Suspend Your Disbelief

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We're going to miss almost everything

Morning Blur (Creative Blur)

NPR commentator Linda Holmes has a beautiful essay on how we’re going to miss almost everything—and why that’s okay:

Culling is the choosing you do for yourself. It’s the sorting of what’s worth your time and what’s not worth your time. It’s saying, “I deem Keeping Up With The Kardashians a poor use of my time, and therefore, I choose not to watch it.” It’s saying, “I read the last Jonathan Franzen book and fell asleep six times, so I’m not going to read this one.”

Surrender, on the other hand, is the realization that you do not have time for everything that would be worth the time you invested in it if you had the time, and that this fact doesn’t have to threaten your sense that you are well-read. Surrender is the moment when you say, “I bet every single one of those 1,000 books I’m supposed to read before I die is very, very good, but I cannot read them all, and they will have to go on the list of things I didn’t get to.”

It is the recognition that well-read is not a destination; there is nowhere to get to, and if you assume there is somewhere to get to, you’d have to live a thousand years to even think about getting there, and by the time you got there, there would be a thousand years to catch up on.

When I was in grad school, one of my advisors told us that—except for books by students and friends—he’d decided not to read anything new. For the rest of his life, he would devote himself to re-reading books he had already read and loved. At the time I thought this was a strange thing to do for a man who’d devoted his life to writing books and teaching others to write more books. Didn’t he know he was going to miss thousands of wonderful books? But this particular professor is, without a doubt, extremely well-read already. After reading Holmes’s essay, I can kind of see his point.

(If you are the kind of person who wants to make sure you absolutely do not miss ANYTHING that’s offered, though, perhaps this bookstore is for you.)

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