I originally wrote this for the wonderful change agents at Evangelicals for Social Action to kick off the new year in January, 2018. Because I’m still working to flip my pyramid many months later at the beginning of the new school year, I’m posting it here and linking back to the originals. Current events will always require rigorous thought, reflection, and action. How can the Bible, church, nature & beauty, the internet, and social media help and/or hurt us? Please join me in the struggle to find true wisdom.
Some people just love buying, collecting, and discussing books. But a recent study by the Pew Research Centershows that 26% of adults in the United States haven’t read a single book, in any format, in a year. That’s more than a quarter of the population!
We read our texts, emails, magazines in the doctor’s office, and posts on social media, but often not books. Perhaps it’s because we don’t know what to read, or they’re too bulky, or seem too long. But maybe we need to try.
We grow in wisdom when our attention is forced to extend beyond 280 characters. We harness our attention, will, and self-discipline when we commit to walk along with an author for hundreds of pages, learning the genesis, development, and application of their ideas. Reading books both relaxes and stretches our thinking. Psychology Today reports that “becoming engrossed in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function. Interestingly, reading fiction was found to improve the reader’s ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes and flex the imagination in a way that is similar to the visualization of a muscle memory in sports.”
When we forgo reading books, we are missing out on opportunities for wisdom.
- How many books do you read a year? Do you spend more time reading books or hanging out on social media? Do you read books more or less often than you read the Bible?
- Do the books you choose to read increase your wisdom and understanding? Are you reading to escape, or to inform? How could you find a good balance?
- What books are missing in your reading history and your current library? Do you read books written by people of color, about something other than being a person of color? Do you read both cross-cultural classics and new releases? Do you read books about theology? Do you read authors you know you won’t agree with?
- What are the people you respect reading?
- If your device is always with you, consider putting books on your device. Classics and new releases are available to download and can be as accessible as our social media. Consider adding reading apps to your phone and tablets; apps like Goodreads allow you to set reading goals and track your progress
- Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, has three guidelines for selecting books to broaden your horizons: Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you, read a book about a topic you don’t know much about, and read a book in a format that you don’t normally read. Maybe the next book you buy, download, or check out from the library could be written by a person of color, a woman in power, or a long-gone mystic.
- Challenge yourself to read a book by and/or about a person with whom you do not agree. Consider tackling an opposing political view, or a different religion. Make a list of questions as you read, and then find a real live person to ask and learn from with humility and respect.
- Find out what the people you respect are reading. Ask leaders at your local church what books they recommend. Go to the blogs of the teachers and influencers you admire and write down the books that shaped their thinking, and the books they are writing.
- ESA recently published a recommended reading list if you’re looking for a place to start!
Tomorrow’s wisdom quest topic might make you uncomfortable, as we’re going to talk about how you use the internet. Maybe today is a good day to curl up with a good book in preparation!
My previous posts for ESA:
- Heroes or Neighbors? – “So what does this have to do with refugees?” I asked my kids at breakfast. “I don’t know. Maybe the naked part?” my son offered. “He’s naked? That’s what ‘stripped him…”
- Sign of the Times – “I think I’ve changed my mind. I don’t think we should do this.” I bit my lip and put my hands in my pockets. “Don’t be nervous. Be proud. This is…”
- 2018: Building Your Wisdom Pyramid – “I’m not thinking of what my mind and soul need—I’m thinking of what feels good. But instead of dismissing this pyramid as being too aspirational, let’s wrestle…”
- Building Your Wisdom Pyramid: The Church – “In the best version of our world, the church is where we learn how to put the wisdom we glean from the Bible into action. No church is perfect, but…”
- Building Your Wisdom Pyramid: Nature & Beauty – “Write out a moment you’ve experienced in nature and ask the question, “God, what are you teaching me here about yourself?”
©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2018.