Not really reading

July 26, 2022

One of the ways in which I am utterly disappointing as a liberal-arts-college graduate, and as a voting citizen, is that, aside from the requirements of my job, I don’t read all that much.

If there’s a classic novel out there that you greatly admire, an absolute masterpiece of the genre, you can be certain that I not have read it. Ditto for non-fiction books. I don’t know why the caged bird sings, I don’t know how Stella got her groove back, and I don’t know for whom the bell tolls. I’m not at all proud of this; it’s just the way it has been for me for many years.

It was against this backdrop that I found myself waking up from a dream in which I had been profoundly moved by some sort of long-form reporting I had read on SlateSlate indeed being a main source of the online stuff that I do read (quickly, during breakfast and so forth).

The piece was called “The Source.” It was a meandering nonfictional account of rock-drilling technology and immigrant workers and a bunch of other stuff that wouldn’t have belonged together unless synthesized by a masterful writer, or, in this case, by a dream. I worked my way through it on a lunch break or something, reasonably interested, and then arrived at the final paragraph.

“In the hills of ______ County in Virginia,” the paragraph said (approximately), “there is a field of giant flat rocks. In the middle of one of the rocks is a hole, no more than a few millimeters in diameter. And through this tiny hole, every day, come millions upon millions of gallons of fresh, pure water, a godsend for all who live in the area, human and otherwise.” It had the vibe of a David Attenborough-style documentary, intending to highlight a particular example of the wonders of nature.

There were several other sentences too, perhaps tying this random tidbit to the rest of the piece. And there was an overhead photograph, which did indeed show an enormous rock with a tiny hole. For whatever reason, the hole was dry at the moment captured in the photo.

As I read this paragraph and stared at the photo, I found it incredibly profound and moving. I wept, then woke up, then marveled at how strongly I had been reacting just a moment ago.

Was I finally, reluctantly acknowledging the awesomeness of nature? (Such a tiny hole! So much water! So much life dependent on the water!) Was I crying out for the information and insights that I would surely gain if I would only make reading a priority in my life? Was I just feeling hot after a long summer day?


  1. I just finished Jodi Picoult’s Wish You Were Here about a dream in the covid era. I found it fascinating, especially having visited the Galapagos.

  2. […] I have previously lamented my general inability to fit book-reading into my life. […]

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