Why do you read and what happens when you read? In other words, what’s reading all about?
Reading is a mental activity, one that pulls your thoughts in a specific direction. It engages your brain to concentrate and think. The subject is irrelevant.
Even if you’re reading jokes or a news article, your brain is activated toward the text in question. You’re connecting dots about the jokes or what the news article is saying, simultaneously portraying the information it provides.
Reading As Escapism
The prevailing attitude towards reading is seeing it as a way of making an escape from reality. The theory of reading as escapism holds true. It was the only way for people in the past to have an insight into what’s outside their surroundings, since travel was often dangerous and unavailable.
Direct experience was limited, thus reading about sea voyages to exotic lands or about the life as a bourgeois was the closest method to learn, and enjoy. Reading as mental travel.
Today, in spite of given opportunities to experience the world openly, people are still using reading to escape their actuality.
By stepping into a book, you’re invited to strip yourself and step into the shoes of another person. You’re free to indulge into the newly found personality, to become someone else, to be in the skin of a new identity, to see with different eyes, to find an altered perspective.
Reading Is Transformative
Reading is much more, however. It’s a mental stretch. By challenging your held beliefs and assumptions about the world, reading a text invites you to question them, to imagine things differently, and invites you to be a transformed person at the end of the reading experience.
This is my understanding of reading. My expectation is to be transformed when finished with a text. Being challenged is what makes the reading a mental stretch. If you don’t stretch, you can never expand.
The more you challenge yourself, the better the mental exercise and its implications on your mind. A difficult text is not impenetrable, if only you let yourself work through it thoroughly.
“Reading is a vocation, a skill at which, with practice, you are bound to become more expert”.
Susan Sontag in her essay ‘Writing as Reading’
Reading As Inspiration
Inevitably, reading brings inspiration. While going through a piece of writing, the questions you ask and posit are the insatiable sources of new knowledge, understanding and inspiration.
To dive into another’s consciousness and emerge back, even if you disagree with that person’s sayings, is to have found inspiration; inspiration in the uniquely combined words that present the individual thought process by the author. Because to read a work is to share the thoughts of the author, even briefly, and only by sharing can a thought be distributed further. All reading is sharing.
Reading As Pleasure
Ultimately, reading gives pleasure. It is an enjoyable activity. Just as with physical stretching, mental stretching is gratifying. Identifying someone’s thoughts corresponding to yours smartly put on paper is pleasure.
Reading words that sound like music is pleasure. Finding out something you didn’t know is enlightening and pleasurable.
The reading experience for me started as a puzzle that I wanted to solve, and then continued as a fascination, escapism, and pleasure. Now I am exclusively in the reign of the transformative and inspirational.
How about you? What is reading for you? Please share in the comments.