Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Non-digital Reading

As a proponent of working silence into our lives, I will always click the link when I come across article titles such as this:

It's another article about how we pay too much attention to the digital world, but with a twist.  It seems that the instant gratification we receive when we click links (or refresh e-mail, or check what's new in the Facebook feed, or refresh news headlines) triggers the same dopamine response in our brain that any addicting pleasure does. 

As the author of the article described some of the ways he has been distracted by digital media, I admit that my conscience was pricked.  I am guilty of having my nose in the smartphone instead of interacting with a person trying to talk to me.  I am even guilty of reading fewer books since getting the smartphone . . . although, in my defense, the acquisition of the smartphone coincided with the birth of a very demanding child. For three years, books could be read only in snippets; online articles were much more my speed.  And I have read so many more books since she turned three.  But.  When I added digital reading to my repertoire, I chose Kindle-only-no-internet for my e-reader.  Why?  I knew the draw of the online world would be tempting during my reading time, so I avoided iPad/Kindle Fire options.

In the last half-year that mothering a very active child has become easier, I've learned something about my spiritual approach to reading.  I find that I gain more reflection time from books (either old school paper or Kindle versions) than I get from online sources.  Even if I'm reading the most inspiring blog post, a prayer written by a favorite saint, or a thought-provoking article, I don't seem to be able to savor the words as I do in non-online means.  It is not the subject in and of itself that inspires or detracts from deeper reflection; it is the means that the writing is delivered to my brain.

I don't know if it's an inability to relax knowing that the screen is going to time-out any moment.  Maybe it is the annoyance of having to scroll down every few sentences.  Or, my brain is wired in such a way that the digital is received in a way that does not foster a more contemplative attitude.  Reading is just not the same in the smartphone format.  Reading a book (or an e-ink reader) allows silence to wash over me, drawing me into what I'm reading in a more meaningful way.

The good news?  The article shares that picking up a book and engaging in the word in that form seems to undo digital 'damage' to our brains.  And although the article is not spiritual in nature, I love that author discovered this:
This suppressing of the self is a kind of meditation too — and while books have always been important to me on their own (pre-digital) merits, it started to occur to me that “learning how to read books again,” might also be a way to start weaning my mind away from this dopamine-soaked digital detritus, this meaningless wash of digital information, which would have a double benefit: I would be reading books again, and I would get my mind back.

And, there are, often, beautiful universes to be found on the other side of the cover of a book.

There are such things as universal truths, my friends.

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