In Defense of the Slow Reader | Chicago Personal Injury Attorney
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In Defense of Slow Reading

Reading, we are told, must be performed quickly and accurately. Our eyes must be trained to read fast. Our reading mind must not for a moment pause or linger. We are expected to be brisk and efficient, to work our way through as many pages in as little time as possible.

While reading quickly surely has its place, reading slowly can bring to light new ideas and insights that otherwise would not be discovered. Slow reading creates the space necessary to reflect upon what’s being read. Slow reading is meditative, contemplative. It opens up hidden vistas and unseen plateaus, the faraway corners and secluded back roads where the tumbleweed rolls over a dry wind-swept desert, where a new awareness awakens.

The difference between talents and character is adroitness to keep the old and trodden round, and power and courage to make a new road to new and better goals. Character makes an overpowering present; a cheerful, determined hour, which fortifies all the company, by making them see that muSlow_Readingch is possible and excellent that was not thought of. Character dulls the impression of particular events. When we see the conqueror, we do not think much of any one battle or success. We see that we had exaggerated the difficulty. It was easy to him. The great man is not convulsible or tormentable; events pass over him without much impression. People say sometimes, ‘See what I have overcome; see how cheerful I am; see how completely I have triumphed over these black events.’ Not if they still remind me of the black event. True conquest is the causing the calamity to fade and disappear, as an early cloud of insignificant result in a history so large and advancing.

This particular paragraph is taken from Emerson’s First Series essay Circles which argues that there exists a circular fluidity in all things—in nature, in thought, in society. “The natural world may be conceived of as a system of concentric circles…” writes Emerson at one point. The paragraph would at first blush seem to draw a distinction between talents and character, and each would appear to be separate and distinct.

A fast reader will catch the distinction but a slow reader will come to understand the more subtle point—that there may be no true distinction at all, that nature’s circular fluidity inheres in all of us, that talents and character are two aspects of a circular process. As well, a slow reader will note the circular nature of time itself linking the past and present with the future.

Slow reading enables entry into the head-space of the author. Seeing through the eyes of another clarifies one’s own inner vision. Emerson uses the word “cheerful” twice in that paragraph but “calamity” only once. He uses the word “new” twice but “old” only once. The future, he suggests, is exerting a stronger pull upon us than the past. Such insights can change a life. A slow reader has been re-awakened, transformed. By pausing to linger for a moment, a slow reader comes to see the world with a new set of eyes—“by making them see that much is possible and excellent that was not thought of…”