Why I Read [actual] Books

I didn’t grow up a reader. Surfer magazine was the only written word worth while (I promise, it wasn’t just the pictures…). I didn’t pick up a book for fun until I was nineteen. You’d think I’d be thrilled to be alive in a time where most people communicate with encrypted text messages, emoticons, 140 character tweets and youtube clips.

In many ways I love the tools at our finger tips. Other times I find myself wishing I lived during grandma and grandpa’s day when you needed pen and paper to record your thoughts and a bookstore to get a book.

No one ever walks into an Apple Store, picks up an iPad and says, “I love the way this thing smells.” And you don’t sit in front of your computer screen thinking, “It just feels so great in my hands.” I don’t have the best sense of smell, but I love the smell of old books. And my posture would be much better if I didn’t sit in front of a computer most of the day.

Contrary to what many in my parent’s generation think, the developed world isn’t digressing into an illiterate age. Instead, the definition of literate has changed. My good friend Jondou suggests that proper English has changed as well…Language evolves, but that’s a post for another day, possibly a discussion for our new blog). To quote Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message. We can’t ignore today’s media or the way in which it has changed our language.

But books, those things made out of paper and comprised of complete sentences, bring us back to the basics of language. If we never learn the basics, today’s valuable tools will lead us down a path of frustration into a world of dull dreams and incomplete thought.

The last year I’ve read a lot of what Michael Hyatt has been writing. I’d recommend his stuff to anyone. As a the former CEO of Thomas Nelson, he get’s the whole book thing. He writes,

Contrary to what is often reported in the mainstream media, books are not dead. They are still valuable today. But we must contend for their existence against all other forms of media. Books do for people what movies, television, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and social media will never do—fundamentally alter their worldview and inspire them to greatness.

We need to allow books to inspire us and alter our worldview. Sometimes I read for an escape. Others,  I read to be challenged. Simply put, I can’t afford to stop. None of us can. But too many of us have. This year I’ve been doing something I haven’t done since high school; I’m keeping a reading log/journal.

Why do you read? And what are you reading?

The “me” blog (why I write)

Until recently, I hadn’t posted much in 2012. I’m not going to make some lame excuse about how busy I’ve been or how my priorities have changed. It’s not that I haven’t had any thoughts about ministry, culture, Malawi or bursts of creativity. It’s not even that I haven’t been writing.

To be honest a day hasn’t passed where I haven’t thought, “ahh, remember that blog you were gonna post?” I don’t let it beat me up, but it does bother me. So I will just come out and say it; I need to be more disciplined.

As self-serving as this may sound; blogging is good for me.

A few years ago a friend argued that Foursquare painted the perfect picture of how self-involved and focused our society has become. Become the Mayor! Get as many badges as you can!!! Checking in at the hippest hangouts gave individuals the chance to shout to the inter-webs, “Look at how cool I am!” Soon enough Facebook realized they were behind the curve on letting location determine your status on the social spectrum. And now there are a ton of ways you can post pictures, write reviews and tell everyone that you are the most important person in your own little world.

I wanted to argue her point, but I couldn’t. It hit me. The entire blog/twitter/facebook world is often less about connecting communities than about being a platform for personal projection.

A publicist who runs a blog for a band you love uses one of your flicker photos and, all of a sudden, you are Guns N’ Roses newest photographer. Former high-school athletes who never dabbled in journalism become “experts” in sports culture. A random person takes one online seminary class, starts a blog and they are a master theologian. Someone famous retweets a tweet and BAM, you know them.

There are, of course, exceptions to the network of narcissism. Social media has often been ahead of radio and news stations with disaster warnings, traffic updates and worthwhile news. And Facebook and Twitter help us to stay connected in a way email never did.

The honest truth is, in our world today—as a business, church or individual, if you’re not up to speed with where our culture has gone then you aren’t going to grow or meet new people. This is true whether you are keeping your information in the cloud or a Trapper Keeper.

But where do we draw the line?

Those who have thrived have figured ot how to walk it gracefully. They don’t post everything about their life, but enough to document their interests and connect with their friends and family. They feel they have something to say that others will want to hear, but have also learned that there is actually an appropriate etiquette to social media and blogging.

But why do I write? I can’t candy-coat it…it is good for me. It’s a discipline that helps me to reflect on where I am and what’s happening in the world. Words are something we often use without thinking; having a blog helps me to think before I speak (or write). I’d hope it’s a discipline that seeps into other ares of life. If, somewhere along the way, one of my online thoughts or rants sparks one for someone else then great. If not? I’ll keep writing.