Why I’m a Sucky Reader

Christmas break came at exactly the right time. My classes began to feel stale. The professors gave lengthy lectures to cram the rest of the information in. And I was ready for a break. I was excited to get back home, sleep a lot, eat a lot, and read a book for fun.

I had done so much academic reading over the course of my first college semester that I was pumped to be able to turn the pages of a good novel. A novel that grips me and won’t let me retire after a chapter ends. Something that I can get lost in and not only be interested in mining its content. But something was wrong.

My first book was William Golding’s famous Lord of the Flies. It had been sitting in my dorm room desk for the entire semester, begging to be opened. I like to say that I didn’t have enough free time to read, but what it really came down to is that I wanted my free time to be spent doing other things since so much of my classwork was reading. But what I failed to realize is, that like all good things, reading is a talent that has to be practiced in order to be maintained and developed. My reading at school was largely done in order to complete an assignment, find a necessary bit of information, or understand/respond to an argument. This sort of reading isn’t conducive to the kind of reading that lets you get lost in a book.

I’m still working on Lord of the Flies, though I am nearly finished. And don’t get me wrong – I have really enjoyed the book, but it has, at times, been a laborious process. And here I do not mean it has been laborious in the sense that I am fondling every detail and making notes on themes and character developments, I mean going back and rereading a page because I didn’t digest a single bit of information laborious. My eyes see the words while my brain wanders into other realms.

You may have read the book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains by Nicholas Carr. Carr describes how our technologically savvy generation is far less able to keep their brains concentrated on a single task because of how much multi-tasking goes on in our day to day life. I won’t go too far into this, but I think, as does Carr, that this directly affects our ability to read literature. When I’m reading, I may also be texting someone, checking my twitter, and doing other things. How can I expect to be taken into the world of literature if I have so many things keeping me in my world? 

One might ask why this is even important. Aren’t books only information to be attained? Isn’t it more efficient to get the information and not have to worry about such trivial things as the style and motifs of a novel? I vehemently disagree with both of these statements. Literature is art and art is beauty. The way the plot of a novel moves forward with the development of the characters and the themes that traverse all of it is in fact beautiful. Right now, I am only experiencing that beauty on a superficial level, unable to dive into the literature because of my lack of practice and my distractions.

I’ll post a follow-up to this at the end of Christmas break and report on how isolating myself from social media during reading is affecting my comprehension. I need to stay concentrated during my reading and keep myself reading regularly. If any of what I’ve said resonates with you, I’d encourage you to try and do the same.

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Phil Robertson, Quote Clippings, and the First Amendment

Christianity has flared up in the news in the form of Phil Robertson, one of the beloved stars of the massively popular Duck Dynasty. For those of you who are unaware (and quite likely finding shelter in a cave), GQ writer Drew Magary recently wrote an article for the company’s website about an interview he did with Mr. Robertson. The controversy that this article sparked was largely because of a quote from Phil regarding homosexuality. Phil was not exactly supportive of the homosexual lifestyle, and this blogpost does not seek to affirm or condemn such a lifestyle. Instead, I’d like to use this issue as a platform to jump into two different problems, though ones that are related to this issue..

The first problem is the “sin” that I would guess most who used the hashtag #standwithphil or in someway voiced their support or opposition to Robertson’s comments is guilty of: not reading the original source from which the controversy originally stemmed. In today’s era of sound bytes and quote clippings, most don’t spend the time to read lengthy articles. It’s easier to have someone else give a summary or just grab onto the main points. This stance ignores one crucial part: Looking at only part of an article or listening to part of a speech means you miss the context of what is happening. In the case of this article, many saw Phil’s paraphrasing of 1 Corinthians and immediately jumped to conclusions. However, Phil made had other quotes that were cited in the article as him expressing his love for everyone. In fact, Phil does not believe in judging the eternal ramifications of one’s actions as he believes God is the only judge. This is not to say that what Phil said was right, but it is important that, as digesters of information, we digest the full nutritional content of an article and don’t skimp on the veggies, if you catch my meaning.

It might be said that this blogpost is an inherent contradiction to what I am arguing against. This might have merit, but I highly encourage you to go read the whole post before drawing your own conclusions. It is too easy to take things out of context and make them mean something different from what the speaker meant to say. Only part of meaning can be derived from lexical interpretation. It is completely necessary that we use contextual interpretation to its full capacity as well. Of course, this goes far beyond the Phil Robertson saga. In short, don’t subject others to your opinion until you’ve taken the time to find the original source of the controversy and develop an educated view of what is actually happening in that situation.

The second problem that this PR nightmare has brought out is the ignorance of, or at least gross misinterpretation of our Nation’s First Amendment to the Constitution – of course concerning freedom of speech. This fine amendment keeps congress from making any law restricting freedom of speech or the practice or religion. Has Phil Robertson been put in jail or been detained by the government in any fashion? Has he been in anyway punished by any sort of legislative measure? No, you say? Then how in this world is this a first amendment issue? A&E, the network on which Duck Dynasty is aired, has every right to suspend Robertson as everything he says is directly associated with their network and their brand. Phil Robertson is an employee of A&E and is a de facto spokesperson for them. Though Robertson is a professing Christian, A&E is not in any way, shape, or form a Christian company and it is ridiculous to try and hold non-Christian companies to Christian standards. Especially Christian standards that are so controversial. This is not to say that Christian morals are wrong, as I am a firm believe in Christian ideals, but I’m not going to push that on other people. Did Jesus do that? No, he told us to love people. A&E decided that Robertson’s comments hurt their company and/or violated an agreement they had with Robertson. An indefinite suspension is completely within their to suspend Robertson and it in no way violates any sort of Constitutional Amendment.

Now each of these issues are separate and probably deserve their own posts, but in light of the events concerning the Robertson, I thought it was appropriate to throw in my peanut gallery opinions. Don’t make a judgement on something until you’ve thoroughly read and understood it; and don’t make this into a political issue. It’s not.

 

Twenty|One|Pilots on Living for People

Twenty|One|Pilots is one of my favorite bands. Their music is eclectic and oftentimes schizophrenic while still maintaing a catchy sound with meaningful lyrics. It’s really incredible.

Anyways, I’d like to share a bit of a video that the lead singer, Tyler Joseph, did that has resonated with me for the past week or so. Skip to 10:35 and the bit I’ll talk about will only go till 11:35 (though watch the whole interview if you so desire).

Tyler (I like to pretend we’re on first name basis) echoes some of my sentiments about life and death. I often think that dying for someone would in fact be the best way to go. It’s so noble, chivalrous… and prideful.

Dying for someone, as so perfectly told by my man Tyler, is the easy thing to do. Living for people is the hard thing, even if we don’t see it as glamorous. How can I invest in other people, live for other people? I can recognize the importance of those around me over my own importance.

Life on Worship

A brief bit about worship – Worship can’t be confined to a set of dos and don’ts. Worship is the act of praising God, in whatever manner you choose to. Jesus says the most important commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27, ESV). These four categories (heart, soul, strength, and mind) are the most basic things that make us up. Everything can fit into one of these categories. Does it not then make sense that we should worship God with all four of these categories?

Devote yourself to studies and sharpening your mind as long as it is with the goal to serve God. That is worship.

Evangelize to others. Stay up late and have good conversations with people. That is worship.

Go work out and keep yourself fit, not to impress others, but to honor the body God has given you. That is worship.

Worship is so much more than singing along with worship songs and maybe raising your hands. Allow yourself to experience God in every facet of your life. That is my challenge to myself for the week: praising God in the midst of my homework, in the midst of playing intramurals, in the midst of sitting in class. God deserves it.