Sunday, January 1, 2012

For the love of reading

My new tea mug
My friends, Rama and her husband gifted me the above mug this holiday season. I love it! Of course, I love Schulz's Peanuts, but I also identify myself with the specific quote on the mug. It so aptly describes the current state of my mind! Although I have spent a large portion of my 36+ years of life studying (or may be because of it), I feel like I know so little. The statement might sound a little cliched, but it's true. In any case, I feel fortunate that the realization that I am ignorant despite years of study has not demotivated me from studying more. In fact, I love reading more than ever. That said, the journey hasn't been without problems. The biggest hurdle has come from the distractions of technology. Today, the distractions of TV, internet, and smart phones have severely hindered the development and maintenance of good reading habits. Sure, there's also a lot of valuable information on the TV and internet, but how many of us spend more time on the History Channel and Wikipedia than we do watching junk on television and following Facebook? In addition, can television ever stimulate our critical thinking and creative faculties the way books do? Groucho Marx, in his characteristic style of humor, once said, "I find television to be very educating.  Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book." But where do you go when you yourselves turn on the television? And  where do you escape if you have the distractions of smartphones and iPods constantly glued onto you? I'm not saying that these instruments do not have their utilities. Of course, they do. In fact, I don't own a television or a smartphone, but I do use a laptop, which is the instrument of my work. Unfortunately, it is also the instrument of my entertainment, and that creates distractions for work, reading, and other creative pursuits. So, I am starting this new year with a 30-day challenge of turning off all my gadgets (and that includes my work laptop as well) for at least an hour after dinner everyday to uninterruptedly explore the pleasures of reading.
John Milton's quote at the entrance to the Main Reading Room of the New York Public Library.

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