An Ingenious Device for Avoiding Thought

Not having come close to saving the world (since 2012) and finding that, in recent years, this blog has mainly dealt with things I’ve read, I’ve decided to stop posting here, maybe temporarily, maybe permanently.

Instead, I’ll continue to update a blog I’ve had since 2010 called “An Ingenious Device for Avoiding Thought”. Up to now, it’s consisted of brief comments on books I’ve read. I might as well use that blog to discuss other things as well, including other things I’ve read, instead of discussing them here.

Thus, I might discuss these recent articles over there: 

“Scientists Identify Four Personality Types: Sophisticated Psychological Algorithm Confirms That Some People Are Jerks” at The Washington Post

“The Ignorant Do Not Have a Right to an Audience” (on TV, in college lecture halls or elsewhere) at The New York Times

“Are We All ‘Harmless Torturers’ Now?” also at The New York Times

“Civility as a Reciprocal Public Virtue” at 3 Quarks Daily

“My Modest Proposal for Solving the ‘Meaning of Life Problem’ — and Reducing Global Conflict” at Scientific American.

I could discuss them over there, but probably won’t.

If you’re interested in following An Ingenious Device, or just want to give it a look, please click here.

An Ingenious Device for Avoiding Thought

The principal speaker at our son’s graduation yesterday was Vermont novelist Chris Bohjalian. He was excellent. He got a deserved standing ovation. Aside from advising the graduates to “stay here!” (that was a joke, but not a completely bad piece of advice), he argued for, among other things, the importance of reading.

As a reader, I didn’t disagree with what he said. Not everyone, however, is of the same opinion.

It’s always bothered me that I’d often finish a book and shortly thereafter not remember much about it. So when I retired a few years ago, I started writing a brief response to every book I finished on a blog I called Retirement Reading. Now I had a semi-permanent record of the books I was reading.

Keeping a record of what I’d read reminded me of a summer long ago when I kept a list of books I’d finished in order to win a prize or something. (Several of the terrific Doctor Doolittle and Wizard of Oz  books appeared on my list that summer.)

Last week, I decided to move the contents of Retirement Reading over here to WordPress (goodbye, Google). Trying to think of a good title (since it’s never been a blog about Medicare or where to retire), I looked through some quotations regarding books and reading. Some famous authors had some surprising things to say on the topic:

“Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.” — Albert Einstein

“Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

“Learn as much by writing as by reading.” — Lord Acton

“Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought.” — Sir Arthur Helps (who? — 19th century author, politician, etc.)

They weren’t all negative, of course:

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sir Arthur won: