Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Listen to Your Literature

I am concious of the fact that different people learn in different ways, and I should not judge vissual learners. Still I am beginning to wonder why anyone would ever want to read. The capability to jot oneself a note and then read it later definately has its advantages. Also the use of email can be more effective in buisness than telephone communication, because the conversation is more easily recorded. But I’m beginning to think the entire idea of reading books is a giant waste of time.

When I was a child I listened to audio books because I didn’t know how to read. I systimatically worked my way through the audio book section of my local public library, listening to every audio book available to me. I often listened to books at night before bed. I enjoyed being lulled to sleep with gentle words. I never had to worry about turning off the light once I finished a chapter. I simple listened until my mind drifted completely into sleep, often dreaming about the fictitional world I had been visiting while awake.

I would become so engulfed in my bedtime stories that I wanted to listen to them during the day as well. In order to keep myself awake, I started doing other activities at the same time. I did jigsaw puzzles, colored, or completed my math homework with classic literature rattling away in the background. As long as the activity I used to engage my hands and eyes didn’t envolve words, I had no problem focussing my attention equally on the story and the activity. Using audio books as a constant backdrop to my dayly life, I was able to listen to hundreds of books during my childhood. Had I know how to read, I likely would have experienced far fewer stories.

About the time I made it to the Z’s at my local library I joined RFB&D (Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic). Thanks to the American Disability Act, I was able to get every book ever published – including text books on tape. When a book I requested wasn’t available, the library of congress would hire someone to record it for me. The best part of the RFB&D system is that there books were all on four sided tapes. And the special tape player required to listen to them had a verying speed dial. Once I learned to always listen to books on fast forward my 2 or 3 books per week quickly transformed into 4 or 5 books per week.

When I headed off to college, I found that playing video games was a great activity to accompany listening to high speed text books. I became so addicted to many of the games I played that I would do additional unassigned reading – just so I had some background literature to accompany my games. Spending so much time listening honed my skills and kept my listening comprehension far above my visual comprehension. I never had to worry about taking notes in class – I could simply doodle in the margins of a notebook while I listened to my professors lectures.

When I graduated from college I made an unussual decision. I decided to stop listening and returned my magic tape player to the library of congress. I told myself that I would never become a compotent reader if I didn’t read. Since I no longer had deadlines associated with my reading assignments there wasn’t a pressing need to listen simply to save time. If I enjoyed a story enough, I could take the time required to read it. I have always loved a good story, and read numberous books over the next few years. Occationally I would grab an autio book to entertain me during a long road trip, but whenever possible I read my literature.

Recently reality has struck me. As a child I listened to a minimum of two or three books a week – aquating to between 100-200 books a year. Now as a functionally literate member of society I was rairly reading more than one book per month. The reason for my sharp drop in literature intake is simple – it is almost impossible to multitask while reading. Reading a book requires the use of ones hands and eyes, very few other activities can be done while the hands and eyes are engaged. I could read while sitting on a bus, listening to music, or eating (with mild dificulty). But it is foolhardy to try to read while driving, cooking, cleaning, playing a game, performing mathmatic calculations, or examining drawings. All those things can easily be done while listening though.

I included the last two items on the list because they are my job. I’m a structural engineer. Which means I spend eight hours each day performing mathmatical calculations and examining drawings. I used to listen to music while working. Recently I have found that my productivity is in no way affected by listening to audio books instead. Occationally I am forced to actually read something while doing my job. In such a case, I pause the book I am listening to and devote my full attention to the words I’m being paid to read. Even with these periodic breaks in my listening, I am once again listening to 2 or 3 books a week. I am glad that my reading skills have improved over the past few years, but I no longer see any reason to read books. Listening to literature is a far suppirior use of ones time. In a way I pitty the many literate people in the world who have completely missed the joys of audio books.

So much of life is missed if one spends all there time burried in paper. But the absence of literature in ones life is an equal tradigity. The only simple solution to this problem is to listen and live simultaniously. For your own good, I encourage you to put down your papers, and listen to your literature.

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