The High Cost of Education

(I started this post before doing a monthly reading list, of which I am tardy on this month. But I left this sitting in drafts. My goal over the next month is to complete every draft that I’ve started and get it published on the blog. What you’ll see is that I have a problem with spending money on books, I have a lack of space with which to house all of my books, and I have a lack of time with which to read all of my books. So, about the same as any other book-lover all over the world.)

I’ve paid for an education on credit. No, not the degrees that I’ve eared (though the debt I’ve accrued in earning those is substantial), but I specifically speak about my love of books, or bibliophilia. And what an education. I can’t help but peruse the stacks at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or the countless used bookstores that I frequent. The musty smell, a fragrance that only holds a hint of the words of thousands-upon-thousands of women and men, just waiting to be re-released into the world.

So I stack books on shelves, on top of each other, on the floor. I try and read as many as I can, though I usually only finish one per week, though if it’s particularly gripping I’ll get through it in a little less time. The point I’m making, though, is that I find it difficult to leave a bookstore without some acquisition (or two or three, etc). My collection on philosophy, metaphysics, logic and esoterica is growing just over the past year (2017 – I was contemplating enrolling in a PhD Philosophy program, but have set that on the back burner for now).

I keep one bookshelf in a room, just to store the current interests. I’ve got books from Karl Ove Knausgaard, Alan Watts, Neil Gaiman, and Joseph Campbell. There are books on writing, time management, chakras, meditation, and philosophy. An entire shelf is made up of journals and notebooks – some blank, some partially written in, and others full of my scribblings. And every day, multiple times, I find myself just looking at the book shelf.

It may be impossible to read through everything I’ve purchased, but as John Waters said, “Nothing is more important than an unread library.”

Books books books (and then some)

Books sometimes aren’t read. They’re purchased. They’re kept, usually. Some of the more popular ones get read quickly once acquired (Grisham, Patterson, Grafton, Steele). Others linger, like David Foster Wallace, Ron Chernow, Robert Pirsig, and James Joyce.

I once read the entirety of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, with the exception of the thirty-page speech that John Gault gives towards the end of the novel. I just couldn’t stay focused that long.

Now I will often quote John Waters (of Hairspray fame) who says: “Collect books, even if you don’t plan on reading them right away. Nothing is more important than an unread library.”

Even Nick Hornby’s book Ten Years in the Tub (which I’m still working through) mentions that books we buy and don’t read reveal something about the person we are, or at least want to be.

I notice this type of inconsistency throughout my life. My girlfriend keeps telling me that I need to watch The Dallas Buyer’s Club. It’s on Netflix, I own the movie on Blu-Ray, and I have yet to watch it. Every night that I’m visiting, if we’re lying in bed thinking of things to watch, she asks, “Tonight?”

“No.” By the time we get to bed, it’s too late for that kind of movie. I don’t really watch tv in bed, unless I’m staying with her. Not anymore.

So, movies that are going to invoke thinking require a chunk of time and the attitude that such a movie is going to require. The seriousness. And I think books are the same way.

We tear through the legal mysteries and thrillers. Rejoice in the light-hearted fantasies and romances. But when it’s time for those books that are going to fire more neurons than we’re comfortable with, we have to give them time.

Maybe that’s a result of the way our culture is, throwing so much at us all the time. Our neurons feel so inundated with information that it’s hard to devote a full allotment of attention to anything that we think could be challenging material.