. And then there’s grief. Grief and heartbreak impede the reading of books, for me anyway. If I feel like a shattered piece of glass, the very last thing I am able to do is pick up a book. It’s the shiny screen of my phone to sooth the ache.

But that, of course, leads to a deeper more lasting sense of dissatisfaction. The phone screen makes me feel thin, stretched, like I’ve worn the ring for too long, or just been fingering it in my pocket for too many years. It makes me tired, but I can’t put it down.

The only remedy, besides taking all the deep fried avocado and lighting it on fire, is picking up a book made of paper and humanity, a book that refortifies the inner self, that heals the stretched, thin, exhausted broken humanity. But to recover from nothing what was lost takes incrementally devoted work, patience, and even some grace.

The first shift was to try to read a few pages of a book before the crash into sleep. I didn’t get rid of the internet at night, I just added a book. In this way I’ve reread three PG Wodehouses over about a year. Gradually, sometimes now I forget to catch up on the news. I just read the book and fall asleep. But, when I can’t face the book, I try not to berate myself, to bring the burden of the law into my already wrecked mental landscape. Now, all these months later, I find that I am sometimes sitting in a chair in the middle of the day, those occasional moments of recovery after long hours on my feet picking up the same six items over and over, and instead of scrolling through facebook, reaching over and picking up a book. It’s happening more and more. Not enough, but more.

So, in celebration of this fact, I’m going ruin it all and take on the voluminous task of reading these books, pictured here. [Less five or six books that are scattered around the house and car because I’m already reading them.] [Pictures out of focus because of eyes going bad from too much internet indulgence.]

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I was going to list them but this post is insanely long. Wow. What happened? I’ll list them next week. I’ve assembled this pile of books with some careful thought. I really Want to read these books. I don’t want to give up and wander away back to Facebook. And, of course, I want to read them all in like three weeks. But that’s insane, so I’m not going to let myself pretend that’s possible. I’m going to be methodical and #neverthelesspersisting, as is required by most worthy tasks on this mortal coil.

And now I will stop this and let you escape from the terrible length of this ridiculous post. Pip Pip.

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