Why you should do yourself a favor and read a book

February 24, 2012

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not a technophobe. In fact, I happen to love technology and even believe we are perhaps the only generation in humankind who have benefitted the most from the digital revolution.

I do however believe, many of us may not realize yet, the wisdom of delineating our relationship with technology – this could be one reason why I am always two minded about the benefits of technology – it’s hard not to pessimitic about the advent of the digital age, when all the digital revolution seems to deliver (to me at least) is mass hearing impairment whenever I see droves of people hermetically cocooned in their world of ipod’s and ipad’s? You be the judge yourself.

Neither can I take comfort from the idea, quality time these days has been so evacuated of it’s intrinsic worth and meaning whenever I see people twittering or sending a few SMS’s whenever they are with their loved one’s. To paraphrase, they are together, yet apart, there and yet somewhere else.

Einstein once rued, the sum of his fears was when technology preceeds humanity – have we reached that end point in human history. You be the judge.

Whatever your conclusions, this should at least prompt all of us to ask. What then is the solution to our frittering brains? If I had to point to one antidote for the ills of our age – it is probably to return back to the age of the book. I am not referring to Kindle or ipad. I mean real books that we need to chop down trees and kill Orang Utans to produce– the paper book that doesn’t beep or flash or link or let you watch a thousand videos till your brain is like Bugis terminal.

One reason why I am a big fan of real books and the lost art of reading is – it is the ONLY way I really know to create an opportunity for deep spirited concentration and sharpening the mind. I would have you all know reading these days isn’t just reading – that may well be true in the age of candles and beeswax, but in the digital age, reading is nothing short an act of resistance in a landscape of ceaseless distraction…. It requires us to do many things that we are not accustomed to doing and may probably never be able to do (if we continue to shackle ourselves to technology without ever once audit the cost), as so many of us have already been appropriated by the technological revolution without even realizing how corrosive this transaction really is – for starters when you begin to read a book. You’re acutely aware you need to fight the urge to look up or succumb to some excuse that would allow you to do something else beside reading – to put it another way, when we return to real books, we return to a time of reckoning where we are compelled to get to know ourselves all over again. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each sentence in its moment, to bear the beauty of the prose and to let the narrative prevail. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise.

That’s why we need book. Because most humans have a desire to engage in deep thought and deep concentration. Those muscles are necessary for deep feeling and deep spirited engagements. Most humans don’t want to settle for nanobites; they want whole meals to nourish the intellect and set their mind free.

Pick up a book today and start reclaiming back what the digital age has stolen from you – trust me when you sit down and finish the first chapter without ever getting up to go to the fridge or to respond to that SMS, you will know exact why I used the word “reclaim.”

Darkness 2012

“I like bookshops. I like them so much that sometimes I can spend the whole day in a bookshop or library. In the old days when there used to be second hand book shops, I used to enjoy the whole experience of hunting for books, it was just a delightful mix of serendipity and epiphany, like being able to discover a first edition leather bound Dorian Grey and turning to a page that says, “To my one and only love, James.” And realizing that bastard flogged it off it to second hand book shop. It is those sort of little things that really draw me to real books. But the biggest thing that continues to attract me about books is, I cannot think of a better way for a man to learn how to be all alone with a book. In this age, when everyone has an attention span of a housefly and all they seem to do is shift their interest perpetually from this or that without every settling down – it is very seductive to see a woman in a public place just stilling her mind as she journeys through the power of the written word. There she is magnificent, calm and still, a lotus on a calm lake sorrounded by a lingering mist. And all around her there is chaos and turmoil – this is control, this is power, this is the individual radiating out and touching me.”

(Extracted from a thread recently in Ekunaba – this post has been proudly brought to you by the Brotherhood Press and has been transmitted by the newly commissioned Dimitri Class space station KDD Yah Ah Loy and the hospital deep space vessel KDD Bunga Raya.)


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