Monday, March 02, 2009

What to do with what I read?

Beyond entertainment purposes, what is the purpose of reading for the sake of learning?  Is learning valuable for it's own sake?  Is the value of life-long learning quantifiable?

Some of you, like me, read a lot for the sake of knowledge.  We also read for entertainment, but we also read out of hunger to understand the world we live in.  We hold onto this hope that if we read to understand, that somehow that understanding will help us make wiser choices, become better humans, make a difference for good in the world.

But that is basically a belief that is difficult to prove.  How do you make the connection between reading some history or philosophy now with making a difference in a decade or two? Or: how do you avoid becoming cynical about the outcome of all this learning.  

So what if I better understand the cause of the housing collapse?  So what if I better understand the causes of global poverty?  So what if I better understand the philosophical underpinnings of our Constitution?  So what if I better understand the effects of consumerism on our religion?  If I am caught up in forces greater than myself, what value comes from trying to better understand it?

Maybe it's better to not seek so much understanding.  Maybe it's better to just live day to day and take life as it comes.  Maybe it's better to stay hungry for greater understanding rather than always trying to feed it.

I've read some great books in my short lifetime.  I hope to read many more great books.  But I read them in the hopes that I will have greater illumination, a better perspective, and thus a better opportunity to make better choices.  But is that what really happens?  Maybe I should just read for entertainment, and if I actually understand anything better, well then good for me!

2 comments:

diannaburt said...

Hmm, very interesting post today. I am a great believer in life-long learning as an attitude, besides in practice. I'm sure you don't read with the idea in the forefront or back of your mind that you will someday learn everything. That's one thing heaven is for. But I think reading for a better understanding is important. Also for a better grasp of reality. Because when we are looking at life upfront with wide open eyes then we know what we are dealing with. That kind of knowledge and understanding, to me is good. And also, I might have better understanding, but then not agree with another's viewpoint or ideas.

diannaburt said...

Here are 2 sayings I like:
Saving the World

Today may my prayers help me realize
I cannot control everything.
To put the world in order,
We must first put the nation in order;
To put the nation in order,
We must first put the family in order;
To put the family in order,
We must first set our hearts right.

-- Confucius

And...

"The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the smarter you grow. The smarter you grow, the stronger your voice, when speaking your mind or making your choice."
Which I've seen on ALA posters but haven't been able to find the author.