From guest writer, Rocco Dapice:
When I was in the second grade, our teacher announced a reading contest. I can’t remember the requirements, but I remember coming out a winner. Mrs. Knight awarded me a pin that said “Eager Reader” and a book called Earthstar Magic. I proudly wore my pin and read my kids adventure tale. I’ve since lost the pin and book, but reading hasn’t lost its magic on me.
I’ve heard that Americans devote more time to their TVs than to anything else in their lives next to work and sleep, and that people watch an average of four and half hours of TV per day. Busy work schedules along with glimmering media and entertainment relentlessly provoke us to bump reading into the backseat of our lives. Peripheral pleasures like television, movies, social networks, computer games, the next big game, and the latest gadget all clamor for our attention. The truly important things—like time with family, and time to think and read—tend to wait silently and longingly in the wings.
I think of what Madeleine L’Engle wrote in her masterpiece, Walking on Water: “Technology, for which I am grateful, has too often turned into technocracy, which can become a monster.” Books become valued objects stored for safekeeping—sacred enough to hold onto, but too unattractive to ever do anything with.
Recently a good friend emailed me a question that went something like this: “What is your opinion about how much reading we should take time for?” I gave him several reasons why I read as much and as broadly as I possibly can.
1. Reading allows me to make mentors out of knowledgeable and gifted people whom I’ll never have the chance to meet. I can visit my library and make a teacher out of anyone I choose!
2. Thoughtfully reading well-written books stretches my mind and enlarges my vocabulary, which hones my communication skills.
3. Reading books by writers with whom I disagree forces me to ponder, question, and reestablish what I believe and why I believe it.
4. By reading ravenously, be it fiction or non-fiction, I’m consistently filling my intellectual storehouse with quotes, maxims, illustrations, and fresh ways to convey important concepts and principles for when I teach or counsel.
5. Reading creative fiction penned by skilled writers enlarges my capacity to tell stories.
6. Reading might be the most educational form of entertainment in the world. I love good movies, but I usually learn far more—all while being entertained—while reading well-crafted books than by passively observing TV or movies.
The movie Titanic left me feeling differently for a week; the tragic and visually-descriptive conclusion left me in an odd and surreal state of mind; then it wore off. However many books I’ve read have accomplished far more than a feeling. Several special books have created watershed moments in my life and left me thinking differently. I know I’ll never think the same way again. And it won’t wear off.
Do you have any reasons to start reading?
Rocco Dapice is a pianist, teacher, musicologist, public speaker, former Disney jazz pianist, former college professor, writer, counselor, and founder of People’s Church in Elmsford, NY. You can hear him speak on Sunday, March 26th at the next Jazz Conversations here at GPL. Rocco will share his knowledge of Thelonius Monk and help the audience explore the mystery of Monk.