I will make two promises on this new approach to blogging:
-I will not talk about religion
-I especially will not talk about politics
But I will occasionally lapse into musings, or some of the things that keep me up at night. This is my blog and the place to pick my brain, after all.
The value of holding a physical book in your hand.
This has a lot more meaning than might be obvious.
No, it’s not just about the psychology of how reading a book in print invokes different kinds of memory and experience (ie tactile). For me, it’s about what the gesture represents, more than anything else.
I’m typing this post up on my phone. Before this, I was reading my way through a print book (The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith). When I read a book, I by far prefer to read something physical.
It goes a step further. When I take notes, I write them on a cue card with a pen. When I look up words, I collect them by writing out the definition in a small-page binder. I do this for all notes, even when I’m reading through Wikipedia.
I’ve tried typing things up at my computer, but it’s not the same. It’s like reading at my computer: a different experience.
A few weeks ago on the BBC Global Podcast, which I listen to when driving, I heard an interview with experts discussing consciousness. The leading argument in question: panpsychism.
This is the idea that your chair is conscious. This blog post you’re reading right now is also conscious. In reading it, you are communing with it in your own way, like having coffee with a friend, except in a language of exchange much deeper than that.
If I wrote this blog post out by hand, it would have a different consciousness, the same way as J.R.R. Tolkien would be the same essential person if born as a woman instead of a man (but be completely different and unique).
What is consciousness? Such a deep question that keeps me up and often keeps me pondering.
So the book I’m reading, it’s just a book, printed by a printer, the words set in place by an author, tailored by collaboration. The ink came from a machine, spattered on the page by fine motor control and precision. That ink itself came perhaps from a chemical factory, or maybe even (at least in part) from the ocean itself as in the old days. The paper came from trees, and those trees grew in the forest, took in water, spread their roots. So many things come together to make that book. All these things, perhaps, may be the life and soul of its consciousness, if this new possible theory to explain consciousness turns out to be true.
Imagine that. Your day is a conversation with things in a language you don’t even know you speak. You are surrounded by life in manner beyond your comprehension.
Is it any wonder why a simple thing like taking a deep breath, closing your eyes and focusing on it, can be a life and world unto itself?
Oh the possibilities!
I still don’t have an answer for why reading a physical book translates to be something different than digital. Maybe I’m old fashioned. Or maybe I’m too attached to a dying trend. Or maybe . . . it’s not so much attachment as it is listening, listening to this older way that lives and breathes in the printed, tangible thing, a way that refuses to die, a way that asks us to remember, in our deepest hearts.
Here’s to the book, the printed book. Here’s to it being the last furniture remaining in our completely digital homes of the future. Here’s to a pillar to remind us always of what we are, like trees in the forest, bigger and older than us, in which we are immersed.