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READING IS THE NEW BLACK

Isn’t it high time we brought reading back?

Obviously, if you’re reading this, I’m not talking about you.  However, somewhere and somehow, people have fallen out of love with reading.

What?  You don’t believe that? 

Well, that’s because you’re actually reading right now.  Look … we’ve got to learn to look at harsh, cold reality here.  We can focus on how we’d like things to be, but this is how things ARE.  Just ask the publishing industry.  It’s in tatters.  Just ask me…

Do you know when I think we truly fell out of love with reading?  I think it happened about twenty years ago when we started hearing that marketing slogan …

“YOU DO THE MATH!”

Of course, the decline in math is a whole other issue that really speaks for itself.  Yet I’m talking about the attitude behind that statement.  What that statement, “You do the math!” really says is, “I don’t understand math. It’s too hard for me.  YOU do it!”

Am I right?  Be honest.

I really think that whole, “You do the math!” attitude has also seeped into reading.  Unless you’re someone who loves to read, people would just rather not do it.  It’s either too hard or they’re too lazy.  And of course, there are many serious reasons why the publishing industry is on wobbly legs, but I’m specifically talking about why people don’t read as much these days.

I’ve had the idea to write about this for quite some time, but kept putting if off for fear that addressing this issue would ultimately be seen as self-serving.  You know … a writer complaining about people not reading.  Really?  No agenda there…

But then, Whoopi Goldberg really pushed me over the edge the other day when I heard her say…

“PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO READ!”

I nearly fell out of my chair.  She’s exactly right.

For the past couple of years, I’ve worked on some community projects that require close and frequent communication with others involved.  How do we do that these days?  Email.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve essentially sent out updates of the same email, only to have people say, “I didn’t know that,” OR “When did you say that?” OR “Can you send me that again?”

Okay … we can SAY that this is an EMAIL issue.  Many of us are swamped by literally hundreds of email per day.  Trust me, I’m among you.  However, after searching myself, I don’t believe that we can blame this on email.  This is about US and what we choose to prioritize in our lives.  This is about the fact that we just don’t want to read.  I mean, we don't want to read email ... let alone a BOOK.

Search yourself.  I think you will also find this to be true.

I know, I know.  You don’t have TIME to read everything that’s put in front of you.  Neither do I.  However, after searching myself, I do know that I often MAKE TIME for the things that I WANT to do, even when I’m swamped.

Let’s face it.  We simply do not want to read.

Do you know how you can tell that people don’t want to read?  Let me give you a couple of examples…

Have you ever been with your spouse or friend or whomever and you ask them if they’ve read a certain article in a certain periodical?  Of course, they’ll say, “No,” (because people don’t want to read) but you just so happen to have the article right in front of you and they’ll add …

“Read some of it to me.”

I’ve found myself reading things to people MANY times. Reading something to someone is like spoon-feeding a baby.  You’re sitting there doing all of the work while they’re literally not lifting a finger and are getting their needs and wants met.

Of course, babies have an excuse, but what’s theirs?

I don’t have any evidence to back this up, but I know this is partly what gave rise to audiobooks.  And believe me, I love audiobooks.  They make for great listening while on long road trips.

Let’s face it.  Audiobooks, Cliffnotes, Google and social media have all made reading SO much easier.  They’re all about minimizing the grunt work associated with research and reading.  I’d say they’ve all worked beautifully … maybe too well.  While they’re all wonderful, there is a downside. We now have a society that doesn’t want to “do the math,” if you will, and it shows.  It shows BIG time.

Whenever I’m interviewing someone, I can almost instantly tell if they’re a formidable – or even occasional – reader.  They just seem more intelligent, erudite, sensitive and here’s the real giveaway … OPEN MINDED and dare I say, courteous.

Well-read people don’t rely on their emotions to make a point.  They’re also less likely – although not guaranteed – to engage in name-calling, finger-pointing and relying on their gut reactions in dealing with others.

Well-read people think before they speak.  They don’t say more than need be and don’t usually encourage nonsense.  That’s just my experience with them.

When I started writing this, I was going to call this essay, “Reading Is Fundamental” and reference that childhood reading campaign.  Remember that?  I think I’m showing my age.  Don’t tell anyone.  Actually, I don’t think we’ll have to worry.  Not too many people are reading this anyway.

I’ve decided to call this, “Reading Is The New Black.”  We need to bring reading back into fashion.  Like fashion, reading is “fabulous.”  Reading is one of the best things you can do for yourself in your lifetime.  Reading is like opening your windows on a breezy, summer day.  Reading is like feeling your mind opening while walking through a foreign land … everything is fresh and new.

When you read, you expand your world and open yourself up to new possibilities and new ways of seeing things.  Once you’ve gotten a taste of this, you will no longer be satisfied with doing things the old way.  Ignorance and arrogance, those horrible, fraternal twins that like to pick fights, will no longer enslave you in their dysfunctional grip.

When you read, you get the information first-hand.  You’ll have your own personal interpretation of reality and you won’t likely become a pawn in someone else’s social or political power game.

Reading is the beginning of knowledge and as we all know, knowledge is power.

Whenever I attend a meeting that requires me to have read something beforehand, I always make sure I do so before the meeting.  So many people these days don’t … and they lose out as a result.  When you’ve actually even glanced at something before an important meeting, you give yourself a HUGE advantage.  You’ll stand out and be more knowledgeable. You’ll possess well-earned credibility.  Most of the people in that meeting will NOT have even looked at the email document until the actual meeting ... IF even then.

But keep in mind, the very best reading is the reading we do for the pure joy of it.  Reading rocks.  Show me a reader and I’ll show you a rockstar. 

Reading means you’re ready to do business.  Reading means you ARE business.  Reading for the joy of reading means you can travel the world without even leaving the comfort of your leather club chair in your book-filled living room.  Ahhh … reading.

If we could bring reading back, we could change the status quo.  A well-read person isn’t merely about fashion or style.  A well-read person is a human being of SUBSTANCE.

A well-read person is a leader - either in action or waiting to happen.  A well-read person can scan the human landscape and instantly see the hypocrisy in almost everything.  He or she could become cynical, but chooses to remain hopeful knowing that education is the answer. 

Reading isn’t only about reading.  It’s about having a more informed, better life.  Reading is choosing light over darkness.  Let’s bring reading back.  We won’t regret it.  I’ll even give you the slogan to make it happen …

“READING IS THE NEW BLACK!”

There you go.  If we jump on that, we can watch the numbers rise.  But hey, I don’t know much about fancy numbers …

You do the math.     

 

 

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The Thrill of an Abstract Painting



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