Commentary

Dogeared: A Love Story

Ever since I was a high school sophomore, I have wanted a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary. The multi-volume, utterly (and, perhaps, overly) comprehensive work documenting the history and hilarity of our English language is as venerable as it is voluminous. Regardless of its actual utility in my life, I cannot help but be gripped by the history and authenticity that such a work represents; an academic pyramid of Giza, standing tall as a symbol of the human race’s commitment to knowledge.

But then I stumbled upon this article. Yes, it’s two years old but who the hell reads The Telegraph? Britains? We all know they aren’t really people. Anyway, reading the Telegraph article, I experienced a sensation whose closest analogue I can only imagine was shared by aspiring astronauts at the announcement of the termination of the Space Shuttle program. This pinnacle of human knowledge and achievement, of academic refinement and time-defying aspiration was suddenly gone.

Yes, I mean gone. The multi-volume print edition is, barring a meltdown of all Kindle processors, gone. The English language still exists, the OED3 is still due for release in electronic form, and the knowledge will still be available to the academic elite, but in my heart, this isn’t enough. Without the great bound works of knowledge, it feels like we’ve let go of something very real and very precious in our society. I continue to flail, kicking and screaming against the end of print books because they represent something beautiful in our world.

Facebook has digitized human interaction, and cheapened it in the process. Text communication has dumbed down our vocabularies and emotional IQs. What is a book without the experience of the meandering bookstore discovery, the substance of printed paper, and the physical connection that comes with turning the pages and smelling the other-worldly glorious odor of a freshly printed page? Simply churning through media without regard for the visceral journey of reading or experiencing it just feels vapid and, above all, tragic.

The convenience is great, yes. The ubiquity with which print media can now make its way into the hands of young children and even knowledge hungry adults is akin to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. But even so, do we need to abandon the majesty of a printed book altogether? We do not digitize teddy bears for a reason: because in many cases, there are still intense and important emotional and physical sensations to be felt from physical contact with something of substantive worth. I hope that in our quest to become a more informed society, we do not lose sight of that very human component of ourselves.

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And you look good doing it.
Habits, How-To

Read Dammit

Read.

No fancy lead-in, no great anecdote, just do it. Reading is not only intellectually stimulating, but entertaining and extremely calming.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Pick a topic you are interested in

I love philosophy. Whether I get it or not, I enjoy how cereberal the entire experience of reading philosophy is. Some of us like cooking, some of us like computers, some of us like history. Regardless of what you like, pick it and delve into it. There are literally thousands of books on every topic known to man and the added bonus of your interest will make the habit more rewarding and easier to establish. Do what you love!

2. Start small

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Furthermore, no one likes staring at a 500 foot tall mountain and thinking “I have to climb that?” So give yourself a break when you’re first getting started and  (after choosing something you like) pick something you feel comfortable with! Picking up a 700 page novel can be an exhilirating challenge but if you aren’t in the habit already, start with something you can finish to give yourself the ever-rewarding dopamine prize of an accomplishment.

3. Have fun

Yes, it’s a cliché but it’s also true. If you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing, then why are you doing it? Being open-minded is important, as is having the discipline to keep working on a rewarding book, but if you aren’t deriving pleasure from your liesure activities, then there really isn’t much point in doing them.

It’s a new year, read a book. It’s no secret formula or hidden ingredient to success (or is it?), but I promise, you’ll thank me.

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