I am often asked, “Why Do You Read So Much?”
Yes, I read a lot. My stack (started to say stash) of unread books is more than I want to number. I have curtailed buying books by using my library’s interlibrary loan program.
I’ve asked myself that question more than a few times. My Enneagram Type 5 is called the Investigator, and that may explain it somewhat. There is a more important reason that I have only recently found the words to describe:
I read to discover how my ideas are wrong!
How else can I find where I am wrong? I am wrong about so many things, and without reading widely, I would stay mistaken.
I love the question: “If what you sincerely believed is wrong, when would you want to know? Now or later?” My answer is always “Now.”
As a teenager who loved the local library, I realized that my church world did not encourage reading widely. In fact, they actively discouraged it. We were encouraged to read stories of missionaries. Most lacked authenticity since there were few stories of the missionary’s personal struggle with anxiety, worry, depression, uncertainty, or doubt that ordinary people experienced.
Reading to Confirm Our Existing Bias
I am grateful for the few college professors who encourage reading widely and not just to confirm our religious bias.
Dr. Philo, my philosophy professor (yes, that was his real name), was a major influence in introducing me to contemporary philosophy sources and to what was called then Oriental sources such as the Tao Te Ching, The Upanishads, and The Dhammapada.
I am surprised that he was able to offer those courses in a very conservative college. I suspect they thought he was exposing us to the readings to know what not to believe. He taught me to read to challenge my confirmation bias.
One of my regrets is that it took me far too long to assimilate what he was trying to teach me about reading widely.
Confirmation Bias is a Powerful Trap
I agree with Paul Smith’s observation of the blinding power of religious (and political) confirmation bias:
One cannot use reason to argue someone out of a position they did not arrive at by a reason. That is why using reason to change a person’s beliefs who is deeply embedded in the traditional religious level does not work. Their belief system is not arrived at primarily by reason and therefore a reason may not touch it unless they are searching or in enough angst or pain to be open to the rational stage of spirituality. – Paul R. Smith, Integral Christianity: The Spirit’s Call to Evolve
I’ve Learned to Love Discovering I’m Wrong
And I’ve discovered being wrong more times than I can remember. It can be shocking and upsetting at first. But, I would rather discover it sooner rather than later. I don’t to be running on “old firmware.”
“The smartest people I’ve met:Twitter
They retrain their minds to enjoy being wrong.
They get a dopamine hit when proven wrong because they’re excited to be closer to the truth. The truth is addictive.
In contrast, if you refuse to lose a debate, your brain keeps running old firmware.”
– Julian Shaprio