How did you learn to love reading books?

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Justsit
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by Justsit » Sat Mar 18, 2017 5:09 pm

binocular wrote:A school is necessarily an authoritarian institution. Any institution that has any relevance in the world, is necessarily authoritarian, ot has to be, in order to have relevance. The difference is only in how intensely and how openly authoritarian the institution is.
Being authoritarian means that the ultimate arbiter is power.

In an environment like that, how can there be any real critical thinking?...

Teachers want us to think they are omiscient or at least always right, they want us to trust them unquestioningly. And if we don't trust them like that, we get punished -- with bad grades, written reprimands that go on our records, and sometimes even physically. But when they betray that trust in some way, what does one do then? How does one make sense of that? How does one continue to trust them afterwards?
It must have been stifling for you to attend a school that was so closed-minded and didn't foster free thinking.
I don't see it that way. I hated going to school (and "hated" is an understatement), but I thought that life simply sucks, and that this is just how it is, that this is as good as it gets. That the whole point was to somehow push oneself to the point where one is at peace with the horrors of life, and that those who can't, are weaklings.
I disagree that school must be authoritarian. Yes, of course there was authority, but the school I went to was not authoritarian; there is a difference. The teachers never thought they were omniscient or always right, they never wanted absolute trust, they never punished for independent thinking.

We were taught critical thinking and encouraged to be independent. Typically we would read a book or essay, then discuss it with respect to identifying the author's point of view, how it could be biased, how to identify illogical reasoning; we engaged in lively debate in a respectful manner, and were encouraged to offer differing points of view. In case you think I'm making this up, here is the high school mission statement:

"...[students] graduate from our program fully prepared for success at leading colleges and universities. Our...
environment affords you opportunities for leadership and instills a strong sense of empowerment and self-confidence. In an atmosphere of trust and faith, you will excel academically, think critically and creatively, express innovative ideas, prepare for careers in diverse fields, and become an active member of your communities both locally and globally."

It is fallacious to make the assumption that because your school was authoritarian, all schools are the same.

binocular
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by binocular » Sun Mar 19, 2017 12:57 pm

Justsit wrote:I disagree that school must be authoritarian. Yes, of course there was authority, but the school I went to was not authoritarian; there is a difference. The teachers never thought they were omniscient or always right, they never wanted absolute trust, they never punished for independent thinking.

We were taught critical thinking and encouraged to be independent.
Were you allowed to be Nazis? Defend a Hindu view of things?

What concerns me is that schools often encourage critical and independent thinking -- as long as it is within the framework of what those in positions of power have decided is acceptable and true.

And when people happen to already have their own views within that framework, it's all well, and they feel free and encouraged.

The problem is when someone actually is different, to the point of being "too" different.

Typically we would read a book or essay, then discuss it with respect to identifying the author's point of view, how it could be biased, how to identify illogical reasoning; we engaged in lively debate in a respectful manner, and were encouraged to offer differing points of view.
Sure, we did that too. It's just that I noticed that it was the powers that be that decided what passed for "logical" and "rational." And "respectful."
In case you think I'm making this up, here is the high school mission statement:

"...[students] graduate from our program fully prepared for success at leading colleges and universities. Our...
environment affords you opportunities for leadership and instills a strong sense of empowerment and self-confidence. In an atmosphere of trust and faith, you will excel academically, think critically and creatively, express innovative ideas, prepare for careers in diverse fields, and become an active member of your communities both locally and globally."
I get the chills reading such things.
It is fallacious to make the assumption that because your school was authoritarian, all schools are the same.
I'm not making that assumption. I think, as a matter of principle, that an institution, in order to be relevant in this world, needs to be authoritarian. This is part of my social theory, and has nothing directly to do with the schools I went to.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

Justsit
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by Justsit » Sun Mar 19, 2017 1:41 pm

binocular wrote:I'm not making that assumption. I think, as a matter of principle, that an institution, in order to be relevant in this world, needs to be authoritarian. This is part of my social theory, and has nothing directly to do with the schools I went to.
Your theory is just that. I politely agree to disagree, and will leave it at that.

binocular
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by binocular » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:15 pm

Justsit wrote:Your theory is just that. I politely agree to disagree, and will leave it at that.
I think you are very fortunate to be such that you fit in -- however different you might otherwise be.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

Justsit
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by Justsit » Sun Mar 19, 2017 8:57 pm

binocular wrote:
Justsit wrote:Your theory is just that. I politely agree to disagree, and will leave it at that.
I think you are very fortunate to be such that you fit in -- however different you might otherwise be.
Haha, laughing at myself here. No, I never fit in. Still don't.

I was, however, blessed with an excellent education - and for that I am forever grateful to the Ursuline Sisters, who deserve all the credit.

chownah
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by chownah » Mon Mar 20, 2017 1:57 am

binocular wrote:
Justsit wrote:Your theory is just that. I politely agree to disagree, and will leave it at that.
I think you are very fortunate to be such that you fit in -- however different you might otherwise be.
Did the buddha teach that fitting in was very fortunate? I find that not fitting in gives me the space to be more introspective.
chownah

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Sprouticus
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by Sprouticus » Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:49 am

binocular wrote:
Justsit wrote:The school you attended sounds very rigid and authoritarian. The one I attended was the opposite; although staffed by Catholic nuns, it was very open and forward-thinking and we were always encouraged to question.
Then please help me understand something:

A school is necessarily an authoritarian institution. Any institution that has any relevance in the world, is necessarily authoritarian, ot has to be, in order to have relevance. The difference is only in how intensely and how openly authoritarian the institution is.
Being authoritarian means that the ultimate arbiter is power.

In an environment like that, how can there be any real critical thinking?

I still remember from 4th grade, when I was eleven: We had geography and were naming major cities in our country. The teacher wrote "Krajn" on the blackboard. The actual name of the town is "Kranj." I asked her why she wrote what she wrote, given that the map says "Kranj." She corrected it. But she never forgave me for that. I regretted bringing it up, and after that, made a point of never questioning what any teacher said, no matter how wrong or stupid it seemed. But the questioning never subsided in my mind, and I have never found a way to make sense of it.

Teachers want us to think they are omiscient or at least always right, they want us to trust them unquestioningly. And if we don't trust them like that, we get punished -- with bad grades, written reprimands that go on our records, and sometimes even physically. But when they betray that trust in some way, what does one do then? How does one make sense of that? How does one continue to trust them afterwards?
It must have been stifling for you to attend a school that was so closed-minded and didn't foster free thinking.
I don't see it that way. I hated going to school (and "hated" is an understatement), but I thought that life simply sucks, and that this is just how it is, that this is as good as it gets. That the whole point was to somehow push oneself to the point where one is at peace with the horrors of life, and that those who can't, are weaklings.
Some fiction is intended as pure entertainment, such as romance novels, and may indeed be a waste of time.
I think romance novels are actually very educational, in the sense that they can make/help the reader to think about romance more in depth, instead of taking it for granted as being the highest thing there is in life.

Was Slovenia still a part of Communist Yugoslavia at the time you were in school?
Namo buddhaya

binocular
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by binocular » Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:14 am

Sprouticus wrote:Was Slovenia still a part of Communist Yugoslavia at the time you were in school?
Yes, although I'm not sure this is relevant. Back then, all schools here were public state schools. There were no private schools, no religiously affiliated schools like there are now, or like they have been in the US for a long time, for example.
When I was going to school, there were no communist or socialist subjects in the curriculum. They were completely secular schools with an aspiration for objectivity and ideological neutrality.
Although, given that the vast majority of the population was at least nominally Catholic and felt repressed by the government, I suppose there was a lot of political tension there. But I couldn't make sense of that when I was younger.


Also, and I haven't thought of this before, I think that the national literature might be specific enough to affect whether someone will love reading or not.

Below is my translation of a poem by one of our greatest poets, Simon Gregorcic (1844 - 1906). He was a Catholic priest who became a priest against his will. He was born into poverty, and for many young poor men back then, becoming a Catholic priest was the only way to get out of utter poverty. Students have to study his poems when they are about 13/14/15 years old, and again in highschool. (In the original, there are some rhymes, I just translated for meaning.)

- - -

But not man

I have looked into your workshop,
You who have birthed numberless beings!
Mysteriously creates your hand:
Nowhere is there a permanent thing,
But not a speck of dust gets lost.
I have looked into your workshop,
And I always saw a turning,
Life flowing,
Rebirthing, renewing,
From one being into another transforming,
But I have never seen death!
The mindless world cryingly laments
As the blossom of a flower fades,
As one of his dear ones
Lays the shackles of his spirit into the grave,
As if to say: his very own brother died!
And -- there is no death!
I have looked into the divine workshop,
I have seen there the transsubstiation of things,
But death I have not seen!...
My Maker, you who created me,
You who has the spark of my spirit made glow,
Enclosed it into an armor of dirt, -
Why? You know! -
When you will break the earthen prison,
I will not die!
The spirit will grow wings,
That from the vale of tears and errors
Take it on a mysterious journey -
Whereto? It will rush toward you,
To someday see your face,
To look at your countenance as clear as the sun,
The face of love and truth!...
While this dust is given to dust
And the world forgets by the time the night falls where
It is hiding these remains.
And I do not regret! The world shall forget!
You don't forget him!
You will use my dust for a new thing, -
For what? I do not know,
You alone are the master!
But I will ask you one thing:
From the dust, you shall raise a flower,
Gift the glen with a singing bird,
Make any thing;
But someone who, like I, would in this world
have to feel and suffer,
Torn between doubts and errors -
Man -- don't make him!



- - -

What can you do with such a poem? First there is the controversy of the author having become a priest against his will (he wrote about it in his other poems as well, what a prison it was for him) and we knowing that according to Catholic teaching, one has to the have divine calling in order to be eligible for becoming a priest ... Then we have to have respect for Catholicism and the Catholic church, so nothing critical of them may be said. ... Then we have here a protagonist who wishes he wasn't born and who wishes that God would not make any more humans.

And then try to love reading.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

binocular
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by binocular » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:18 am

Justsit wrote:I was, however, blessed with an excellent education - and for that I am forever grateful to the Ursuline Sisters, who deserve all the credit.
I find it hard to imagine that someone who is not a Catholic could get a good education or a positive experience at a Catholic school.
I'm sure that a Catholic at a Catholic school feels like a fish in the water. But that same Catholic would probably feel stifled at a secular institution.

- - -
chownah wrote:Did the buddha teach that fitting in was very fortunate? I find that not fitting in gives me the space to be more introspective.
I suppose immigrants and outcasts have plenty of space for being more introspective ...
I think people often underestimate the importance and the role of fitting in.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

Ruud
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by Ruud » Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:53 am

binocular wrote: Below is my translation of a poem by one of our greatest poets, Simon Gregorcic (1844 - 1906). He was a Catholic priest who became a priest against his will. He was born into poverty, and for many young poor men back then, becoming a Catholic priest was the only way to get out of utter poverty. Students have to study his poems when they are about 13/14/15 years old, and again in highschool. (In the original, there are some rhymes, I just translated for meaning.)

- - -

But not man

I have looked into your workshop,
You who have birthed numberless beings!
...
Make any thing;
But someone who, like I, would in this world
have to feel and suffer,
Torn between doubts and errors -
Man -- don't make him!



- - -

What can you do with such a poem? First there is the controversy of the author having become a priest against his will (he wrote about it in his other poems as well, what a prison it was for him) and we knowing that according to Catholic teaching, one has to the have divine calling in order to be eligible for becoming a priest ... Then we have to have respect for Catholicism and the Catholic church, so nothing critical of them may be said. ... Then we have here a protagonist who wishes he wasn't born and who wishes that God would not make any more humans.

And then try to love reading.
First off,not knowing the original at all, I think your translation reads nicely and flows well. I enjoyed reading it (and I do not say that because it is the subject we're talking about).

Second, again, your remarks and questions about the poem show a fundamental difference in approach that I think is important regarding reading for enjoyment or critical reading. When you read critically, all information you provided can be very relevant and there is a whole army of academics that do just that, gathering information and analyzing what it means. And this can definitely have value.
But when reading for enjoyment, while this information can give a poem like this additional meaning/significance (and sometimes is even needed), there is nothing to stop you from just taking the poem as it is and reading it for the beautiful imagery, or the interesting idea it contains, or the emotion that is being expressed. And there is the risk that if you analyze too much these things get covered over.
Critical thinking is (at least in principle) objective, while reading for enjoyment is necessarily subjective. And since it is subjective there is no right or wrong way of reading it. Your opinion/ideas/feelings might not be the same as other people, leading to a feeling of not fitting in, but that does not make those ideas wrong. And this can include not liking the text. You are never obliged to like a text, just because others do so.

By the way, what I said I feel is true for fiction. The enjoyment in non-fiction is somewhat different, because it is more about the information itself and not as much about the beauty and emotion of expressing (although this can also play a role, and a well written argument can be very enjoyable).
Dry up what pertains to the past,
do not take up anything to come later.
If you will not grasp in the middle,
you will live at peace.
—Snp.5.11,v.1099 (tr. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Whatever is will be was. —Ven. Ñānamoli, A Thinkers Notebook, §221

Justsit
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by Justsit » Mon Mar 20, 2017 3:16 pm

binocular wrote:
Justsit wrote:I was, however, blessed with an excellent education - and for that I am forever grateful to the Ursuline Sisters, who deserve all the credit.
I find it hard to imagine that someone who is not a Catholic could get a good education or a positive experience at a Catholic school.
I'm sure that a Catholic at a Catholic school feels like a fish in the water. But that same Catholic would probably feel stifled at a secular institution.
We had a few non-Catholics in the school, they were not required to take religion class or attend school religious functions. They seemed to do well; I don't recall any problems. I was fine, as I was a Catholic at the time.

I did attend a public school for one year; it was a culture shock, for sure, and the academics were a full year behind. At Catholic school, we had silence in the halls, stood up when a teacher entered the room, offered to carry Sister's books, held the door for her, etc. Manners were not optional.
Public school - let's just say it was different. And there were boys! So, not too stifling. :tongue:

binocular
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by binocular » Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:01 pm

Ruud wrote:Second, again, your remarks and questions about the poem show a fundamental difference in approach that I think is important regarding reading for enjoyment or critical reading. When you read critically, all information you provided can be very relevant and there is a whole army of academics that do just that, gathering information and analyzing what it means. And this can definitely have value.
But when reading for enjoyment, while this information can give a poem like this additional meaning/significance (and sometimes is even needed), there is nothing to stop you from just taking the poem as it is and reading it for the beautiful imagery, or the interesting idea it contains, or the emotion that is being expressed. And there is the risk that if you analyze too much these things get covered over.
Critical thinking is (at least in principle) objective, while reading for enjoyment is necessarily subjective. And since it is subjective there is no right or wrong way of reading it. Your opinion/ideas/feelings might not be the same as other people, leading to a feeling of not fitting in, but that does not make those ideas wrong. And this can include not liking the text. You are never obliged to like a text, just because others do so.
There was a time, a while after college, where I had an intense liking for some poems. I even memorized them, some in the language they were written in, even if I didn't speak the language. I would recite them to myself, and got a kind of high from that. I suppose that was "reading for pleasure." But at some point, all that pleasure just struck me as empty, as worthless, as a mere distraction. It was just gone. I still feel moved sometimes by art. But the feeling is distinctly transient, impermanent, unreliable. It doesn't have the this-could-really-make-my-life better sense to it. Maybe this is simply the consequence of my being involved in Buddhism.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Sprouticus
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by Sprouticus » Tue Mar 21, 2017 12:54 am

binocular wrote:
Also, and I haven't thought of this before, I think that the national literature might be specific enough to affect whether someone will love reading or not.
:anjali:

That was why I asked.

The poem is very powerful. I can't imagine being able to work with it in junior high school.
Namo buddhaya

Ruud
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by Ruud » Tue Mar 21, 2017 1:15 am

binocular wrote: There was a time, a while after college, where I had an intense liking for some poems. I even memorized them, some in the language they were written in, even if I didn't speak the language. I would recite them to myself, and got a kind of high from that. I suppose that was "reading for pleasure." But at some point, all that pleasure just struck me as empty, as worthless, as a mere distraction. It was just gone. I still feel moved sometimes by art. But the feeling is distinctly transient, impermanent, unreliable. It doesn't have the this-could-really-make-my-life better sense to it. Maybe this is simply the consequence of my being involved in Buddhism.
I think I understand a little better where you are coming from. Of course the pleasure from reading is impermanent, all conditioned phenomena are. But I think, as a lay practitioner, it forms a nice pastime. Nothing related to the path, but still enjoyable. Possibly you already developed more disenchantment than I did...
Dry up what pertains to the past,
do not take up anything to come later.
If you will not grasp in the middle,
you will live at peace.
—Snp.5.11,v.1099 (tr. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Whatever is will be was. —Ven. Ñānamoli, A Thinkers Notebook, §221

binocular
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Re: How did you learn to love reading books?

Post by binocular » Tue Mar 21, 2017 11:09 am

Sprouticus wrote:
binocular wrote:Also, and I haven't thought of this before, I think that the national literature might be specific enough to affect whether someone will love reading or not.
The poem is very powerful. I can't imagine being able to work with it in junior high school.
Here's another one, by one of our greatest poets, Srečko Kosovel (1904 - 1926). There is also music set to this poem and we sang it in our school choir (ages 6 to 15).

(The following is my translation. The bird mentioned is a fieldfare, and Kras is a region in our country.)

- - -

A ballad

In the silent time of autumn
the fieldfare
comes to Kras.

In the fields
there is noone left anymore,
only she
across the fields
flies.
And only a hunter
follows her ...

A shot into the silence;
a tiny stream of blood;
the fieldfare
lies still, lies still.


- - -

I still get tears into my eyes reading it (I do right now). Back at school, I was amazed by the coldness and distance with which the teachers had us read this poem and talk about it. And then the music teacher -- as we drilled over the last line, over and over, to sing it in the right low tone (children can barely reach a tone so low).
I don't know how others were able to keep that distance. I don't know how they managed to be or at least seem so unmoved. I concluded that there is a kind of art to keeping a distance to experiencing art -- to feel it, to be moved by the art, but to not show it. I was never able to master this art. And I've never been able to talk about this with anyone; I've tried, but it seems to be a tabooed topic.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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