Learning to Read

One path of a good reader, perhaps the most common modern path:

  1. Find depth of meaning in the mediocre books of youth, which usually means the popular books deemed serious in your time, or among those of your “type.”
  2. Realize that one’s “found” meaning was in fact deeper than the thoughts of one’s favorite authors, which in effect is to develop the sort of self-respect that mitigates against idol worship or the presumption of smallness.
  3. Develop the second nature to discern mediocrity as such, by means of increasingly intense exposure to the genuinely serious and untimely.
  4. Experience shame or disillusionment about one’s past preferences and pretenses of depth — and refuse to bury or deny that shame or disillusionment; which means, reject the easy escape from reason that men call nostalgia.

Nostalgia vs. Disillusionment means Internal Consistency (the goal of “the self”) vs. Truth (the goal of the soul). The former is a soft, comfortable death trap, like all bad habits. The latter is disquieting, painful, alienating from our soft-filtered past — from the security of our well-established “identity” — and thereby liberating.

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