Most people are the information equivalent of binge eaters. They fall for literary indulgence, stuffing themselves full of informational garbage like most of Tik Tok, Instagram, current news, etc.
It’s a common misconception that adults don’t read anymore. In fact, the average American reads for over two hours a day. The problem is not that people aren’t reading; it’s what they are reading.
People’s insatiable hunger for processed food equivalents of information leads to literary anorexia in more healthy media. People stuff themselves so full of trash, they have no mental capacity for great books, thought leaders, fantastic articles, etc.
And it’s not only the average American. Even the most literate and intelligent of society can fall for literary indulgence. Many modern Professors don’t read classic literature or quality works anymore.
Instead, they waste their intellectual capabilities arguing over political news and complaining about the world's problems without doing anything about it. In the times these professors do pick up something quality to read, they do so not out of literary curiosity but literary boredom more than anything else.
Like eating too much food leads to indigestion, literary indulgence makes it hard to digest anything you read.
Arthur Schopenhauer, a famous German Philosopher, believed reading was the antithesis of thinking. Schopenhauer once said, "The safest way of having no thoughts of one’s own is to take up a book every moment one has nothing else to do."
He believed to cultivate our minds, we have to resist exotic thoughts and allow our own native ideas to develop. Schopenhauer realized you don’t gain wisdom simply by living. You have to gain it through thinking on experience.
Nietzsche, his disciple, maintained long walks and mountain air was more inspiring than hours poring over syllogisms. During these treks, he composed most of his writing while thinking.
While I don’t agree with their extremist beliefs on reading, their ideas do have some merit. Like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, I know the dangers of literary indulgence.
I read an enormous amount but still spend time working on the other three pillars of an effective reading habit.
When I run out of ideas, I come back and read some more. I realize there are more books in the world than I could ever finish. Instead of falling for a desperate consumption fueled by FOMO (The Fear of Missing Out), I accept I won’t read everything and deeply engage with the books I do read.
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Thanks to Ian Helfant for the conversations which helped form this blog post.