The Need to Read

Life is beautiful… sometimes. Other times, it’s shit. I spent 2017 like most other people on Earth: sad, angry, and disappointed. For the better part of the year, every waking moment consisted of wishing for one thing or another (more money, free time, opportunity, etc). Each morning I would stare at my reflection and see a canyon filled to the brim with dark thoughts and broken dreams. Eventually, I stopped feeling anything at all.

The tricky thing about depression is it’s difficult to talk about it with those closest to you. Know why? Because people don’t want that shit rubbing off on them. Chances are they are only one step away from falling headfirst into that shadowy pit themselves. Want proof? What do your friends and family tell you when (or if) they offer to help?

“I just want you to be happy.”

Bullshit. They want to be happy and they can’t be happy if you’re out there mopin’ around like a despondent dick. Deep down, we are selfish creatures. Additionally, deep down, we are social creatures. That means our emotional states and behaviors affect others and others don’t want to feel bad. Makes sense, right?

I’m not saying those closest to us are monsters, I’m saying they are human beings and human beings don’t want to feel pain — especially that of a loved one. Still don’t believe me? Try this experiment. Pick a person close to you and, next time you have a conversation, launch into an anecdote about that ex you still have feelings for or that time you held your dying dog’s paw as the veternarian euthanized it.

Let me know how quick the subject gets changed.

So what’s the cure for the blues if you can’t or don’t want to talk to someone? For me, I made some changes. Positive ones. For starters, I recently ended an unhappy 3.5 year relationship (1.5 yrs dating, 2 yrs engaged). Without going into details, we both eventually realized we would never be truly happy together. Neither of us supported the other’s vision for the future. For what it’s worth, we’re both better off now. Second, I left an absolutely toxic job with an employer I’d been loyal to for over 3 years. I made the grave mistake of believing loyalty meant something in corporate America. It does not. I assure you. Third, (and most importantly in the context of this blog) I started reading more!

Literature — arguably the most underrated and underutilized medium of our time. Gone are the days where voluminous bookshelves stretched across den walls and ended in front of an overstuffed, comfy-ass recliner. Sure, some houses around the globe still contain these caves of knowledge, but who has time to sit down and read a book?

Wrong. We need to get back to reading and by “we” I don’t just mean my fellow weirdo writers (although it’s alarming how little some of us read). I mean us. Earthlings. Human beings. Do you want to know what I believe is behind literature’s demise? Here it is anyway.

You can’t multi-task literature.

Once again, think about it. You can listen to music while jogging or lifting weights, but you really shouldn’t do those things while reading Vonnegut. Can’t really wash dishes and fold laundry while you’re balls deep in Dickens. You can talk on the phone via Bluetooth while driving a car, but crack open that Dostoyevsky in your lap and… well, you get it.

But what about audio books lol???

Don’t get me started on audio books. Look, I get it and they’re fine, but they’re not the same. They’re just not.

So that’s where we are nowadays. That’s how we’ve evolved. It took us a few centuries, but we finally got to a place where we literally cannot read literature because it’s either inconvenient or downright dangerous. At a time in our world where the greatest words ever written in the history of humanity are only a click away, we still find excuses not to read them. That is some dystopian shit right there. Our world’s governments will never need to ban books like they did in Fahrenheit 451 because our apathy towards literature has effectively done the work for them.

Look, I know not everyone can break off a terrible relationship or switch to a better job overnight. Hell, it took me 6 months to find the job I have now and my breakup was preceded by a year’s worth of daily arguments. What you can do, however, is open a book and escape the bullshit around you. I forgot how amazing it is to read another person’s words and get lost in a different world. Literature is powerful. There are books out there that were written by people before anyone had a smart phone, before the Internet was ubiquitous, before life as we know it. They are cheap time travel machines at the least and life-changing relics at the best.

Read, read, and then read some more.  Read like your soul depends on it because, in all honesty, it does.