The death of reading is threatening the soul

This well-written online article appeared at The Washington Post on July 21, 2017, and was penned by popular Christian author Philip Yancey. Following the recent lead of other avid readers and writers, Yancey too laments the loss of “deep reading” in his own life, the loss of which, he says, endangers the soul, especially for Christians.

Below are a few paragraphs from his thoughts on this important subject (find the full article at the link at the end). I reference this article along with others like it, not simply to mourn the loss of good reading habits among Christians, but to encourage us to think think seriously about this matter and then inspire us to change our habits so that we may read more and better.

May you too, as I have, profit from Yancey’s lament. Don’t be sad; rejoice at the opportunities before you and get reading!

My crisis consists in the fact that I am describing my past, not my present. I used to read three books a week. One year I devoted an evening each week to read all of Shakespeare’s plays (Okay, due to interruptions it actually took me two years). Another year I read the major works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. But I am reading many fewer books these days, and even fewer of the kinds of books that require hard work.

The Internet and social media have trained my brain to read a paragraph or two, and then start looking around. When I read an online article from the Atlantic or the New Yorker, after a few paragraphs I glance over at the slide bar to judge the article’s length. My mind strays, and I find myself clicking on the sidebars and the underlined links. Soon I’m over at CNN.com reading Donald Trump’s latest tweets and details of the latest terrorist attack, or perhaps checking tomorrow’s weather.

So what can we do to overcome this? Here are some more thoughts, from a positive perspective:

…Charles Chu calculates that at an average reading speed of 400 words per minute, it would take 417 hours in a year to read 200 books—less than the 608 hours the average American spends on social media, or the 1,642 hours watching TV. “Here’s the simple truth behind reading a lot of books,” says Quartz: “It’s not that hard. We have all the time we need. The scary part—the part we all ignore—is that we are too addicted, too weak, and too distracted to do what we all know is important.”

Willpower alone is not enough, he says. We need to construct what he calls “a fortress of habits.” I like that image. Recently I checked author Annie Dillard’s website, in which she states, “I can no longer travel, can’t meet with strangers, can’t sign books but will sign labels with SASE, can’t write by request, and can’t answer letters. I’ve got to read and concentrate. Why? Beats me.” Now that’s a fortress.

I’ve concluded that a commitment to reading is an ongoing battle, somewhat like the battle against the seduction of Internet pornography. We have to build a fortress with walls strong enough to withstand the temptations of that powerful dopamine rush while also providing shelter for an environment that allows deep reading to flourish. Christians especially need that sheltering space, for quiet meditation is one of the most important spiritual disciplines.

Source: The death of reading is threatening the soul

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