Beyond reading

One shelf of many. #books

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” — Albert Einstein

The World Wide Web has changed our lives forever.

You’d think the abundance of information would have improved our lives. Has it?

Call me old fashioned, but, save for a few blogs that I regularly read, I’ve stopped consuming information online. Instead, I’ve gone back to reading the treasure of books I’ve acquired over the past few years. It’s not that I think the information better or more informed or more insightful, but something tells me there’s a reason why I was attracted to the writers and not just because I’m following the crowd (there is a bit of that with Seth Godin).

It may not always be the case, but to read someone else’s words is to understand how they’ve lived, loved or experienced something that they thought important enough to share with the rest of us. (Yes, I know that some writers have an ulterior motive, i.e. the money, prestige and fame, but I’d find it difficult to accept that every one of them was the same.)

In the past I thought would share online more of my reading, much in the same way that Derek Sivers reads and does a synopsis of his books; but, if I’m honest, I haven’t the patience or inclination. I’m quite happy to read them and if something grabs my attention to share the odd Tweet or quote.

It goes without saying that I don’t want you to think that wisdom can only be found in books — no, life is the best teacher of all — but when, as I did, you read so narrowly (law) for so many years, I’ve no choice but to expand my worldview.

If I look across my bookshelves, I can also see there’s a definite pattern to my reading: first it was business management ‘get better’ material (guru speak if you will); then it was marketing; then Zen and advaita vedanta; and finally a whole slew of books around the idea of sacred economics (currently I’m reading The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible by Charles Eisenstein).

In all of this, without the aid of copious notes, I know that there’s been a plethora of takeaways (perhaps I’ll share these in a subsequent post), not least the fact that, as a former lawyer, I had a very jaundiced view of the world. But more than that I’ve developed as a person. Specifically, I now understand more about myself (my mind) than ever before: I thought like most people that I was my thoughts, and that if I could control them then it was job done; but I now realise that we are not our thoughts, and understand the full import of living in the Now. (As I wrote about the other day, try giving yourself 100% to something and see what happens.)

Is this wisdom?

I don’t know. I suppose it depends how you define it. On the one hand you might say I know more, but on the other hand, I’ve discovered what was there all along.

Right now, I’ve practically stopped buying books not least because I’ve got more than enough to keep me occupied for the next few years, but something tells me there will come a time, perhaps sooner than I anticipate, where I’ll stop reading. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think know everything but, rather, once the non-dualistic penny has dropped (as it has), doing a lot of reading isn’t going to make any difference to how I live out my life.