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Reading is Overrated

Reading is overrated as a means of getting information. In addition, the overreliance on reading can be an obstacle to the ability to access information by looking within.

First, a disclaimer: I am a very bookish individual. Like I imagine is the case with you, I have hundreds and hundreds of books. I delight in purchasing new and used books, particularly if they are reference books or if I can buy them cheaply.

Yet, I still think that reading is overrated. Here’s why:

1 – Reading is usually NOT the most efficient means of accessing information. The best way is to talk to someone who HAS the information and in so doing, INTERACTING with the data. Do you REALLY need to read that 500-word tome to find out what you need to know about, say, herbal medicine? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to ask someone who is an authority on the subject? That way you might find precisely what you need to know and even question the source for clarity.

Of course, it might be useful to read a textbook if you want to master a subject. But even in this case, it is arguably more efficient to interact with subject matter experts.

2 – We overrely on reading to access “truth” or other forms of information. I believe it is literally true that all the answers we need can be found by going within. But we tend in this information age to neither trust nor nurture our inner senses. In addition, our modern tendency is to buttress what we think we know by attributing it to some other so-called expert, e.g. “well, so and so said…” My belief is that recognizing the validity of reading-accessed information is in actual fact a form of recognizing what we know to be true already.

If this is true for more abstract forms of information (e.g. “truth”) it is likely also true for technical forms of information. I am not a Da Vinci scholar, but perhaps he utilized his intuition — his inner sensing — to discover his many technical contributions, many of which he did not find time to execute.

I don’t mean to suggest here the philistinish view that reading is an inherently useless activity. Reading helps orient us, helps us discover — in a sense — what we know is true already. It is also, at least for me, an enjoyable activity.

A final note here, gentle reader:

I’ve hope you’ve enjoyed reading this!

I’d appreciate your comments.

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