An Answer to a Common Objection

One of the books through which I’ve been reading (and working) recently is Susan Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind. It’s a practical and encouraging guide to a classical self-education through reading the great books of literature. Near the beginning, in a chapter on “The Act of Reading,” she responds to a common objection that often serves as a rationale (however unjustifiable) for not even attempting to read serious books. The objection is: But I read so slowly; it will take me forever to get through those lists of Great Books! Her answer is “spot on”:

“Reading is a life-long process. There’s no hurry, no semester schedule, no end-of-term panic, no final exam. The idea that fast reading is good reading is a twentieth-century weed, springing out of the stony farmland cultivated by the computer manufacturers. As Kirkpatrick Sale has eloquently pointed out, every technology has its own internal ethical system. Steam technology made size a virtue. In the computerized world, faster is better, and speed is the highest virtue of all. When there is a flood of knowledge to be assimilated. the conduits had better flow fast.
But the pursuit of knowledge is centered around a different ethic. The serious reader is not attempting to assimilate a huge quantity of information as quickly as possible, but to understand a few many-sided and elusive ideas. The speed ethic shouldn’t be transplanted into an endeavor that is governed by very different ideals.”

Amen to that! So why not start today to nourish the life of the mind for the love of God?

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