The Ritual of Reading

Given that this will plug a gap between what came before and what comes next there’s no reason for it to be particularly intense or structured.

I suppose it’s more a stream of consciousness than anything else and although I had the kernel of the idea in my mind I wrote down everything in one go, more or less. 

It’s about reading.

Reading was never really a chore for me. I enjoyed it until school and english literature lessons where apparently every word had a specific meaning that I couldn’t quite discern. 

It was obviously so much more difficult with shakespeare and poetry.

Then uni came and went and since I was studying foreign languages it was slightly less about the intended meaning of a single word as the overall meaning created by a combination of words. 

Then the MA where reading was an absolutely necessary requisite of the successful completion of the degree and was intense and rigorous and comprised your interpretation of single words as well as combinations of words. 

Since then my consumption of reading material has dipped a bit. I used to enjoy hefty and lengthy novels alongside short stories but somewhere in the melee of life I’ve stopped reading almost completely and it’s been an immense effort to restart. 

Wherein lies the nub of this issue: the ritualisation of reading. 

Before I go on, know that I do really enjoy reading. It’s just taking me a little longer to get back into than I thought. 

None of this really occurred to me until a friend mentioned how reading these photography coffee table tomes had become a ritual because a combination of their qualities – physical (and emotional) weight, incomprehensibility of text content, length of text content, mood of imagery – sort of made it slightly more arduous. 

So now she has to make a concerted effort to read a photography book.

And it got me thinking. 

This is not a bad thing in itself, because it allows her to dedicate more concentrated time to the process of reading and imbibing the textual and visual content. 

A lot of the artist monographs (read: books by artist in particular) that I own are these huge, hefty things and they would look very good on a 20s style low coffee table but currently they occupy my bookshelf.

I rarely read these books, I think because I know how intense the process of reading them has become: it means removing this weighty tome from the shelf, clearing a space for it to occupy and dedicating time to absorbing the material within these pages.

I think this might be why my consumption of these books has dwindled over the past three years.

I look constantly at these marvellous and serious and informative works and I wonder to myself why I haven’t dedicated time to them, and it makes me ashamed. 

This ritualistic process slows us down. It should allow us to disconnect from the distractions and engage with what’s in front of us. 

Because we’re quite used to things being available immediately. 

Once we start to read each word and look and see each image and really absorb the visual information that’s contained within these little worlds we should slow down automatically.

I think about the last time I didn’t take my phone somewhere with me. Cringe.