This year’s Lent, I decided to give up books for 40 days. It’s rare ‘sacrifice’ because reading seems to be something that one can easily give up (not true for me).
It’a also seen as a good thing. But at the rate that I was going (though much less than known avid readers like Bill Gates who read an average of 50 books a year), I’m not sure it really was.
I feel that consuming/thinking, gets in the way of creating/doing. I thought going on a book fast on Lent is the best choice – because I won’t give up reading for anyone else!
The last book I read before my 40 Days Book Fast: The Course of Love by Alain de Botton. I haven’t read (contemporary) romance novels since secondary school. But this is not your typical happily-ever-after romance novel. It’s about the reality of love, in which romance only play a small part of. I read it with much anxiety/ stress; we are all duped by the idea of Romanticism! We must navigate relationship(a) not just with feelings but with skills.
Here’s what happened when I stopped reading:
1. Withdrawal symptoms
Reading is a natural thing to do. Bored? Read. Stress? Read. Curious? Read. Feel stupid? Read. Going away on a holiday? Find something to read. Exploring a new place? Check out a local bookstore. So when I couldn’t pick up a book, I actually felt jittery. Like “What am I going to do???!!” I didn’t know that a seemingly good hobby can be bad.
2. Explore other hobbies/ get out of my comfort zone
Not being able to read made me realise that I have other hobbies like drawing and playing the ukulele. That I could also try to do other things that I normally do not like to do, like watching anime. I ended up drawing heaps of Stickgeek comic, played a few songs on the uke, watched some anime/movies e.g Castle In The Sky, Princess Mononoke, Rear Window, What If…, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
3. Do more
Because I have nothing to when I’m alone, I think I did more things. I either work, tidy up, and cook.
4. Move more
Do you know why ‘jocks’ are ‘stupid’? Because they exercise their body, not their brain. Do you know why ‘geeks’ are ‘uncool’? Because they exercise their brain, not their social skills.
I believe that we need a balance in life. Neither one is better. We should not conform ourself into a particular category that we have inclination to. Instead, we should strive to be better!
So when I was severely warned that giving up books was a stupid thing to do, I knew it wasn’t for my case. Though I would much prefer to read, I went on my exercise mat. Instead of sitting on a couch to read, I do sit ups. I did move more than I normally do. And I think it’s a good thing.
5. Lighter conversation/ less idea
What you say reflects on what you think.
“Since the time of the ancient Greeks, one’s spoken words have been seen as an expression of one’s inward thoughts and intellectual capacity,” said Edward Schiappa, professor of rhetoric and media at MIT (source)
I think that was the big downside of not reading. I felt a little dull. During the duration of my book fast, I realise conversation was lighter than usual. I speak about people more than I do ideas.
I just finished reading ‘Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future’ by Ashlee Vance and Show Your Work by Austin Kleon, and if you speak to me now I’ll love to talk about electric cars, space travel, human as multiplanetary species and how to exhibit our work more. I didn’t have much interesting things to say/ or new idea to discuss when I didn’t read.
It’s boring but its true: moderation is the key. I think I might sometimes read excessively. Its like “Oooo, what’s new out there to read?”.
I think we should be mindful. Why do you read? Do you read because you want to learn something that will enhance my life/career? Reading for leisure is good too but I think we should also indulge in other leisurely thing like going out for a hike with friends.
I think I want to read to inspire me to create. Not read because I have nothing better to do, because I do.