In our busy and distracted society, deep reading is increasingly rare. Deep reading changes people. When you interact with people, you can tell who reads seriously and who doesn’t. This isn’t just a matter of mental ability or intelligence. There is a difference between raw cognitive horsepower and time spent immersed in complex and intricate ideas. You can tell the difference between a smart person who reads and a smart person who doesn’t by how they express ideas, the references they make, and the chains of logic they follow. The former often demonstrates a subtle understanding that weaves together insights from various domains. The latter, though sharp and quick-minded, lacks the same depth of perspective or the ability to see beyond the immediate conversation or the Current Thing. This is becoming increasingly apparent among obviously bright young adults who don’t read or read nonsense despite paying large sums of money for what should have been a decent education.
Back in my days of installing satellite television, I had a buddy in the crew named Frank, a country boy from Kentucky who had served in Iraq as a sniper. (Interestingly, one of my other buddies was Mundher, an Iraqi refugee. If you can believe it, we all got along fine without needing DEI strictures and an HR department.) Anyway, during one of our conversations, Frank asked how I’d met the Lady of the House. I said that we were both amateur writers, which perked him up. “I knew it!” he exclaimed. “I knew there was just something about the way you talk!” I can’t recall verbatim how he elaborated, but the gist of it was that I just gave off an impression of being studious and thoughtful even when I wasn’t saying much. I was just happy to have a piece of counter-evidence to the more numerous assumptions I’d encountered throughout my life that I was anywhere from rude to mute to retarded.