Reading philosophy is breaking my brain

Reading is a skill. You have to keep practicing it or you’ll lose your ability to do it well. Of course, you’ll remember the fundamentals when you pick it up again, but it’ll be more difficult. Reading is worth the work, though.

I’ve been reading On Writing by Stephen King. It’s full of quips that resonate with me. The casual writing style helps you digest the material before bed without heartburn or indigestion. One thing that keeps coming up — at least that’s how I’m remembering it — is that you must read a lot if you want to be a writer. Reading is almost more of a qualifier for being a writer than is writing.

I have an on-again-off-again relationship with reading. Right now, we’re on. And, I love it. I look forward to it. It inspires me. It gets and keeps me thinking.

This most recent dalliance with reading has bolstered my confidence in my ability to read. So, I ordered a book that I’ve been meaning to read for about 15 years: Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions by Jean-Paul Sartre. It arrived at the end of last week.

I’ve made it through the introduction and on to page seven.

There was a hammock strung across the 12-foot width of my bachelor apartment when I was in university. It was one of the first things I put up when I moved in. It was great to crawl into it and read when I needed a change from my desk.

Every time I sit down to read Sketch, my mind goes back to those late nights reading philosophy, laying in the hammock, fighting to stay awake, my mouth dry from coffee and cigarettes. This’ll be so much easier to understand if I can just close my eyes for 20 minutes.

Eventually, I learned how to read philosophy, which served me well when I applied to graduate. Now, however, I’ve forgotten how to do it. I’m out of practice.

There are paragraphs that span three pages, multisyllabic words that don’t sound real and can’t be found in Apple’s dictionary, and references to people long dead who are only remembered by those who can read this dense material. It’s breaking my brain.

Every so often, I’ll come across a sentence that makes sense to me. It teases me. I know what that one sentence means, but I have to reread the last two pages to figure out how it fits into the multi-page paragraph. By the time I reach the sentence I understand, I’ve forgotten what I just read and I’m laying in a hammock.

Stephen, reading philosophy should count for at least quadruple of what reading one of your books would and should be done with a bottle of Tums nearby.


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