I was listening to a recent episode of the Read to Lead podcast this week and the guest was talking about the importance of reading. You probably aren’t too surprised by that, given the subject of the podcast is reading.
Guest Angie Morgan said you can’t argue that you don’t have time to read because we don’t have time to not read.
That was sufficiently profound that I felt prompted to write a blog post. A blog post on the blog where I spend a considerable amount of time talking about the farm by way of the books I am sharing with you.
I don’t have time to NOT read.
Because there is so much I do not know….too much I will never figure out or even think of without guidance. The depth of my ignorance is boundless. Reading does not alleviate me of the need for thinking for myself. Rather, it allows me the opportunity to catch up. Why do we ask the Muse to sing of the wrath of Peleus’ son Achilles? Because he brought so much pain upon the Achaeans. Because Achilles thought he wanted a short life and everlasting glory but, when later talking with Odysseus, changed his mind. He would have preferred a long life. Because we can see by their example how badly we can screw things up when responding to emotions rather than to reason.
Humans have shared read the works of Homer for 3,000 years. Is that by accident? I don’t think so.
Because I can’t tell the future.
I know very little about Neil Gaiman. I have seen his name on spines at the library and at book stores. Fortunately, the Milk is on our shelf and I suspect my kids know all about him. But I don’t. I have only read this article quoting him. Rather than quote the whole article, which you should read and consider, I’ll point out this sentence:
The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.
But I can influence the future, just as Gaiman says in the post above. I can raise my children to wonder at worlds that will never exist but are reflections of worlds that could be. I can help guide my children through these worlds, the concepts and consequences the writer is presenting. Jean Valjean was not real but his impact can be felt. Bilbo Baggins, like Luke Skywalker, was an unlikely hero with a glowing sword…but a hero nonetheless. Jean and Bilbo teach my children about doing what is right in spite of the cost in a way they can relate to where they are now.
Because I don’t want to screw this up.
Is that silly? Or obvious? I want to be a good husband. A good father. Even a good employee and citizen. I want to understand the historical definition of each of those roles and I find my way through them. Not only do I seek to understand how previous generations raised my fathers, I seek to know why. And what traps did they fall into that I can avoid? Because it’s not enough to turn infants into adults-sized bodies. I want to shape the minds trapped in those bodies. And I can’t do it alone. I have to rely on outside help. Marcus Aurelius’ great-grandfather said exactly this:
From my great-grandfather, not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home, and to know that on such things a man should spend liberally.
While you can’t learn to swim from a book, we rely on the perspective and experience of a wide variety of authors to teach us. And we do spend liberally. Amazon gets a frightening portion of our budget. So does the library in the form of overdue fees but that’s another story.
Obviously my focus in on my home but it goes beyond that. After Julie and the kids, I spend the most time with my employees and co-workers. I can influence the future of the company by encouraging others to explore, learn and grow. It’s as easy as asking, “Hey, whatcha reading these days?”
The most typical answer is, “Nothing. I don’t have time to read. Hey, did you see that last episode of Zombies Murdering People? It was Awesome!”
No, man. I don’t have time to watch watch Zombies Murdering People. There is too much I don’t know…don’t understand and haven’t explored. In short, I am too stupid to watch Zombies Murdering People.
How about you? Whatcha reading these days?
I came down kind of hard on Zombies Murdering People and for that I am sorry. It may be that in 100 years we will look back on the various episodes of Zombies Murdering People and reflect on the changes the show wrought in the human spirit. It may prove to become a classic. But the odds are against it. Jefferson wrote that the US was better for its lack of printing presses compared to France. France had plenty of paper for the toilet but the US only printed the things that had proven their worth.
So I’ll offer Zombies Murdering People the benefit of the doubt and I’ll just let it be. And while its worth is measured I’ll occupy my time on tested and proven resources.