March 27, 2011 § 15 Comments
when i began to read, i read because it was fun and because i seem to have been expected to.
i was a smug little people-pleasing child, and if more reading meant that more people would coo admiringly at my nascent nerdiness, then i would read. eventually reading became its own motivation, largely because my parents chose never to interfere with what i read or why i was reading it, and this was an oasis of surprise in my much-interfered-with life. there was no question of vetting books for ‘age-appropriate’-ness or whatever the hell this generation of parents is obsessing over, so i wholeheartedly canonballed into territory my parents – to paraphrase – feared to tread. one seizes at what freedom one may have. mine happened to be reading.
when i grew older and asked why reading was so earthshakingly important, i was told ‘knowledge is power’; this is one of those things it seems irreligious to disagree with, although the way the cliche originally meant to be read, and the way it has currently expanded to fill a universe of generalisation, may be two very subtly different things. knowledge is unquestionably power in a specific, current situation of conflict where any relevant information may gain the possessor an advantage; yet, that knowledge needs to have been gained prior to the moment of conflict. since the occurrence and exact nature of conflict is not predictable, it seems almost tautological to suggest that the amassing of information is in general a good thing.
i read fiction, non fiction, academic literature, comics, gossip websites, personal blogs, political opinions, celebrity gossip websites and political opinions on the same day. but i do it less because i think it’s a good thing and more because it’s become a habit. it is, with the internet, a habit that is criminally easy to feed. i suspect the ‘goodness’ of reading (in my mind) is less virtue, more habit, less rational, more rationalisation of a compulsion.
in the sign of four, i remember, sherlock holmes told (see here) an incredulous watson that the skilful workman should reserve his brainpower to retain only information that is exactly relevant to his life. to my thirteen year old self, that was blasphemy. i was shocked and i deeply disapproved… i mean just look at it: it is the most provincial sounding thing one can say. today i’m not so sure he was wrong.
in the obsession with information, i think i, and perhaps we, have overlooked the power of technique, and the fantastic plasticity of resourcefulness, the ability to creatively jump the distance between that which is known and that which is required to be known in a given situation. both in law school and in life outside it, i’ve begun to realise that the ability to resolve crises is grounded less in exactly how much one knows than in the power to transcend that limitation with practice and presence of mind. the ability to really think may be a lost art… in any case, i think i may be losing it.
always operating on a surplus of facts and opinions has the ability to create a complacence that is simply misleading, especially when i have no clear idea as to their provenance, veracity or quality. equally importantly, it physically tires me out. i’ve never been a hoarder otherwise, so i’m going to experimentally quit being one now; experimentally because curiosity about the world can’t be a bad thing either, and hacking it away makes me a little uncomfortable.
perhaps i am stupendously wrong, but what do we know until we try? and so –
into the wild. :)