‘There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read.’
These are the words of Gilbert Keith Chesterton (popularly called G.K.Chesterton), the Englishman who never went to college but became one of the most prolific writers of all time. He excelled as a poet, historian, philosopher etc, but I prefer to refer to him as a great Christian apologist (excuse my bias).
He was no mere wordsmith – he had a way with words. An example is the play of words in the statement above.
What I understand this genius to say is, the motivation to read can stem either from:
- the desire to learn, or
- the want for leisure.
On the former, an individual seeks to engage his thoughts, and develop his mind and intellect; the latter, he/ she just wants to pass time or engage in an activity that will take his mind away from that which made him tired.
Though there is a world of difference between the two, it is not a case of either-or. One is not better than the other. Just as it is beneficial to read for the purpose of learning, it is also beneficial to read as a pastime. On one hand the mind is developed, on the other the body is rested and the mind entertained.
Usually, the two motives for reading in Chesterton’s statement come to play at different times in an individual’s life. I can relate. Many times, I have been an eager reader seeking to learn. At other times, a tired reader who just wants to unwind with a good book. There are also those times when I experience the ambivalence of seeking the two.
As a result, I coined the word, Eagired.
Life is checkered! There is no one activity that is so good that every moment of our time should be spent on it, literally. It is said that variety is the spice of life.
Solomon David, the sage exhorts:
‘There is an opportune time to things, a right time for everything on the earth.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1, The Bible)
The secret is to know when to engage in any activity or endeavor. For that you and I need wisdom.
James points us to the source of superior wisdom,
‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.’ – (James 1:5, The Bible)
Mostly, what’s your motivation for reading? Knowledge or leisure?