I was thinking this morning as OH perused yet another volume on Kindle, about why it is that I so dislike reading a book from a screen. I know it’s cheap, I know it’s easy and I know you can get hundreds of books on one tablet, but I just can’t get along with Kindle. Why not?
First, when reading from a screen I have a tendency to scroll; this comes from a habit of scrolling through stuff on Facebook or email and it’s a bad habit but a necessary one: I simply don’t have time to read closely every communication that comes my way so I scan to see if it merits closer reading and if it doesn’t, I’ll move on. There’s so much information out there and you can look something up on Google and get sucked into a rabbit hole before you know it. It’s not so much that we take in more information than our forebears, but that what we do take in is more scattered; rather than reading the paper over breakfast or sitting in the evening with a book, we check the news online, switch to Facebook, scan our emails, begin the crossword and then maybe dive back into to a news story, perhaps with the radio or TV on in the background – all of which can be randomly interrupted by texts or phone calls and don’t even get me started on adverts. You could say our attention is being stolen moment by moment, but we are also giving it away: we are butterflies fluttering from flower to flower picking up a little bit here, a little bit there and never fully digesting what we read.
A book is something I hold in my hand, and there’s something about the relationship between brain and hand that makes the holding of a book into something more serious than scrolling with a mouse. There’s an intention; you take down the book from the shelf and open it, you settle in your chair and hold the book in your hand, all of which sends a signal to the brain saying ‘this is what we’re doing now’. Result: the brain sits up and pays attention like a class of children when a teacher walks into the room. When I’m reading a book I don’t do anything else but read: I might sip a cup of tea or glance out of the window but I don’t flip back and forth between emails and Facebook because they are not accessible to me. Then when I’ve finished I mark my place and put the book back on the shelf; another signal to the brain saying we’ve stopped reading now.
This is what I’m doing now has become a sort of mantra for me. If my mind becomes scattered or impatient I stop and say, This is what I’m doing now. Sometimes I’ll even narrate: Now I am going into the bathroom. Now I am sitting down... yeah, OK – I’ll spare you the rest.
The most important thing I learned from yoga is to be present in the here and now: I’m also a great believer in seizing not just the day, but the moment. To pay attention to one’s desires and impulses is the key to not being dominated by them. If Trump had learned this when he was younger the world would have been spared a painful four years. More on that story tomorrow… gosh, I’m organised this week.
That’s all for now folks.