Over the next couple of weeks, I'd like to take a shot at a basic primer on reading well.
It's something I'm passionate about, and something that I think will make the world a better place. To read well isn't just about reading well... it applies to conversation and counsel, to music and movies and we live in a world where communication is pervasive, bombastic, pointed but occasionally beautiful.
To navigate our world fraught with signs and symbols, thoughtfully, is an incredibly useful tool.
To start, here are my assumptions:
1) Reading well is a skill that we can learn to do better.
You've heard the saying, "good writers will occasionally borrow from others, great writers steal shamelessly." Charges of plagiarism aside, there is a lot of truth in that and it isn't a bad thing. Ideas are infectious and they jump from soul to soul like a wildfire. So please note that none of this is original. I'm "borrowing" from Augustine and Aquinas, Shakespeare, Aristotle and Kenneth Burke and a host of others.
I've come to believe that this isn't primarily an academic exercise. It's something that ordinary people can and should get better at. There are tips and tricks, basic heuristic techniques that almost anyone can employ to slice into the meaning around us. I'll break these down into 7 keys, with principles and examples for your viewing pleasure.
2) Words have meaning and are incredibly powerful.
A single sentence understood is more intimate than a kiss. When we speak or write or sing and someone truly "gets" what we're expressing it is, in a very real sense, a mingling of the soul. That's even more of a leap than crossing the spit barrier with someone you're quite fond of.
This may seem self evident, but I'm taking it a bit farther than most people do. I'm going full on Freud here, words have meaning and ALL words have meaning, EACH word has meaning and as we dig in, insight abounds.
3) The pieces matter.
This is the communication or rhetorical triangle:
This isn't brain surgery, but it's helpful to remember. You have a speaker, a hearer and the thing being said. All of these things impact the nature, tone, effectiveness and understanding of the communication at hand.
If you scroll through Facebook, (at least on my feed) you'll see responses that are myopically focused on the "reader" side of things, to the point of ignoring the perspective and motive of the speaker and the thing that was actually said. Over-emphasizing any one of the pieces can result in a train wreck.
In my opinion, this is a huge mistake. This is how the far right and the far left take the same set of facts and twist them into two completely different political narratives.
Don't read only to confirm your own prejudice... and don't judge the subject as out to lunch automatically because of your dislike for the author. Don't filter the actual content through your own perspective so heavily that you miss the point. We're all guilty of this to some extent - but being aware of the tendency can help.
Stay tuned... we'll dig into some keys for reading and my dearest hope is that this will be useful to everyone who reads it...
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.