Saturday, June 9, 2007

I’ve been reading every book I can find on the subject of simplicity, trying to see what others have written about it to help me sort out my own perspective, to see what unique insights I may have to share.
I’m getting a little confused about how you evaluate what you should and shouldn’t allow into your life. All of the things I’ve let go of so far have been more or less no-brainers. It’s been clear that the negatives outweighed the positives. But then I encounter this confusion around books. How are books any less of a distraction from the essence of life than TV, the Internet, the morning newspaper or the radio?

There are hundreds of millions of books out there and if I read every available moment of my life I can’t possibly make even the tiniest dent. I have unquestioningly accepted the value of lifelong learning that leads me to always have my nose buried in a book. But what is lifelong learning? Certainly it doesn’t need to come from books. And probably the learning that takes place from my direct experience of my reality is of far greater value than the learning that comes from books.
Nevertheless, during the past ten months or so I’ve been on a huge reading binge and the same time period has been a very rich period in my inner life and the development of my thinking. So there does seem to be a clear value I derive from the books I read.
I think I worry that I should be doing something else of greater value with the time that gets “wasted” on reading. That reading can be an escape for me that keeps me from the more important things in life.
Because I’ve been reading so much I more frequently find myself with a dud. I find it very difficult to stop midstream once I’ve started a book, regardless of whether that book is worthwhile to me. Once I’ve started it, for some reason, I felt obligated to finish it. That is one thing I’d like to be able to stop doing. Just recognize that a particular book has nothing of value for me at the moment, set it down, and return it to the library unfinished the next time I go in. There are enough good, valuable books that I will never possibly have the time to read, so why waste my time on the mediocre or downright rotten ones?
Then let’s look at the books that do have significant value to me--like books on simplicity or environmental issues. Just how many books on a particular topic do I need to read? Do I need to read everything I can get my hands on? When do I set aside the books and just be, and do my own original thinking? Or write?

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