While I am reading these great books, they do what good, hearty, rich literature is designed to do: they make me think. And as I think, I am increasingly aware of how the whole reading/ thinking/ learning process is impacted by outside forces. What forces? I’m glad you asked (lol)!
Technological conveniences change the process. As one example, I used an online copy of Crime and Punishment. The immediate benefit, of course, is cost; this new thinking campaign is not free, you know. But as an observer of my own process, I quickly discovered a few changes to my “old school” flipping of pages:
- I had no place to take notes
- My brain fails to complete all of those learning tasks associated with tactile sensitivity ( see more here)
Scholarly examination changes the process. On page 34 of #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, I read the following passage about the way that Mma Ramotswe was informally educated by her older cousin:
‘…the cousin would fill a basket-work tray with familiar objects and a blanket would then be draped over it and one object removed. “What has been taken from the tray?”…She [Mma Ramotswe ]was never wrong, this child who watched everybody and everything with her wide, solemn eyes. And slowly, …the qualities of curiosity and awareness were nurtured in the child’s mind.’
Reading this reminded me so much of a high school social studies class and an exercise in being observant. We were asked to look around the classroom for a moment, taking in all that surrounded us. Then we were asked to close our eyes. With eyes closed, we were then asked to identify the location of various objects in the room. I learned something about myself that day: I’m not very observant.
For a long time, much of my reading has involved skimming, gleaming, and mining for enough gold to pull together lesson plans or class discussions. It’s been forever since I read a book cover-to-cover that wasn’t work- or school-related.
Effort changes the process. True reading is, in a sense, work. It requires a level of engagement with the book, a willingness to give it undivided attention. As another example, I’ve learned through studying with the kids the value of learning about an author before reading his works. I learned this about Dostoevsky in the preface of Crime and Punishment:
- He was a son of two believers in Christ
- He was very poor as a child
- He was a scholar, an engineer by formal education
- He was imprisoned because of his scholarly pursuits and condemned to death
- He sentenced was commuted to hard labor
It is from this pain that he writes such powerful works. If you compare these insights to a more modern writer whose story is still being told, it isn’t hard to realize how much of the undercurrent is lost in reading simply because we have little means of connecting with the writer.
So, I am working on being more observant, I am embracing a new way of digesting books while I cherish the old, and I am getting to know new, old people—my own personal Dead Poet Society, as it were. For sure, reading IS thinking.