Skipping meals is not my habit. I love to eat too much for that. Yet, there I was last Friday evening listening to my daughter's piano professor's performance of Bach's Golberg variations, the audience rapt and silent, when my stomach noisily protested its neglected condition. Was it possible I had been so busy I'd forgotten to eat supper?
It's a good thing our bodies assert control and pointedly remind us that if we want to keep going, fuel is required. Food is indisputably essential to life, not optional.
Reading is different. We can live without it, at least physically. But our minds feast on ideas, and, as Charlotte Mason reminds us, "require their proper meals." Ideas come from the minds of others, "thought begets thought," and literature is where the best thoughts are recorded for our spiritual nourishment. Our mind, unlike our body, doesn't physically nag us when we choose other priorities. It just silently and passively starves.
Yes, mental starvation is a subtler process, though just as deadly to the well-being of persons. It's not physically painful to neglect reading and obtaining mental food from it, but reading is not an extra, something to fill time. C. S. Lewis, whose pen produced the fertile fruit of a well-fed mind, offering imaginative and thought-provoking sustenance to millions of other hungry minds, deplored the practice of reading to pass time on trains or in waiting rooms, and worst of all, as a bedtime ritual for getting to sleep. For him, reading was a necessity of life.
Contrary to common opinion, reading is not a leisure activity for the few who prefer it to sports or other hobbies. Minds that regularly feed on literature are not only active and growing, but the bodies they inhabit also receive energy. The whole person whose mind is caught up in the words and thoughts of others through books is thriving emotionally and spiritually, because bodies are not just calorie burners, but contain persons, persons with souls, and souls need their own kind of food. Words have the power of life and death. The world was spoken into existence by a word, and its life-giver and sustainer is called The Word. Our designer intended us to be people who live by words.
The next time you find yourself languishing and can't put a finger on the cause, feel restless, apathetic, tired or irritable, it may not be because you are too busy to eat, but because you are too busy to read. People who make time to read, find time to do everything else that is important in life. They are well-fed, not only in body, but in the unseen recesses of the heart. For them, a bookshelf is as necessary as a grocery store shelf, the choices as abundant, the rewards of selecting and enjoying what they carry away with them to devour is as crucial to their life.
These regular readers wouldn't dream of not squeezing in or scheduling time to feed on ideas, find time, make time, spend time consuming the unseen food that satisfies the soul, and don't allow the skipping of meals.
For the joy of reading,