15th trait – The modern man reads books.

books

We’re past the halfway point in the list.

The modern man reads books.

The 8th trait showed that pursuing a degree might be a problem for the modern man, but that does not mean that one does not seek knowledge. You can do as much work on yourself as you like but if you do not read then your mind is essentially an empty vessel. That vessel needs to be filled and it is in your hands to fill it as you please.

The first step is knowing how to read. I’m not talking basic literacy here; lets take that as a given. You can read. How wonderful for you. But are you able to effectively contextualise the words on a page? Do you take in their meaning or does your mind wander while you’re reading? How much information do you retain and how much do you understand? I am a moderately advanced reader. If you give me a book I can tell from reading the first sentence whether or not it will be worth my while investing time in it. It has taken me some time to get to this stage.

The act of reading implies an interest in knowledge and the world by the reader. But it is important not to get wrapped up in one’s own knowledge level. It is not a competition, and in fact it is what you don’t know rather than what you know which is of more benefit. Umberto Eco had a library of over 30,000 titles. He had not read them all; that was the point. The unread works were knowledge awaiting him, research material that he could approach when he felt ready.

The gathering of knowledge as a way to rise in a pecking order is all too common. Many people are insecure in their lack of knowledge and will use the little they know as a weapon to fend off suggestions of their ignorance. The modern man by contrast luxuriates in what he does not know. The unread books in his personal library are a reminder to him of how much more he has to attain and understand.

All men that preceded us struggled with the same questions that we struggle with today. Many of them were erudite thinkers who put their words to paper beginning with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Their lessons are there waiting for you. Have you bothered to read them? Some of these men died for the value of their ideas.

The common lament today is that one does not have the time to read. You exercise your body in the gym, and you exercise your mind in the armchair. You need to set aside time for both. If you do not then either one will entropy and decay. It is therefore important to carefully choose what you read. Make an effort to not get stuck in a single genre or field of study. On my desk now I have several books purchased in the last few weeks waiting for my attention. There is a political discourse, two historical works, an historical memoir, a science fiction novel, and a self-help book.

Books are beautiful in of themselves. I am not a personal fan of electronic reading devices. I like to see my books and know that they are there, particularly if they remain unread. But each to his own. The important thing is that you read, and you think, and you question, and you gain some knowledge. But you are never certain. It is not the things we are unsure of which are dangerous but rather that of which we are certain.

The modern man reads books.

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