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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 02.23.18
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Is reading overrated?

STANSTEAD, QUEBEC | Chances are if you're reading this that's all you're doing. You might be eating breakfast or possibly doing a chore. Maybe you're folding laundry and glancing back and forth at these words. If so, you're not giving it your full attention, so you might miss the part where I mention the lima beans, and later when I refer again to the lima beans, you'll have no idea what I'm talking about.

But the greatest likelihood is that you're immersed in these words and doing nothing else.

How inefficient. How lazy.

Reading is held up as an unassailable virtue. Countless articles have been written about the value of reading. But who writes those articles? Writers, the very people who benefit from all that reading.

But if we step back for a minute, we might fall over this cliff, so be careful.

Getting back to the subject, objectively, reading is flawed.

For starters, reading is referred to as an escape, and that's exactly what it is: an escape from all the other things you should be doing. Why, just the other day, I should have been defrizzing the cat, as per the court order, but instead I immersed myself in the novel Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor, a lyrical account of a sleepy English village in the wake of a young girl's disappearance. This type of procrastination is no different than me playing online Scrabble for hours and hours, only with more sheep.

Yet if I were playing video games or watching television, people would say I was wasting my time, rotting my brain, getting crumbs on the sofa. This despite the fact that with television I use two senses, not just one, and with video games I develop hand-eye coordination. The only hand-eye coordination I get from reading is flinging the book across the room when I realize that The Assistants by Camille Perri is not at all "addictive, hilarious and smart" as promised on the now bent back cover.

What reading does to a man.

And flinging that book? That's the most exercise I get. With reading, all you do is sit when you could be out supporting the burgeoning gym-membership economy. No one wants well read people anymore. We want well sculpted people. If you have any doubt what reading does to a body, I am a lifetime reader, ladies and gentleman.

Reading is lazy, impractical and non-productive. What great achievements have been made while reading? Was Neil Armstrong reading when he stepped on the moon? Was Hank Aaron reading when he broke Babe Ruth's home run record? Was Rosa Parks reading when she sat down on that bus? Possibly, it was a long bus ride. But even so, this fact is overshadowed, as by now must be clear, by the principle of the lima bean.

There are those who will argue that reading promotes empathy and open-mindedness. I know people who spend all day reading Twitter, and they are in no way open-minded, though they are masters of the ironic hashtag.

Sure, reading has exposed me to exotic people living in exotic places like India, China, Winnipeg. But if instead of reading I had worked extra hours and earned extra money, I could have travelled to all those exotic places and stayed in resorts and been served drinks by all those exotic people.

As a "good" reader, I've been trying to read more novels by women, and where possible women of colour. Despite this, I still feel like a white, middle-aged male; that is, bad about myself all the time. Have people sometimes called me a bit of a woman? Yes, but not because of the reading. Not entirely.

Recently I read an article (of course I did) that stated that people are losing the ability to concentrate on reading because of the distractions of cell phones. The article went further to point out that reading is a relatively recent learned behaviour and that being distracted is our natural state -- looking around for predators, real estate agents and other dangers. If ever there was a time to pay attention to danger (via the Google Danger app), it's now, so good riddance reading.

Certainly, we're learning that you can get by without reading. You can even become president of the United States.

Yes, reading brings you joy, but this is 2018. We are so over joy.

That's all I have to say on the matter. Thank you for reading. Now stop it.

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