Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Fundamentalist

And perspective is exactly what is wanted. 
At a time when events move so quickly and 
So much information is transmitted, 
The ability to slow down and get perspective, 
Along with the ability to get in somebody else's shoes,
Those two things have been invaluable to me.
- President Barack Obama

I have loved to read for practically my entire life.  Teaching me how to read, which my oldest brother Bill did before my second birthday, remains the greatest, never-to-be-equaled gift that anyone has ever given me.  Reading not only fueled my hunger to learn but also provided me with a means for taking a walk around, outside of my own self.  

And as a phenobarbital-dependent, epileptic child prone to throwing down the occasional grand mal seizure, the world I occupied in my day-to-day as a little boy was not always one in which I had attained any measurable level of popularity.  Thus, being able to escape for periods of time into a world in which I was limited, only, by my imagination and never by my affliction appealed to me to a degree that I lack the ability to properly articulate.  

I smiled more than once when I read the transcript of President Obama's Friday, January 13, 2017 interview with Michiko Kakutani, the chief book critic for the New York Times, on the topic of "What Books Mean to Him", which appeared on the paper's web site yesterday.  Irrespective of your politics, including but not limited to for whom you cast your ballot in '08, '12, or '16, I think you might consider the several minutes required to read the transcript of the interview to be time well-spent.  If you are a less enthusiastic reader than I or simply have less time than that to devote to the exercise, then you can read the piece itself.  

The deeper we "progress" (giving that word the broadest-possible definition) into the 21st Century, the more removed we appear to be from the ability to "slow down".  Ah, the paradox.  That which we need most urgently is that which we resist most ferociously.  God forbid we do not seem to be as wired, as connected, as hip as the next person.  Go fast or go home, right?  


We might all be better served if instead of moving superficially through as many things as we can for as long as we can as the human equivalents of flat stones on the smooth surface of a mountain lake, we traded distance for depth.  Slow down.  Go deep.  Do not simply read, but, do so for content and comprehend.  Do not simply hear but, instead, truly listen.  The "limited attention span" Olympics will still be going forward on every regularly-scheduled channel when you decide to opt back into the silliness.  

They will still be going on when you opt back out, again, take in a healthy gulp of air, and dive deep...

...and the deeper you dive , the more you realize just how little you miss them.  If at all.