I’m beginning to doubt the common prejudice that it’s acceptable – nay, even laudable – to spend nearly every waking moment reading something or other. For myself, it’s beginning to seem more like a bad habit. Of course, some things are of more worth than others: a number of books are highly informative about matters worth knowing, and I could argue that reading a classic novel gives me insight into culture and the human condition that a romance novel would not. Well, I try to get away with reading flimsy novels and then analyzing them for content, but it’s more irritating than anything. But that’ snot entirely the point. Since I’ve had more time on my hands, I’ve noticed myself reading to avoid boredom, or work, or having to do something that requires more effort. That can’t be a good state of affairs. In the culture (or assortment of sub cultures) in which I grew up, on of the few things people could spend nearly unlimited time on without feeling bad for it was reading books, or writing essays, journals, stories, and so on. It makes a certain amount of sense – it takes a lot of hours of reading to become fluent, and a lot of books are reference points in Western Culture, which any decently educated person is supposed to know. But shouldn’t there be a limit to reading even well written books? I don’t even know how long I spend a day reading or writing various bits of text, but whatever it is, it’s beginning to be, surely too much.
A standard day goes like this: get to school – read email, write email, read articles until school starts. Three class periods of teaching, which will probably involve reading and writing to students. Then a prep period, probably spent reading about some subject I’m planning on teaching. Then two or three (depending on the day) more classes, mostly involving typing, reading, writing, and getting students to do the same. Then I spend another hour or so after school reading articles, go home, eat dinner, and either read, write, or go to a Bible study. That makes for 90% of my daily activities that center in some form or other around finding, giving, and elucidating meaning in text. Surely this is too much of a useful thing? And I still don’t know enough. It’s almost making me long for a computer-less world. Then perhaps I would choose books with more care, instead of bouncing from good book to bad book to current event blog to ancient theologian, as if they were all the same kind of thing, simply because they’re all written. The difficulty being, to keep up with modern technology and current events, one is expected to have feelers out for the latest thing all the time, and that takes time, since I don’t exactly know what I’m looking for. Besides which, I’ve got a habit of reading anything available as this kind of solid fact controlling how I order my thoughts. I tried to go one prep period without reading anything last week, and, in addition to failing (I ended up reading a poster one of my students had made quite by accident, and a note, and a form, and some other trivial things besides), after cleaning my classroom, I was reduced to wandering about for half an hour because I just wasn’t sure what to do with myself other than absorb more words. That can’t be right, either.
So I’m in the market for alternatives. Someone said another teacher and I could come over to her house and learn to make beaded jewelry one of these days, and that shouldn’t require writing. I suppose I could paint. I could make pots on the wheel, then smash them because we don’t have enough clay. I could make digital art for examples for students, but then I’d have to write them up as lesson plans. I could go caribou hunting if I had the supplies and inclination, which I don’t. I could learn to play an instrument (my current options being ocarina or keyboard) It’s kind of cold and dark for long walks on the river (it would be literally on, since it’s frozen all the way across). Watching TV would not be an improvement on reading. Keeping a garden is out of the question this time of year, though it would be nice to. Both in my cirruculum and in my hobbies, there’s a lot of “everything is possibility, nothing is necessity” going around at the moment.