It really seems like no one reads books anymore with the popularity of the internet in finding ways to spend time. Think about it: when was the last time you opened up a book and read through it when it wasn’t required for, or related to, a class? Probably not any time in the past year. And we’re at a research university;we’re supposed to be some of the more intelligent people in the country! This situation reminds me of a book I read in high school called The Futurological Congress, written by none other than my favorite author, Stanislaw Lem. In The Futurological Congress, the space explorer Ijon Tichy is visiting a conference on the world overpopulation crisis at the Costa Rica Hilton. A riot breaks out at the hotel, and Tichy hides in the sewers with a few other conference-goers. However, (and here the book really gets going) he has drunk some of the drugged tap water meant to stop the riot by causing hallucinations. He starts envisioning a dystopian future in which every part of life is regulated and maintained through mind-altering drugs. In this world, people learn and read by ingesting pills that directly deliver information to their minds. This future in part is a great example of Lem’s method of social commentary through satire and metaphor.
Sadly, this is not too far from the world as we know it, and not because of drugs, but just because of the ever-present world-wide web. The world chugs on day by day, with many people feeling very separated from what is happening around them and in the world at large, mainly because of the method in which they hear of them. The internet is our safety net; as long as it is there, there’s nothing to worry about. Even just seven years ago, that would have been a surprising state to be in. Society has changed so much. Are we so far from a situation in which we devolve into either anarchy or a dystopia? It’s hard to tell. And this lack of obvious control over our own lives may be exactly what leads us further in the direction that we don’t want to go.
I recently did, in fact, buy and read a book just for the sake of doing so. I read The Disaster Artist, by Greg Sestero, one of the main actors in the cult classic movie The Room. The book talks about Sestero’s experience acting in The Room and the alien-like mystery that is the movie’s director, Tommy Wiseau. Having thoroughly enjoyed the amazing shipwreck that is the movie, the book was a great experience, and it felt nice to be reading physical print for the hell of it, something that I don’t get the chance to do very often for fun. The reading even helped with keeping a more regular sleep schedule; whenever I started reading relatively late, I could use the book to put aside my worries for the day, then put it aside and have no bright computer screens to keep me up.
Reading is not something that you should give up outside of classes; you can gain a lot and live life much happier by not doing so. Put aside the computer for once, go and find a good book, and sit down for a bit to read. You will likely not regret it.