At an outdoor rock concert Friday night (don't ask!) I was struck by many things: the >98% white ethnicity of the audience, the huge amount of beer consumed, the prevalence of teen-age smoking, the tattoos and pierced body parts, the high volume and distortion level of the audio system, etc., etc. But one thing that wasn't visible disturbed me more than anything I saw. There were no books. In fact, there was no reading material of any kind observable in the crowd as it waited on the grass 90 minutes for the music to begin. No newspapers, no magazines, no pamphlets, no cards and letters. Nothing.

The thousands of people sitting there were bookless, by choice. None of them brought anything to read. Reading was not associated in their minds with fun, or passing time effectively, or learning something new on a pleasant summer evening before the sunset. Instead, they chatted, ate, drank, and eyed each other.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just." Perhaps we may all want to tremble for our country, and our world, when we reflect that so few people (especially younger people) read. Perhaps we may hope that the rock concert audience was unrepresentative --- but I fear that it is more typical than we conceive. And for ourselves: do we let others (especially younger people) see us reading, devouring good books, happily and voluntarily? Or do we only read when compelled to by work, or social pressure (e.g., the current best-seller), or to escape unpleasant surroundings?

Sunday, July 18, 1999 at 08:31:00 (EDT) = Datetag19990718

TopicLibraries - TopicThinking

(correlates: NorthwestBranchMemories, ConflictAversion, WhatCounts, ...)