A few days ago my son mentioned how he is a slow reader. He said it apologetically.
No need to apologize, I said, and reminded him he was speaking to a writer. The hours that writers spend writing and re-writing, shaping first the plot, chapter by chapter, scene by scene, and then the editing, the re-working, the polishing — is that not worth your reading time?
I mull over words and punctuation as I weave a story and the people who live inside the story. Those little markings settle onto the page — how does it look? How does it sound? How does it connect with a reader, and become more than the sum of many little markings?
Why do you read?
Relish. That’s not pickles. That’s what you do when you read. You pick up the object of “book,” and feel it in your hands, some covers glossy, some matte. Some spines are new and give a creak or even sigh as you open. Some are worn, have been read more than once. Some corners are turned over to mark a memorable moment or phrase.
You begin to read and you open yourself to the offering of the story. You take that disbelief you exercise in your workplace or watching the news, and you set it aside: you are young again, in the garden, that magic place from which the rest of us — those not reading with you — have been banished. Shhh. Someone is telling you a story. You sink into the telling. You feel pleasure.
Did you pick up on that? It makes you young! Stories and wonder, the elixirs of youth. Are yours, with reading.
Wonder is in fiction and nonfiction, poetry, and more. Read books that are outside your knowledge, outside your go-to. Read books that are mentioned in a podcast, or that you see on a friend’s shelves. Read books that cause you to say, “I did not know that!” Or “Thank you for the reminder…that life is good.” The slower you read, the longer the feeling of wonder and openness — the domain of the youth-filled.
You don’t find wisdom quickly. It is a process. Reading and savoring words are a part of that process. Youth and wisdom are rarely on the same billboard. But reading does that.
Reading affords the opportunity to rehearse parts of life. To pre-live, and re-live. To reflect, and piece together. Stories can hold you to the fire, and let you learn without getting burned. But to put yourself through the process takes time.
Here’s the best part, though: slowed time is time expanded. Reading really doesn’t take up that much time, not when you factor in the benefits… if you are going to begin to measure such things.
You know how when you see someone speeding…or whipping through a red light — may be saving all of four minutes in a one hour drive somewhere? Maybe being pulled over by someone in a uniform?
When you speed you miss things. Sometimes you even miss where you are going.
They — you know, the Ubiquitous They — claim that if you read slowly, your mind wanders and you’ll start to dream. As if that is negative.
Read enough, and you will find your own reading rhythm, and this will change with the nature of what you are reading. Some books lend themselves to a wandering mind, and to invoke day-dreaming can be so rewarding. Or not. You’ll know. Know when to invite dreaming. Know your own pace. Know when to close the book, and stare out the window or into a loved one’s face. You’ll have a better sense of how to read that face if you know how to read a good book.
Allow yourself to be moved and changed by words. Or to give foundation to your resolve and convictions.
A daily habit
Give reading a portion of each day, and keep a journal in which to log your reads, with a few lines of salient points. Your responses.
The slow habit has a way of settling deeply into your being, and becoming a light.
And for the children in your life: