Monday, January 25, 2010

What we read as we age

As we are aging, we live differently. One aspect that I think do reflecting how we age is the things that we read. I’m not talking about picking up a newspaper or a variety magazine to skim through trivial articles of different sort. Here, I’m talking about reading books which really do eat up our time. As an urban dweller that lives busy life, time for reading books are getting difficult to come by. For me, it is simply precious! Taking into account having a full time busy job with family and kid, so, I’m very selective in what I read. I just don’t wanna to read trash, especially spending a lot of time reading and end up finding out it is trash.

Come to think of it, I think when we are young, we do read all kind of stuffs due to our curiosity and ample of time for leisure. However, as we grow older, we are just getting selective, and I would say there are three topics of books that are usually very common among older readers or people of ‘old’ minds (don’t mean to be in any negative way)…There are ‘Special hobbies’, ‘History’, and ‘Philosophy/religious materials’

Special hobbies - are books about specific topics, or reference/self-help guides on learning a hobby from scratch to become an expert of it. Let’s say gardening, the older reader will read a book of special topic like growing Dutch pepper. Other similar special topics in hobbies would be like ‘trading of Coca Cola cans’, ‘wall-painting Buddha statue from 500 A.C., etc. Older readers who read these kinds of books are usually retired or semi-retired, got loads of cash, living with spouse or alone without any financial burden, have reasonable health, and usually have kinda Bourgeois Bohemian life of some sorts in their earlier lives. They read those books for learning a new skill, kinda like a chapter of passage of starting a second life. Usually, they select the topic themselves, but which book of that particular topic that they read will likely be coming from recommendation of others. They read those books to build up their fundamental in order to fit in a special group of friends that are bonded by the same hobby. I would say that if you have time to read this kind of books frequently, you would consider that you are a lucky person who is living a pretty enjoyable life.

History – Young people rarely like reading history; it is because they misunderstand the concept of reading history. Firstly, young people are more creative, and like imagination more. So, they will read fictional events that created/imagined by others. Secondly, they think that history is boring; events occurred already, no surprise! If they read a book about WWII, they already know the Nazi would be defeated. If they read about Titanic, they know the ship sank. Also, many of them has an impression that history books are all about dates of wars, empire risen and fall, kings got killed, etc. So, things are linear and boring. On the contrary, older readers think differently and they find history not boring at all. What they see is that history is about things that actually happened. It records what decisions that people made and their consequences. Certainly, there are many valid critics about history from different perspectives. The most obvious one is how do we know if what were described in the books are 100% facts without biased edits from author. Therefore, many readers won’t read just one book; they will read multiple books on the same topic in order to stitch together the dotted lines of questionable pieces of what are created in their mind while they are reading those books. Also, what is so interesting about history is that we can learn from the past for the preparation of future. It doesn’t mean that history will always repeat itself. However, as long as human decisions are involved in risky events, their prone to similarities from time to time. So, history is just valuable for reference sake. I would say that many people who like to read history are quite selective on what they read. They won’t go for the general history, it would be too broad. Instead, they will usually go for certain specific topics or eras. Like 15 century Spanish naval history, or rise and fall of the Third Reich, something likes that. Cos, you gain more from reading in depth of focused topic. In my opinion, I would also group autobiography of famous people in this category as well, cos, that’s simply the history of a person in an era.

Philosophy/religious materials – I think this is kinda related to the benefit of reading history. Cos, it goes back to understanding how people think. Though everybody has a brain to be developed for individual unique thinking, we do think in certain predictable ways in many cases after all. If a response has to be coming from our animal survival instincts, that would be natural and we will all pretty much know. E.g. if a person is hungry, he/she will go for foods. However, if we are talking about a level up decision that involve higher intelligence and knowledge, what will be applied in decision making would take more than science which can tell us whether we ‘can’ do it or not, but not whether we ‘should’. There is when religion and philosophy comes to mind. Cos, those two schools of thoughts are trans-cultural and have been tested through time. Therefore, they are good reference material to understand human behavior. You may say that there decision makers are neither religious nor philosophical. Well, I would argue that yes it is true, but we are talking about historical figures, not our friend’s granduncle or some unknown Jack or Joe. If they could reach to certain status of becoming a significant historical figure that affected many people, most likely they would be educated (even if they are self-educated, they must read books) or achieving ranks of some sorts. I would say majority of them would be very likely more or less affected by either philosophers or religions. Certainly, their decisions would also be affected by their upbringings, personal family background and experiences. Therefore, to understand human behavior in history, those philosophy/religious materials would be valuable to be read.

For elder people, time or opportunity is relatively not on their side. They may not have the chance to make major decisions or planning for many big events to come in their lives. So, besides reading hobbies stuff, reading history or philosophy/religious materials doesn’t necessary is for the future. It could be a simply reflection of life experience, to think about what we did or didn’t do, and self-reassure if our own decisions were correct or not from a more detached perspective. Also, reading these topics usually takes not only time, but patience as well. That’s what an elder mind has, but not in the younger ones.

I don’t know if my views are true or not for other people. Nonetheless, I can’t help but thinking that I would be very likely to fall into one or more of this scenarios that I just described when my times come.

1 comment:

Kris Allia said...

hi um...sorry if you think this is rude but i dont know what the heck that post said but i love the pic...if you care...