I love reading but I have a problem with quotes like, “Reading will change your life” or “Those who read are more mature than those who don’t” or “Books are better than television,” etc. Reading, like filmmaking or dancing or anything else, is a means to an end. When medium becomes more important than the end, we start thinking that there is some ‘formula,’ some objective truth that can be applied to everybody on the planet.
Reading is neutral. What we read is also neutral. It is WE who assign value and find meaning. Reading does require a lot of patience. We can also say that it requires a lot of concentration as well. You have to rely on YOUR imagination while reading and that is indeed a great bonus. But here’s my question to those who read: Do you read EVERYTHING? You read that which interests you or improves you, right? Most of the times, it is WHAT you read (the subject) not reading itself that interests you. Some people are more interested in romance while others are interested in murder mysteries. Not everybody will read History or Philosophy. You could say that given a choice between a film on a subject that you like and a book on the same subject, you prefer a book. But that doesn’t make you superior.
At the end of the day, it’s about passion. You love reading. When you love something, you CAN concentrate for long hours and even if the content is challenging or taxing, you don’t mind because passion and commitment do the job. That applies to everything. To achieve excellence or concentrate on things for a long period of time, you either have to have a lot of interest or be a master of your mind or a balance between the two. Some people are good at visual thinking. Some people have a natural aptitude for music. Some people are not naturally gifted but their passion makes up for it. Passion, to a large extent, is natural. You cannot force people to love something and worse, you cannot shame people for not loving something. I mean the whole idea is ridiculous: Love is not a choice in the sense that you cannot force yourself to feel love for a person or a subject. You cannot force an introvert to become an extrovert and vice-versa. You cannot force a heterosexual to become gay or vice versa. How can you force someone to read then? Concentration, awareness, observation, patience, losing yourself in an activity, putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes etc are not just reserved for those who read books. In fact, they are available to anybody who is absorbed in the work he/she is doing. You don’t have to read to become mature or be more empathetic. There are people who have read thousands of books and yet, they are full of hatred and arrogance.
It’s the reader who decides what reading is..to him/her. It is the reader who decides what he/she should learn and not learn from the book. It is the reader who decides the motives behind reading a book. It is the reader who decides to take action after reading an inspiring book. It is the reader who brings his/her values and experiences to the book. Reading cannot do this. You can write a brilliant book on poverty but if the reader is not bothered, you cannot do anything. I mean, so many people have read, ‘To kill the mockingbird’ and the world is STILL a shitty place. Books are external things and an external change without an innner change is superficial.