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How to Read Fewer Books

Why the modern world read so much

The modern world has adopted an Enlightenment mantra that states there should be no limit to how much we read because we read in order to know everything. We don't read to understand God or to follow civic virtue; we read to understand the whole of human existence.

This maximalist legacy of the Enlightenment idea of reading is present within the publishing industry, within the way books are presented to the public at school and in shops, and within our own guilty responses to the pressure to read more.

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Spontaneity could explain low-level sadness
Spontaneity could explain low-level sadness

An often overlooked but essential ingredient in a good life is spontaneity. Without it, we may suffer from an excess of orderliness, caution and rigidity. We haven't danced in ...

We are rigid, because we are afraid

We stay fixed in our familiar spot because any movement out of the known and calculated is experienced as intensely dangerous. We ruminate too much because we are trying to exert control. We seldom act, out of fear of making a huge mistake.

Spontaneity is a potential within all of us. It is almost always something we have lost because circumstances have stripped it away from our characters.

Becoming spontaneous again

We’ll continue not to be spontaneous until we can understand how and why being spontaneous once felt so dangerous.

We should recognise that many of our inhibitions are no longer necessary - that we can relax from whatever fear we felt as children. We can prepare areas of great order and logic but then allow for moments when we relax, feeling safe in the knowledge that not everything is at stake. We can try to dance a little or take off without too much of a plan.

Talking horizontally and encouraging honesty
Talking horizontally and encouraging honesty

Sigmund Freud discovered that there is a remarkable difference between what people will tell you when they are sitting up and looking at you in the eye, and what they will say to you when they ...

When we feel discouraged to speak

We perhaps don't realise that seeing another person's face can discourage us from speaking the truth. We may hold back and edit our presentation in the light of their reactions.

With Sigmund Freud's example in mind, we should find our own forms of horizontal conversation. After dinner, we might suggest that we all go and lie down somewhere and become newly conscious of voices and nuances when we don't have to look at others' expressions.

Weeping Over Life
Weeping Over Life

‘What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.’ - Seneca.

This dark remark gets to the heart of Stoicism, which says we get weepy and angry not on...

Peccatum Originale - Original Sin

St Augustine was deeply interested in finding explanations for the evident tragic disorder of the world.

Augustine contemplated the idea that human nature is inherently damaged because, in the Garden of Eden, Eve sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Her guilt was passed down to all people. As a metaphor for why the world is in a mess, Augustine implies that we should not expect too much from the human race.

Being Less Intimidated By Powerful People

‘Kings and Philosophers shit, and so do ladies’. This is a blunt phrase of 16th-century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne.

He wanted to let us feel closer to and less intimidated by people whose life might seem very impressive. Montaigne attempted to free us from uncertainty and shyness from thinking too much of others and too little of ourselves.