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BTT: Mind Games.

February 25, 2010


Suggested by Janet:

I’ve seen this quotation in several places lately. It’s from Sven Birkerts’ ‘The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age’:

“To read, when one does so of one’s own free will, is to make a volitional statement, to cast a vote; it is to posit an elsewhere and set off toward it. And like any traveling, reading is at once a movement and a comment of sorts about the place one has left. To open a book voluntarily is at some level to remark the insufficiency either of one’s life or one’s orientation toward it.”

To what extent does this describe you?

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

The concept of reading as an escape has never made very much sense to me. Perhaps I’ve had a perfect little life. Stressful, sure, but certainly not something to run screaming from. I don’t read light things, for the most part and, generally, read to engage not to escape; to tune in rather than to tune out.

I do, though, get lost in books. I identify with characters and get sucked into stories. there are books that burn holes in my bag, as if I can see them through the canvas while I’m sitting in a meeting or teaching a class during which I can’t pick up and begin again. I don’t think that’s as much a comment on an insufficiently lived life as much as it is  declaration of a life fully lived.

One of the major emotional developmental milestones in 1-2 year olds and then on upward, is the ability to engage in imaginative play and learning. The brain needs to be able to bend and expand  around logic and math but also social science and language arts. The opportunity to emotionally engage in imaginitive play as an adult is rare, yet we are expected to constantly perform in ways (in the physics lab, in the editing room, in the board room)that need for our minds to be limber and creative.

I like to think of reading, especially but not exclusively fiction, as a little bit of a warm up, a daily yoga or an evening run, to keep our minds in the game.

Perhaps this is my excuse and I’ve read so much to escape so far that I can’t see it for what it is. I’d like to think, though, that even if that’s the case, it’s my reading that has allowed me the imagination to convince myself that it’s all for the sake of creativity…

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 11:37 am

    I love to read, Here’s Mine

  2. February 25, 2010 1:08 pm

    To me, reading fiction is not just about escaping, but about expanding my horizons. Some time ago, I wrote about 7 reasons why everyone should read fiction, and 5 of those 7 reasons have to do with personal development. In particular, I read fiction to find patterns in it that will enlighten and expand my own life, which is why I prefer life-expanding fiction over escapist fiction— Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoy Janet Evanovich from time to time, but her work doesn’t move my life like Sheila Williams’s or Holly Lisle’s.


  3. February 25, 2010 11:45 pm

    Your BTT is deeper than mine. Very Interesting!

  4. February 25, 2010 11:48 pm

    “I like to think of reading, especially but not exclusively fiction, as a little bit of a warm up, a daily yoga or an evening run, to keep our minds in the game.”

    I like this line. A very well-written response!

  5. March 7, 2010 8:05 am

    The last paragraph has the best message. Our imagination must not get in the way of reality indeed. Beautifully written answer.

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