Recently I stayed up until 4 am, catching up on season 2 of The Orville, eating junk food, and playing sudoku on my phone. I just didn’t feel like going to bed. And I’m a grown up, so I get to make these stupid decisions. Naturally, I regretted it when the alarm went off, but hey, that’s life.
I have many fond memories of making that same stupid decision, only the activity in question was a really good book. I haven’t read a book in a long time. Nobody told me that married life and just day-to-day life would be so busy. No regrets at all about being married, but I do miss reading books.
I long to encase myself in flannel, hunker down in a comfy bed with a warm dog, and lose myself in another place and time. And no, the book can’t be on kindle, either. No glowing screen allowed. It has to be a cozy, heavy, substantial thing of print and binding. A dog-eared, page-stained, dusty old tome. That’s what I want. Yeah.
It’s not that I’ve stopped reading entirely, of course. I spend the bulk of my day either writing this blog or reading various and sundry articles on the web. But that doesn’t feed my need.
From childhood into my late thirties, I pretty much carried a book with me wherever I went. Books were my security blankets. They were my shields against the chaos of the world. They were how I blocked out the dysfunction of my home life.
I have no idea when or how I stopped carrying a book everywhere I went. I suspect it was about the time I got a laptop. And while I do love my lappy, I sometimes wish I could go back to being that book-nosed girl that I used to be, if only for a little while.
I’d love to see some book recommendations in the comments below!
Raise your hand if you’ve NEVER, not even once, called in sick to work or school when you’re weren’t technically sick. Anyone? Anyone? (I didn’t think so.)
Back before I was a bridgetender, I pretty much hated every job I had. And I called in sick a lot. Of course, I was younger then, and believed I could get another job quickly and easily, even if I pushed my luck. It also never occurred to me that catastrophic health problems could ever be in my future, and that it might be a good idea to hoard my sick days.
But every once in a while, you just need a break. You know? (Of course you do.)
I think the need for mental health days has increased over time. The world is just too crowded and there’s too much information flying at us from every direction. The pressure is building. It becomes increasingly impossible to keep up, emotionally, financially, politically, and culturally.
Sometimes you just need to push the reset button. Sneak out and see a movie. Or sleep in and hug your dog. Or take a walk in the woods. Or read a good book.
And that’s okay. If you checking out for just one day means the world will stop spinning, then you seriously need to learn how to delegate. Just sayin’.
Recently I stumbled upon a scholarly controversy that I didn’t even know was a thing up to that point. Apparently some researchers doubt that people used to read silently before the middle ages. Several books and articles have been written on the subject.
There seem to be two arguments for this theory. The first is a quote by St. Augustine, in which he complains about visiting Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, and upon entering the room, Ambrose continued to silently read. St. Augustine makes much ado about this, and some interpret this as shock at such unusual behavior, i.e. reading silently. On the other hand, other scholars interpret this to mean that St. Augustine was shocked at Ambrose’s rudeness. I tend to agree with this interpretation, having taken the time to visit people myself, only to have them distracted by the television, the computer, the newspaper, texts, etc. It’s just plain rude to ignore a visitor. I suspect that is a timeless concept.
The other argument is that before the middle ages, the vast majority of texts were written in what’s called scriptura continua. In other words, there were no spaces between words. Talk about your compound words! Howwouldyouliketoreadanentirebookinthischallengingformat?
The argument here is that people did not read silently back then because with scriptura continua, it was impossible to do so. To this I say poppycock. Did you not just read that sentence above silently? I did. Yes, it’s a bit of a struggle. Yes, it’s slow going, but it can be done.
Another reason that I think people read silently is that I’ve read out loud to someone before, and it’s a pain in the behind. After a while, your mouth gets dry. And after that, your voice becomes strained and hoarse. And it takes effort not to reduce your reading to a boring monotone. It’s no fun to read aloud. These physiological truths would have been equally true in ancient times.
And monks, who were well known readers, sometimes took vows of silence. I don’t care how religious you are, doing nothing but your chores during times like those would have made it seem like an eternity. I bet they read, just as they wrote, silently. They were accustomed to listening to internal voices.
Also, we know that libraries existed as far back as 2600 BC. Can you imagine what an unwelcoming din there would be if people were sitting around in a library, each reading a different cuneiform tablet, aloud? Nonsense.
I’m convinced people have read silently for as long as writing has existed. On the other hand, did they read aloud more often than we do now? I’m convinced of that as well, for many reasons. But reading aloud because you want or need to is completely different than reading aloud because you’re incapable of reading silently, or because it has never occurred to you.
First of all, literacy was less common then than it is now. If you have a group of people wanting to hear the news or be entertained by a good story, and the vast majority of them can’t read, then, yes, someone read to them.
Second, books were relatively rare and expensive. Even if you have an entire household of avid readers, if there’s only one book to share between you, then, again, someone would have to do the reading, or else you had to wait your turn.
Third, lighting was at a premium. The average household was lucky to have a candle or two. So it stands to reason that one person might “hog” the light and read to others.
There is a related theory that reading alone in bed was considered highly controversial at one time. What were you reading? Erotica? Why else did you need to be lying down and alone to do it? What wicked, wicked thoughts were you having that they couldn’t be shared? Gasp! Scandalous!
Now that theory, I’ll buy. Freedom of thought goes hand in hand with reading, and such freedom always has been controversial. I bet you didn’t realize you were a revolutionary, did you?
No, this is NOT a cheap attempt to get you to buy my book, although I’d love it if you would. Actually, I do manage to raise my gaze from my navel every now and again to read the writing of others. That’s how I came across this rare treat.
The Scottish Buddhist Cookbook is by Jay Craig, a new coworker of mine. It’s quirky and irreverent and hilarious on the order of David Sedaris. You get an insight into Jay’s world. He’s bipolar, and clearly many of his life choices have been made during the manic times, but he’s all the more charming for it. His coping skills, when he chooses to employ them, are really amazing. He has a very eclectic group of friends, and he is accepting of all their eccentricities because he knows he has his fair share.
What I love most about this book, aside from the frequent laughs, is that I learned so much from it. After reading it, I could build my own bagpipe from plumbing supplies if the spirit moved me. I also learned about the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, the ultimate way to give an ex-wife closure, kilts, Huggy Jesus dolls, how NOT to break out of a mental health facility, hoarders, and, obviously, Scottish Buddhism.
Best of all, interspersed with the fascinating anecdotes is the quintessential single male’s recipe book. Easy things, mostly for crock pots, that are guaranteed to harden your arteries in no time flat. I can’t wait to try the meatloaf, the pot roast, the lasagna, and the carnitas. However, the double deep fried Scottish eggs might be slightly beyond my skill set.
Fair warning: the language can be a bit foul at times, and if you are the least bit religiously sensitive, you might want to give this book a pass. It’s not for the easily offended. Personally, I found it equal parts funny and thought provoking. I’m not sure I’d want to live full time in Jay’s world, but it’s an awfully fun place to visit!
I was just the right age to be tortured by the Watergate hearings. I was 8 years old in 1973 and those hearings pre-empted daytime television for weeks. At that age, it felt like years. I had no idea that a gripping piece of political history was unfolding before my eyes. I thought I would lose my mind, since television was one of my primary forms of after school entertainment back then. I remember wailing, “I’m bored!!!” to my mother, and she’d reply wearily, “Read a book.” Usually I’d just sit on my swing and cry. I was such a brat.
I have no idea where I got the idea that I should be entertained at all times. It’s insane, when you think about it. Saying you’re bored is like saying you are entitled to constant pleasure. I don’t know anyone who enjoys that level of privilege. Even the super-rich have to suffer through board meetings and long flights to Australia. Boredom visits us all.
I suspect that Generation Z will have an even harder time coping with boredom, because they have so many different ways to avoid it. If they’re treated to presidential investigations (fingers crossed, here), well, there’s always Netflix. I would have killed to binge watch something, anything, I Love Lucy, whatever, back in 1973.
Nowadays I’m kind of grateful for boredom. Please, God, give me a routine, predictable day with no surprises. Because the older you get, the more you experience those moments of “un-boredom” that are exciting little tastes of hell. The death of loved ones. Waiting for medical test results. Those times when your kid drops off the radar. Political shenanigans. Work SNAFUs. That strange noise in the back yard when you’re home alone.
You’re not bored at those moments, believe you me! Not even a little bit! That’s when you realize that boredom is actually a luxury.
So boredom can visit me any time it wants. I’m always grateful for an excuse to take a nap. And yeah, okay, my mother was right. You can never read too many books.
As if I didn’t already have an excuse to celebrate on the 4th of July, this year my blog reached its 100,000th view on that day! I am so honored to know that even one person is willing to take the time out of their busy schedule to read my words, but to think that it’s happened 100,000 times leaves me stunned.
That’s a hard number for me to wrap my head around. Even CenturyLink Field, the football stadium here in Seattle, only has a seating capacity of 72,000. That’s a lot of readers, a lot of sets of eyes. If those views stretched out to one per day, it would take nearly 274 years to reach 100,000.
And here’s my favorite fun fact about this number: in astronomy, 100,000 meters is defined as the altitude in which space flight begins. And so the adventure continues, as long as there is someone out there willing to view my blog.