Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why I consider reading to be “entertaining myself”

by Rick Blechta

When we’re little, people (usually our parents) tell us far more often than we want to here, “I can’t always be entertaining you. Entertain yourself for a change.” This is usually followed by, “I’m far too busy right now.”

In looking back, I feel I did this far too often than I should have with my own sons, but those were busy times. With a grandson who is now three years old, I am keenly aware of this. Kids naturally come with a time stamp that runs out all too quickly. Said grandson will be starting junior kindergarten next fall, and once that happens, I might get to see him once a week if I’m lucky. So too will it be with our granddaughter. Now that I have more time, I’ve vowed to make the most of it.

Playing with Jackson, I’m always aware that part of what I’m doing is “entertaining him”. In his mind, I’m more his playmate than his grandfather at times. I enjoy setting free my “inner child”, too, when we play. My wife finds our games and the changes/amplifications we both make as we go along “very entertaining”.

On my daily rambles around our neighbourhood, I’ve found myself thinking about the difference between being entertained (passive) and entertaining oneself (more active). There are spaces where each of these works best, but (naturally) it seems to me the more valuable of the two is also the more active one.

So what exactly is “entertaining oneself”? It can be working, if you’re doing something you find enjoyable. It can be found in gardening, spending time at a hobby, all sorts of things. It certainly can be found in reading.

But that also seems counterintuitive to me. An example: If you were watching a movie, or attending a play or a concert, that’s you being entertained, isn’t it? Reading a book is the same thing to a great extent.

Last week, my wife and I both spent our late evenings reading. Far too often we close our days watching a movie. We’re usually too brain dead to concentrate on a book.

Anyway, one of those nights, Vicki turned to me and said, “It’s so much more enjoyable reading together rather than watching a movie, isn’t it?” I had to agree she was right.

More cogitation followed.

The difference between a book — and I’m meaning novel here more than anything else — and a movie (as an example) is that one’s brain is engaged to a far greater extent. You are lifting the author’s words off the page and your brain/imagination has to give them life. We don’t just understand the meaning behind the words but we can’t help creating visual images, too. You don’t do that with a movie. It’s all right there in front of you, the imaginative work has been completely realized for you.

Watching a movie, a play or a concert is a much different experience than reading. I don’t know about you, but I find a good book leaves me feeling much more enriched than a good movie does, generally speaking.

And feeling enriched is always a good thing.

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