I have a new favorite summer read which I will post more about on another day—today I want to share a fantastic idea I got from this book. Well, not an idea so much as a philosophy.
whim verses Whim
From the book:
"In its lower-case version, whim is thoughtless, directionless preference that almost invariably leads to boredom or frustration or both. But Whim is something very different: it can guide us because it is based in self-knowledge."
I should explain. This quote is about how to choose what to read.
I hate lists like this: 100 children books everyone should know. (You can find them everywhere.)
Everyone must know these 100 children's books?
I grant you, there is something about a collective memory that is important. If a child has no idea who Babar, the elephant is, he might not understand an obscure joke in another book or movie (though I'm guessing a lot of kids now fit in this category) about Babar, but what is it about these 100 books that make them more perfect than another 100 books?
I have lists of my favorite books, but they are not going to be your favorite books. Maybe a few will overlap, maybe not. I have writing friends, very well read and brilliant, who despise books I adore. And that's okay. Maybe I will despise the same book in ten years. Maybe they will love it. And what is it about the messages/lessons/experiences in a list's 100 books that make them more valuable than 100 others?
We should read what we love. We should read what suits us best. We should read what inspires us personally, not what we think other people are inspired by. We should read to grow, but that growth should be measured not by the world or the professionals, but by ourselves.
Reading at whim (lower-case) implies mindless reading. Thoughtless reading. Reading because we have nothing else better to do and we don't know where to look for something better. Reading without being filled up as a result. It's reading done by those who love Jane Austen, but because she only wrote six novels, they read mostly abysmal attempts to copy her or add upon her work. It's reading badly written fan-fiction because people are desperate for the hobbits to continue having adventures. It's reading whimsically (lower-case) and it's very often depressing.
But reading Whimsically is so much different.
Below is a quote by a man who received a Princeton education only to realize how empty and meaningless it had been because he'd spent his time there mimicking what he thought other people wanted him to be. Depressed, lost, and empty, he randomly picks up Huckleberry Finn and Great Expectations—books considered to frivolous for Princeton.
"And so belatedly, haltingly, accidentally, and quite implausibly and incredibly, it began at last: my education. I wasn't sure what it would get me, whose approval it might win, or how long it might take to complete (forever, I had an inkling), but for once those weren't my first concerns. Alone in my room, congested and exhausted, I forgot my obsession with self-advancement. I wanted to lose myself. I wanted to read. Instead of filling in the blanks, I wanted to be a blank and be filled in."
I wanted to be a blank and be filled in.
I think that is my favorite quote perhaps ever. I don't want to read in some attempt to fill in blanks others have supposedly left for me. I want to be filled in, and that's what I want for my kids.
So put away summer reading lists given to you at the library (or use them as possibilities, not what must be read!). Don't read any more books just because they have a sticker on them. But don't just read what sounds easy or similar to other books you've loved.
Know yourself. Follow your instincts. Push yourself in new directions because those new directions stir something inside of you.
Read for Whim, not whim, and teach your children to thoughtfully, mindfully do the same. This is the kind of reading that makes people passionate readers for life.
More on this later!!!