The importance of reading and the written word

Transcription of video below:

As the world falls deeper into the algorithmic way of life, nations caught under the hypnotic spell of the infinite scrolling of social network timelines, a perpetual somnambulance entrancing millions in the act of low brow voyeurism I find the importance of reading and the written word more valuable by the minute. This is not to say I’m advocating in a Jaron Lanier fashion a complete deletion of social networks, but I am advocating a different addiction, a healthier pastime, one of reading the written word, and by written word, I mean a book.

We are now ensconced in an environment where multiple forms of entertainment and suppliers of information vie and battle for our attention such as: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Youtube, computer games, a myriad of music aggregators like Spotify and Apple, social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and communication tools like Whatsapp, Signal, Snapchat and more. Everyday unless we turn off the notifications on our smartphones we are constantly interrupted and mentally pulled in different directions.

The important issue with all of the above is that they are pretty easy passive ways to spend our time, maybe not so much with computer games, but definitely with the rest. I’m not denigrating any of the above, and I enjoy listening to music and watching films but with a book it takes work, and there is pleasure in that work. A book doesn’t read itself to you. You have to sit there and apply yourself. A book can open up new worlds to you, inspire you, educate you, if written well create a huge mixture of emotions in you, enable you to empathise and understand the hardship of a period or a person’s journey. It can be funny, haunting, terrifying, or truthful. To fall and disappear into the pages of an author’s work is a pleasure unlike any other. Sure, you can watch a film, but a film is rarely more than 3 hours long, a book can last months. It can be a long pleasurable emotional experience.

Of course, reading can also be an educational pursuit, perfect for improving your vocabulary and learning about subjects from those who excel in their fields. For me just sitting in front of a screen is too passive, it’s the ultimate act of just switching off and being spoon fed entertainment or information. The act of reading is movement, it’s action, it’s the ultimate act of feeding the brain. I’m by no means saying there aren’t any films, tv shows or documentaries that don’t do this, there are many I have enjoyed, and let me add these genres bring to the table their own perspectives and influences, but it is still entirely different from taking the time, the journey with a work of fact or fiction.

When reading a book your mind has the chance to visualise the descriptions, to paint its own pictures, landscapes and situations. The mind can give faces to characters and their emotions, colours to the sky and texture to the conversations. How many times have you read a book, then seen a film adaption and felt there was just so much missing? It’s very few and far between that I’ve seen the film and preferred it to the book. You may agree.

With a book you choose to invest time, you choose to devote a period of your life to that piece of work that the author has dedicated time in their life to produce, dedicated time to carve out a whole new world, dedicated time to hand over the inner workings of their mind. It’s a beautiful trade. Books can be viewed as simply the action of placing words in particular orders. But of course, anyone who has tried to write intuitively knows that this isn’t the case and that it takes time to cogitate, meditate and grasp what needs to be said, how it is to be conveyed, described, with what turn of phrase, what idiom to use to ensure the reader interprets the authors intention in their indelible markings.

Language has been a huge part of our evolution enabling us with the ability to communicate. The symbiotic relationship between author and writer is very special. One can’t exist without the other. Yes, authors can write for catharsis, but a book really doesn’t come into itself until a reader discovers and finds pleasure, a sojourn, a temporary home in those pages. Such is the importance of reading and the written word.

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