People don’t always realize how important reading is. I’m not referring to simple literacy, but rather reading for information, comprehension, and pleasure. In our so-called digital age, there is an abundance of avenues one can take to learning — videos, computer programs and even electronic games, to name only a few — and yet, as a whole, society seems to be hemorrhaging intelligence.
Some would argue that point. I’ll gladly defend, only at another time and another place.
Yes, society finds itself lacking intelligence. Access to an overwhelming amount of data lies at our very fingertips, an almost instantaneous search away, and still the prior statement remains true. The reason is simple: information does not equate to intelligence.
Knowledge is nothing. Facts without roots, a ship without sails — data takes us nowhere. Connection, comprehension, the possessive desire to piece it all together, to make it mean something — herein dwells intelligence. It crouches on the floor and stares into the fire, and through it’s gaze it imagines, it discovers, it creates.
The written word represents an idea, and naturally retains a certain purity. It can be examined again and again, analyzed thoroughly, and tends to burn deeper into ones memory than it would had it been spoken. It is permanent insofar as a thing can be permanent, and with that permanence it slows ignorance’s advance.
This purity lends itself to romanticism, yet not to the detriment of practicality.
Thoughts of the past are responsible for thoughts of the future. We all want to make the world a better place, but can we do so without giving proper attention to the ideas and opinions that came before us? The short answer is no. Good ideas rest firmly on a well-researched and understood foundation of old ideas. Those old ideas represent our reality, and without a firm grasp on reality new ideas tend to unfold harmfully.
With all its intrinsic beauty, the written word’s value is entirely dependent on the reader. Will he comprehend? Will he forget? Will he go the extra mile, as it were, and interpret — think for himself?
And, unfortunately we must also ask that most basic question: Will he even read?
Looking around, observing the thing we call society and the people we call neighbors, that truly is the most frightening question of all.
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