Why don’t we have time to read?

The famous novelist, Philip Milton Roth, declared that “attention, clarity, solitude, silence, everything needed to truly read, are not available to people anymore”.

In an essay published by the New York Review of Books, novelist Tim Parks defined the fundamental difference between the conditions in which we read now and those from 30 or 50 years ago as following: “when we read there are more breaks, ever more frequent stops and restarts, more input from elsewhere, fewer refuges where the mind can settle. It is not simply that one is interrupted; it is that one is actually inclined to interruption. Hence more and more energy is required to stay in contact with a book, particularly something long and complex”. According to Parks, today you must fight, you must plan to have a real moment dedicated to reading.

Finding solutions

The internet is full of advice on how to make time for reading. But time management techniques do not seem to be enough. Just sit down to read something, and your mind will be filled with thoughts. Or you’re so tired that a book will be the last thing you need.

 “The future comes to us like some empty bottles carried by an unstoppable conveyor belt and almost endless”, writes Gary Eberle in his book Sacred Time and “we feel stressed to fill these variously sized bottles (days, hours, minutes), because they are passing, and if they pass without being filled, we lose them irreversibly." For sure, many of us perceive time in this way. Imagine plunging yourselves into a book without taking into consideration the other tasks on your daily agenda. For some, it would be terrible to steal from the time planned for other activities.

Another perspective

Quality reading does not require only time, but also a special kind of time that cannot be obtained just by struggling to become more effective. Actually, becoming more effective is a big part of the problem. Perceiving time as a resource that needs to be used as best as possible tends towards a utility-centred approach. You tend to evaluate every moment as being effectively used only to the extent in which there’s progress made towards a certain purpose. If reading is just a point on your daily agenda, it becomes a purpose in itself, sometimes useful, but unrewarding.

So, how does it work? Surprisingly, planning some regular intervals for reading is necessary. But don’t we go back in this way to the paradigm of efficient time? Eberle states that making a habit of this type helps us to “step outside time flow" into another type of time, “a time of the soul”. This requires a categorical decision to ignore other priorities. On a very good day, you feel like you allow reading to lead you; you don’t plan to read among other activities on your agenda, you just relax, absorbed by what you discover step-by-step.

The secret of a captivating read is to let go of ineffectiveness and the idea of lost time. Try to recreate instead. Find pleasure in reading! Ellen White writes: “Recreation tends to strengthen and build up. Calling us aside from our ordinary cares and occupations, it affords refreshment for mind and body, and thus enables us to return with new vigor to the earnest work of life.”

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