Sunday, 18 May 2014

Information, knowledge and the role of reading

These days life seems to be spinning faster and faster, with the dizzying kind of momentum of a funfair ride; and I don't just mean in my personal life, but in a general sense too. Everyday, we are assailed by information and, to cope, our reading has adapted accordingly. We skim, we scan, picking at bits of information here and there. We skim lightly over the surface of words and facts and issues, all the time our eyes are speeding along looking for the next topic, the next link. We flit from text to text, gathering up information, but never completely diving in and immersing ourselves in just one text. We bookmark some for later, but "later" is never a place we actually reach.

Noticing this in myself and in others around me, has got me thinking about information as opposed to knowledge. Knowledge comes from a place of quietness, a pause in the rush of information. It demands a more total immersion in a text, many solitary moments free from distractions and, perhaps most costly, time. It means contemplation as opposed to gathering and for this reason is harder to quantify. Knowledge and information cannot, therefore, be the same and yet we often mistake the two.

I do firmly believe that knowledge is something that comes from slow reading. There is no shortcut, no special reading app, no electronic device that can speed up the process for us. Not truly. And so, in a fast world, slow reading remains our only real avenue to knowledge.



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