“I’m not sure what is worse, a closed mind or a closed book.” ~ Anthony Liccione
Reading is the ultimate therapy, the predominant catharsis – a meta-catharsis, if you will. It informs even as it reforms. It plunges us into worlds that are not our own. Reading, more than any other act, reconditions our preconditioning.
It launches us out of ourselves, out of our heads, and out of our own way. It blazes trails through impossible labyrinths even as it lays down maps through life’s many thresholds.
Like Eric March wittily punned, “Reading doesn’t just make you smarter and give you more fancy big words to break out at fancy wine parties with your fancy friends. It’s a badass, empathy-exploding, sickness-curing cruise ship time machine.”
Indeed it is. And in the spirit of hopping into precisely such a badass time machine, here are seven more reasons why reading is awesome.
1) Reading is revolutionary
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” ~ Ray Bradbury
Reading is daring. It’s adventure in our pocket. And as long as we’re able to read more than just a few books in our lifetime, then reading can be a radical act in an otherwise conventional world. The fact that there are banned books showcases the insurgent value of reading.
The powers that be shift uncomfortably in their thrones when books like 1984, The Satanic Verses, or Fight Club are written. But even bad press can be good press. And, as Victor Hugo said, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
If reading is a revolutionary act, then it begins at home. Read enough and you might earn the right to write something revolutionary.
Like Lisa See said, “Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.”
Couple reading with travel and life experience, and there will be nothing out of reach of your imagination.
Like Benjamin Franklin urged, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
Either way, the words written will have the potential to be a revolutionary act.
2) Reading is highly meditative
“I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut
Consciousness is gripped by patterns. It’s overwhelmed by the need to make order out of chaos and sense out of senselessness. Our brains are obsessed with connecting the dots while also having the need to be awestruck.
Reading helps us get out of our old stagnant patterns and into new updated constructs, while also helping us to absorb our old patterns as building blocks for the new patterns we read in literature.
It does this by bridging the gap between the mundane and the extraordinary, by placing us into an absorbed, introspective state of impermanent awe that changes, ever so slightly, the way we engage reality.
Reading is meditative precisely because it uses our imagination as a tool which leverages focus. Time stands still. Time speeds up. Time becomes subsumed by the meditative process of reading another person’s thoughts.
We become fully engrossed, fully present, and in the moment. To the extent that our imagination, like with meditation, can defy the laws of physics.
Take these words by William Blake for example: “To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.” Wow!
3) Reading is fuel for creative fire
“I pity the writer who writes more than he reads.” ~ Mark Twain
If writing is the fire, then reading is the kindling. We read so that we can fuel up on something other than our own thoughts. Reading is the cornerstone of art, the foundation upon which all poetry is built.
When we read, we stimulate aspects of our imagination we didn’t even know existed, while at the same time we feed the aspects that are still growing.
Books are like stepping stones toward our higher self. The more we read, the higher we will get. Indeed, the more we read, the more we capitalize on the human condition itself. The more we read, the more shoulders of giants we are capable of standing upon.
From these shoulders we get a bird’s-eye view of the human condition. This is both an interpersonal and intrapersonal perspective that we could not have achieved had we not dared to crack open more than just a few books.
4) Reading is a superpower
“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” ~ Mark Twain
Reading can indeed be a superpower. Not only do we gain knowledge from reading, we also gain introspection, wisdom, and providence. We learn how to become heroes in our own lives through the heroes in our books.
We learn about our own darkness through the villains we read about. Most of all, we learn empathy. We learn how the human condition is mostly a washed out middle gray of commingling and co-creating black and white energy that is constantly in flux.
If knowledge is power, then reading is the conduit through which such power gets channeled.
Like Doctor Who said, “You want weapons? Go to a library. Books are the best weapons in the world.”
And in a world where weaponry has trumped livingry, reading is perhaps the most powerful way to turn the tables. Reading gives us the power, the psychosocial toolkit, to trump violence with love, apathy with empathy, and indifference with compassion.
Reading, as a superpower, manifests the building blocks upon which our power can become superb.
5) Reading is profoundly nostalgic
“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.” ~ Marcel Proust
Reading is the ultimate nostalgia, a profound reminiscence. It’s even more powerful than our sense of smell for transporting us to a particular time and place. I pity anybody, child or adult, who has not experienced the profound pleasure of losing themselves in a good book. Think Sebastian in The Never-ending Story.
Reading, and especially rereading, puts the “art” into the “art of reminiscence.” It helps us to quantum-entangle with permanence, even as it teaches us the nature of impermanence.
It helps us to think outside of our current box by thinking within an older box, while also giving us an entirely different perspective on the content of the box in context with our overall life.
6) Reading is a bridge between worlds
“Perhaps the greatest reading pleasure has an element of self-annihilation. To be so engrossed that you barely know you exist.” ~ Ian McEwan
From nescience to knowledge, from the known to the unknown, reading is the ultimate bridge. As readers, we stand upon that bridge like a flag of humors waiving in an existential wind. We are sentinels guarding the open-ended entries (exits).
We are periphery keepers par excellence, daring to go from ordinary to extraordinary, from merely human to superhuman. With the hope that maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to bring some of that magic back to the “real world.”
If, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “fiction reveals truth that reality obscures,” then perhaps reading has the power to mend the split between the truth-functions of fiction and the fiction-functions of truth.
Even as it bridges gaps, reading bridges truths. Indeed, profound literature can reveal how, as Niels Bohr said, “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement, but the opposite of a profound truth may very well be another profound truth.” And suddenly, being between worlds isn’t such a split after all.
7) Reading adds depth and meaning to life
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R.R. Martin
Reading can be a form of psychological longevity. It actually adds value (time) to our lives. It can actually aid us in living multiple lives within a single lifetime. When we read, we traverse dimensions.
We navigate magnitudes. We crisscross crossroads. We pilot everything from platitudes to plenitudes. We negotiate with profound, sometimes overpowering, characters. This all adds priceless value to our life that cannot be taken away.
We open a book. We go on adventures. We sail shiny seas and trek jagged mountains. We surf cosmic waves and drag ourselves through sandpaper deserts. We slide down rabbit holes and widen cracks into canyons.
We do this not only because we want to, but because we need to. We need to feel something new, something outside of ourselves so that we can feel more real, more surreal, more super-real, and more human. We need to satiate the “wonder-junky” within.
And what could be more wonderful, more mirror-perfect, more human, than to live multiple lives through the words of another human soul?