Patching Cracks

I read 5 books last week. Typically, I have been reading 1 or 2 books a week this year, but last week I set a personal record. I’m not a speed reader; in fact, I read embarrassingly slowly. I don’t have a lot of free time. With the church’s annual Halloween party happening last week, I was especially busy. I managed to increase my reading time by eliminating two things from my habits: I stopped reading, listening, or watching most news (the Mountaineer excluded, of course) and I deleted Facebook from my cell phone, limiting my Facebook time to the computer and only for limited times when I did. Whenever I felt the urge to peruse a news site or scroll mindlessly through my Facebook timeline, I spent a few minutes reading a book on my Kindle. It’s crazy how much time accumulated so quickly. A minute or two here and there throughout the day over the course of a week added up to a more significant chunk of time than I realized, enough for me to read 3 books.

The idea for this change came out of a book I read a few weeks ago about thinking habits. In one of the chapters, the author compared reading the news to eating candy or junk food. It’s easy to digest, it usually is written to give you an emotional sugar high, and it doesn’t do much to nurture mental or personal growth. Further, most of it relates to matters I cannot impact in any significant way, which is why local news remained in my reading. Local news pertains directly to my life, whereas most other news has nothing to do with me apart from acting as a distraction from my life. For example, if I read an article about the excessively contentious political campaign, get angry, brood for a few minutes, and then move on because there is very little I can do to impact the situation. Or I might read an article about the latest celebrity divorce or scandal. Then when I am done, I move on without actually acquiring any usable information. This week, I just invested the time elsewhere: turning pages in a book related to the work I do or something that could impact my life or some other thing that will help me develop my mind. It was significantly more time than I expected.

I am not advocating total ignorance of the world around us. Obviously, we are responsible as citizens to be informed when we vote or aware of the world around us. However, the glut of news and information that is begging us to look long enough to accrue advertising dollars far exceeds what is necessary to be an informed citizen. Facebook is even worse in this regard. Further, reading a couple of good books or in depth investigations regarding the issues or current events will do more to inform me as a citizen than the various headlines that turn up on news sites on a daily basis. The scary thing I discovered this week is how much time it actually takes up with so little payoff. Most of what I lost by cutting back was the agitation and worry associated with knowing about injustices that I can do nothing about. What I gained was time I didn