I started thinking about reading just for the sheer enjoyment of it, about how we – especially we who seek to teach, motivate, or encourage – are very utilitarian in our reading.
Every book, every article, every word has to mean something. There has to be some great principle, some earth-shattering truth which we can impart to our hearers/followers. We read with highlighter in hand, and we look for the snippet, the literary equivalent of a news soundbite, that we can incorporate into our teaching or writing or preaching or other pontificating.
Whatever happened to reading for the sheer pleasure of it? Where did we lose the childlike experience of being so engaged in a book that we lost all track of time, save as it functioned to measure our adventure?
And when did we stop trusting writers – I mean, real writers – to lead us on that kind of adventure? When did we start expecting them to drop those nuggets of factual truth that lend themselves to pontification? Why did we start evaluating writers on their ability to enunciate mere facts without enchanting our imagination along the way?
I’m reading Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and it is a beautiful book. Yet, for all its beauty, it reads like a diversion, a distraction, a long journey with a very observant friend. Yes, there are truths to be gleaned. There are quotes to be used in sermons and social media feeds. Yet, there is a whole lot of sheer joy and enchantment.
I’m not sure I have gained any practical benefit from reading it. But I sure have learned to look around me, to see my surroundings, and to express wonder and delight at the extraordinary ordinary goings-on of life.
I say all that to say I started to write this piece as a post on my mostly-dormant, mostly-ignored blog. While the thoughts were running through my head, I opened the “new post” screen and instead of writing words much like these in this space, I searched for the “perfect” image to go along with the words. As I scrolled through the images in Flickr via the Compfight extension, I became focused on the images and lost the train of thought of the words. That quickly. Just that fast. Once again, I had lost sight of the main thing because I was chasing something secondary.
You see, the “experts” tell us that choosing and using the right image can go a long way toward attracting attention and building our platform. Whatever that means. But I’m more convinced than ever that if we neglect – if I neglect – the act of writing the words, of following my instincts, of listening to my heart, it really won’t matter about the picture. People can find the pictures on their own. I need to be clear on the task at hand: creating the compelling picture with my words.
If I want to write, says I, I need to write. A lot. On a regular basis. The pictures will come in time. The format will take care of itself.
The words. That’s what I want to create. For the sheer joy of it. For the enchantment. For the magic it does for my soul. Then I can invite others to come along for the adventure, and they will share the glory of a dreary Monday evening as we infuse magic and meaning into our surroundings and into our lives.